Indoor play ideas to stimulate young children at home

Safe fun and learning during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

by UNICEF
On 9 August 2016 in Recife, Brazil, Germana Soares, Founder and President of ‘União de Mães de Anjos’  plays with her 8-month old boy, Guilherme, in a therapy center in Recife.
UNICEF/UN029601/Libório

13 April 2020

Young children love to play together, but with the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, playdates with friends and games with large groups are sadly not safe ideas. Physical distancing is a responsible way to protect ourselves and others, but for little ones learning about the world around them and connecting with their peers through play, it can be especially challenging. But just because your children are stuck inside doesn’t mean they can’t have fun and learn at the same time. We teamed up with our friends at the LEGO Foundation to come up with some creative ways to enjoy playful moments with your child and expand her world when physical space is limited.

>> How to talk to your child about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

 

Babies 0-9 months

Peek-a-boo!
All you need to play this game is your hands and a sweet voice. Sit with your baby, raise your hands (or a piece of cloth) to cover your face, then remove them and say “peek-a-boo!” Your little one will delight at watching you disappear and reappear. As your baby gets older, she will start playing back with you.

See and say
Point to different things around the house while naming and describing them. “See the cat? That’s an orange cat.” This will help to build his language skills while strengthening your bond.

Family band
Sing songs with your baby and create musical instruments from safe objects you find around the house. For example, put buttons or beads inside of an empty bottle to make a shaker and secure it well. Music helps with sensory development, and holding the shaker is great for motor skills. The most important part is to get creative and – of course – to have fun!

The body game
Name your baby’s body parts and point to them to help teach her their names. “Where is baby’s nose? There it is!” You can point to your own as well to help her make the connection between the two: “Where is mommy’s nose? Here it is!”

 

Toddlers 1-2 years

Box car
Find an empty box/carton and place your child in it safely with some soft blankets to keep her comfortable. Then, pull the box around while making car noises: “vroom vroom!” She will have fun zipping around the house in her new go mobile (and you’ll get some exercise, too!). If space is limited, you can still have the same effect by moving the box from side to side and making noises together.

Kitchen drummer
Turn over safe, shatter-proof bowls, pots and pans to make a set of drums straight from your kitchen. For drumsticks, grab some wooden spoons. Your little rock star will keep himself entertained exploring all the different sounds he can make. This game is also great for helping him develop his fine-motor skills.

Free draw
Give your baby some crayons and paper and let him draw away! This will allow your child to unleash his creativity and enjoy independent, creative play. When he’s done, talk to him about the different colours he used.

Ball pass
Grab a soft ball and roll it back and forth with your toddler. This back-and-forth play is great for confidence building and teaches her that you will respond to her actions. To make it even more fun, try adding in another ball and talk to her about the one she chooses.

 

Pre-school children 3-4 years

Dress up
Grab some different fabrics and clothing and encourage your little one to make a pretend costume out of what you have. Then, play a game together based on what he chooses. Who knows what adventures you’ll have!

“I’m going to catch you!”
Play the “I’m going to catch you!” game around the house by playfully chasing your child around your living space. If she has a lot of energy, this will help her to get it all out. You may need to join her for a nap yourself when you’re done.

Name that noise
Make different animal noises and have him guess which animal you’re pretending to be. Encourage taking turns and let him make some noises too while you guess. This is a great opportunity to teach him more about the animals you each choose, too.

Toddler challenge
Toddlers love to be given challenges as they are growing more physically coordinated. Ask your child “Can you lift your arm? Can you touch your hands to your toes?” Using the names of her body parts in context helps her learn, and let’s her show you what she can do!

 

Young children 5-8 years

Obstacle race
Create an obstacle course using furniture, pillows, and toys – anything safe and soft. Show him how to move through it and have him try to go through as fast as he can. Time him, and try to get him to beat his record every time he goes through!

Wash away!
Grab some toys that can safely go in the water, fill up a bucket and let the fun begin. Encourage her to “wash” her toys by dunking them and playing with them in the water and then cleaning them off with a soft cloth.

Make believe
Have him take the lead and encourage him to come up with a make-believe scenario. Follow along with his instructions and ask him questions about the world he has created.

Build-a-snack
Have your child help you prepare a snack for the family and challenge her to use as many colours as she can. Grab some healthy options and have her lay them out on a plate in a design she likes. She’ll be proud of her delicious creation.

 

< Back to UNICEF Parenting COVID-19 guide for parents


Article by Mandy Rich, Digital Content Writer, UNICEF.

More to explore