When you think of entertaining the kids with an activity indoors, do you imagine five minutes of entertainment for the kids and then half-an-hour of you cleaning up their mess afterwards? We all know that kids love the messy stuff, like baking, painting and making mud pies - but that doesn't have to mean that your home gets ruined in the process!
So, if you've just tidied your house and you're looking for a way to entertain the kids, try one of these lockdown-friendly ideas. It's likely that by now parents will be struggling to come up with ideas to keep their kids entertained, especially on rainy days. So, we've come up with a varied list of 37 indoor no-mess activities to suit kids of different ages and energy levels.
Puzzles are a classic activity that most of you will already have! They're easy to get hold of and as long as the pieces are not too small - younger kids are able to do them on their own too. They also require minimal preparation or mess.
DIY long jump
It’s amazing what you can do with masking tape and a little creativity. Put strips of tape along the corridor 20cm apart and measure how far they can jump.
If you are looking for an easy no-mess activity idea for your baby or toddler, it doesn't get much simpler than playing with dried pasta and spaghetti. Pasta play helps young children work on their fine motor skills. Dried pasta activities make very little mess and can be tidied away again quickly, or cooked for lunch. Use a colander to poke the spaghetti through or sort out the different types into pots.
If you've got a craft box with some pompoms in, this can be a great no-mess game for toddlers. Place the different colour of pompoms in the centre of the tray along with the correct number of bowls for the little hands to explore and sort through!
Check out The Dice Game from It’s Always Autumn. The free printable instruction sheet makes it easy to learn how to play, and the game is a great way to keep doing maths.
ABC or 123 bingo
This quick and easy alphabet activity is perfect for young children who are eager to learn! Write the letters of the alphabet on a window, whiteboard, radiator or similar using whiteboard marker. Read out the ABCs or 123s and they're ready to play bingo. No mess, no fuss, just a little learning and a lot of fun.
Masking tape racetrack
All you need is a roll of masking or painter's tape to make this great racetrack idea! Use it to tape off streets and highways in every room - you can let your city take over the entire house. They will love pushing their toys cars all around and making up stories. It's quick and easy to remove and very cheap to buy.
Learn to juggle
Either make your own juggle balls (by filling balloons with beans or lentils and tying them securely), or use bean bags, or any other small balls that you may already have. Practice with two and then add a third!
Brainstorm and write down a long list of animals with your kids. Then, cut them out and put them into a hat for a fun game of animal charades. For older kids, try the same game but with professions - such as a bartender, policeman, or nurse etc.
Play with pretend money
Print this play money to help kids learn to count and have a no-mess game of shopkeepers or similar! Cut out the realistic money and coins for hours of maths-related fun.
Everyone has board games right? It's the oldest idea in the book. But if you really want some screen-free and mess-free family time, old-fashioned board games still do the trick. Unleash your competitive spirit!
Have a disco
During lockdown, they need to move their little bodies even to make up for not playing in the playground. Choose a playlist together, blast the music, and let them bust some moves.
This is a mess-free activity for older children but perhaps not for younger kids. Take out your old makeup, nail polishes, and hairbrushes, and experiment with.new styles. If you really want a laugh, get the kids to blindfold you and film your reaction at the big reveal.
Attempt a brain teaser
This book of kids' brain teasers is a great idea to keep in a drawer and get out when needed.
Read aloud or role play
Snuggle up on the couch together for a read-a-thon or act out your favourite book as a dramatised performance.
Listen to a podcast or storybook
If you don't have the time to read out loud to your kids, let someone else do it for you with a great audiobook. Harry Potter narrator actors will probably do a better job of coming up a different voice for each character than you could, anyway. Podcasts work, too!
Write a letter
Don't let the art of letter-writing die. Older loved ones would love to receive a handwritten letter from your little ones during lockdown. Or, little ones could do some no mess drawing on postcards!
Play 'would you rather'
Write down some crazy or disgusting things to do on bits of paper, then pull out two at a time from the jar, and take turns answering honestly.
Open mic night
No need for an actual karaoke machine. All that matters is the good tunes and the great company. So, what's your go-to, singalong?
Fill a tub with rice and other small things such as a few toys, and you have yourself an instant hit with the little ones. Blindfold them and ask them to determine which is which.
Rather than spending time watching TV, why not download an age-appropriate app for them to use on your phone or tablet - no excuse to make a mess at all!
Home treasure hunt
Try this great free indoor treasure hunt sheet to print out - it's an easy help pass the time!
Play with shadows
Turn off the lights, close the curtains, and with the help of a torch, take turns making shadow shapes on the walls, with your hands. See who can make the best shape.
Google 'how to draw…'
Get your kids to choose what they want to draw and sit them in front of a tutorial. Dinosaurs, racing cars, fairies, princesses, animals - they would all be great!
Easy building task
Try this Marshmallow Toothpick building challenge from Munchkins and Mums. It doesn’t require much help from parents and it gets kids’ brains working! Plus it’s fun and will keep little hands busy for quite a while.
Make some music
This activity involves getting all your instruments out or using kitchen utensils or similar - to make some music and record it on your phone! It'll be a great memory to keep.
Why not teach your kids how to play the same great (and mess-free) card games you played when you were a child?
Use this link for making paper spinners from Make and Takes, they're easy to make with cardboard and string, and mesmerising to play with!
Make and race paper aeroplanes
All you need to make paper planes is paper – and pens if you want to decorate it, maybe adding a pilot and passengers on the side?
Kids will love looking at old home photos and hearing stories, so find those old photo albums and have a look at the past.
You can let the kids use their own dress-up things, if they have them, but more fun is to let them loose in your wardrobe!
Extend an image
Cut a picture from a magazine, glue it to a blank sheet of paper and get the kids to finish the picture. Who knows what their imaginations will create.
Outdoor games in the home
What about skittles in the hall, or hold a hula-hoop competition? You could also set up indoor hopscotch using masking tape for the lines.
Balloon ping pong
With some blown up balloons, and table-tennis bats or tennis rackets, you can play a slow and child-friendly game of ping pong.
DIY laser maze
This one doesn't have to create a mess in your home if you do it yourself! Using some masking tape and a narrow corridor, create a laser type maze and let them go crazy designing mazes and working their way through them. Use the same idea to play limbo!
Origami jumping frogs
Try this link from It’s Always Autumn for step by step folding instructions, then let kids make as many frogs as they like. Using just paper is easy to keep tidy.
Printable maths games for at-home learning
Try one of these counting printables from The Best Ideas for Kids.
Originally from Bournemouth, Annabelle spent her childhood travelling and exploring. She moved to Bahrain at the age of 13 and then to London at 19 where she attended Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. She loves all things creative - especially if they involve recycling materials, as this is what she is most passionate about. Aside from art, Annabelle also enjoys walking her dogs and cooking for friends and family.