18 device-free things to do with the kids if you’re stuck at home

Living Well | Sarah Marinos | Posted on 27 March 2020

Confined at home and wondering what to do with the kids? We have some ideas.

As the coronavirus pandemic tightens its grip, more of us will be spending time at home. With schools and many of the places where families socialise closed for business, children are spending more of their waking hours in their house and backyard. So, if you have kids to keep entertained, how do you fill in the seemingly endless hours ahead? Don’t despair … there are plenty of options and new experiences to discover.

Family playing football in backyard


18 things to do with the kids if you’re stuck at home

Make a list

Compile a list of potential activities with your children and vote each day on which ones to complete. As you think of new ideas, add them to the list.  

Get the blood pumping 

Make a regular time to exercise or keep fit together – take a walk around the block, play footy or go for a bike ride. It doesn’t matter what you do each day, as long as you move. 

Build cubby houses

Help toddlers use chairs, a table and blankets to build an indoor cubby space. 

Go on a treasure hunt...

Set up an indoor treasure hunt for younger children. Give them a list of things to find – use pictures for those too young to read a list – and whoever finishes the list first wins.

... Or a bear hunt

Take a turn round your ’hood to spot the teddy bears popping up in front windows and on verandas as Victorians join the worldwide movement to keep younger kids active and entertained – in a nod to children’s book favourite We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Several Facebook groups offer photos and details. Put your own teddy out too.

Turn your hallway into a bowling alley

“Line up some empty plastic bottles and use an old pair of socks wrapped into a ball to create a quick and easy game of indoor bowling,” says Professor Julie Green, executive director at raisingchildren.net.au. “Make it harder by adding some weight, like sand and water, inside the bottles.” 

Have a picnic

Set up an indoor picnic, or an outside picnic, if space and weather permit. 

Make some playdough

Mix two cups of plain flour and half a cup of oil then add some food colouring. Slowly mix in water until you get the consistency you want. 

Dust off the boardgames

Invest in some of the latest boardgames and play them along with classics like Cluedo and Monopoly. Some of the best-selling games right now include strategic card game Exploding Kittens, Dobble – described as an updated and reinvented version of Snap – and Dixit. This game involves players looking at cards, inventing a story to go with them, then other players guess which card inspired their weird and wonderful story. 

Teach them to cook

“Get creative with what’s in the pantry,” says Julie. Use online apps for some recipe inspiration. Some apps allow you to enter the ingredients you have to hand and then suggest suitable recipes. 

Mother and daughter doing yoga in garden
Father and son cooking together in kitchen

Keep youngsters entertained with some yoga on the deck or get creative in the kitchen with a kid-friendly cooking class.

Bust a move

Go online and use YouTube videos to do a family dance or yoga class each day.

Don’t forget chores 

“Having chores to do in family routines helps children and teenagers develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills like the ability to manage time,” says Julie. “These are skills children can use for life. Even a young child can start to look after their toys. Older children can help with putting out and sorting washing, washing the car, cooking family meals and feeding pets.”

Watch a TED talk

If you have teens at home, watch a TED talk together. Let them choose a topic that interests them – from Egyptian myths and the impacts of climate change to the search for dark matter in space.

Give teens mini projects 

“Give teens a project like weeding and replanting the garden, researching a holiday for when travel is an option. Give them a budget and let them plan and look for any handy free online workshops,” says Julie. 

Make a movie or music video

“Make a movie. Children can write a script, put together costumes and design sets and then film using an iPhone or iPad,” she adds.

Organise regular FaceTime sessions with friends

Avoid children feeling isolated by having regular FaceTime sessions with family and friends. “Grandparents could use this time to read a story to younger children. Or set up FaceTime or another video calling app to do an activity ‘together’,” says Julie.

Have a jam session

Teach your kids to play an instrument and have a good old jam session together, or crank up the music and dance around the house having a family sing-a-long  to some of your favourite songs. 

Get crafty

Assemble some paints, paintbrushes, fresh paper or canvases and let the kids unleash their inner artists. Set them up in the backyard or garage with some drop sheets in case things get messy.