Every now and then we have rain. All week long. A week of the Great Indoors. This happened not all that long ago in our city.

This means, as any stay-at-home-parent knows, a lot of time trying to keep the kids from destroying each other.

But it doesn’t have to be awful, right? If you can make a plan, you can keep everything running smoothly. And, believe it or not, it doesn’t have to mean screen time all day.


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Arts and Crafts

Creativity is a huge help, especially indoors. For my kids, we like manipulatives. It’s great to draw, but if you can craft, cut, mold, sculpt, or build your artwork, it’s a sure fire way to keep the kids focused and happy. We love working with air-dry clay, craft sticks, construction paper, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners. We even did some leaf-press medallions after a nature walk. If you keep them for a rainy day, you can paint them with watercolors. It’s easy, not too messy, and the kids love it.

Don’t forget to keep paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and if you have some spare yarn, it makes for some great creative options. The key, I’ve found, is to have a couple structured crafts you can pull out, but let the kids have creative control for most of the time. If you insist on doing things exactly as you plan, don’t expect them to do more beyond your craft. Instead, let them do their own thing. They’ll craft and create for hours! This makes your indoors time fly by.

Museums

Hear me out: if you’re in a bigger city (mine is under 200,00o people), you have great museums. When it comes to spending time indoors, it’s nice to have someone else’s indoors to spend that time in, right? Museums do a great job of providing opportunities for learning and fun.

We have a couple options, but the one my kids have enjoyed the last couple years is the Old Courthouse Museum downtown. It showcases the history of our city, as well as our state. There are several small exhibits, some hands-on opportunities, and some cool things that my kids marvel at each time they go.

Just north of Sioux Falls, though, there’s an excellent children’s museum. The kids could spend hours inside alone, but on a nice day, they also have a park on the outside with full-size animatronic dinosaurs. It’s awesome, and it’s only a short drive and a small cost.

But for history and learning, your local museums are great. And often they don’t cost a thing!

Bowling

We got a flyer from my son’s school at the end of the year offering free bowling every week, all summer. Two free games per kid per week? Yes, please! Through Kids Bowl Free, you can sign up anyone from age 4 to 18 for two free games (during non-peak hours) each week from mid-May to the end of August. On rainy days, this is an excellent way to spend some energy and kill an hour or so. My 8-, 7-, and 4-year old think it’s the best thing ever.

Shoe rental is required, but for less than  $10 per week, it’s not a bad option. You can also pay a flat rental fee per kid for the program length if you’re serious about making it each week (it pays for itself pretty quickly if you go all summer).

Writing Letters

With two school-age kids and one preschooler, we need to keep our school smarts up and running all summer. One easy way to help this is to encourage your kids to write letters to their family and friends.

I love this for many reasons. First, it keeps their writing sharp. Second, it encourages them to communicate with others. And third, they are learning the value of sending thank-you notes, short updates, and “I love you” messages to the adults in their lives through physical mail. Their family loves getting the letters and notes, and the kids love putting them together. We’re also learning how to properly address an envelope, which is a great life skill. And on a rainy day when you’re stuck indoors anyway, who doesn’t love getting a note from their grandkid?

Building Indoors

Building indoors is awesome! For us, it’s not just the Legos or Duplos that get us going. Anything the kids can build with their hands is worth the time and energy to them (and to the parents!).

For things like Legos, Duplos, MegaBloks (the big ones), or MagnaTiles and Picasso Tiles, I encourage my kids to build things that will interact with their other toys. Enclosures for animals, vehicles and planes for action figures, homes for figurines, garages for cars. The kids love this kind of stuff. My 6-year-old daughter is specifically good at building ridiculously symmetrical garden scenes and homes out of Legos.

But don’t stop there! Get out blankets, pillows, folding chairs, card tables, the dining room table, couches, cushions…you know where I’m going, right? FORTS! My kids would do just about anything to have a fort in the house. With our multi-level home, our basement level is a perfect place for something like this to live for a day or more. The kids can set it up, and we have relatively little interference for that space. As a home studio owner, I also have a bunch of microphone stands that work great for “framing” the fort.

You should always have clothespins on hand for this, but past that, it’s very open-ended, and each fort we build is completely different from the next.

Final Thoughts

There is never an exhaustive list of ideas for indoors play. It’s all about digging in to your inner child, seeing what is possible with a little imagination, and going for it. Your kids may not like any of this stuff, but maybe it’ll spark a little imagination for you or them.

Don’t be afraid to try something and fail. Be afraid only of not trying anything and spending a whole day wishing you could be outside!

Here’s to the Great Indoors!

Stay strong, dads. Love hard.

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