Playing—and learning—in the great indoors

Looking for fun indoor activities to do with your child? Find out how to make learning a rich experience even when the weather is bad.

The weather outside may be frightful, but the great indoors beckons. Inclement weather can offer the perfect opportunity to engage in indoor activities with your children that help them build important academic and social skills; skills such as executive functions, memory, self-regulation and teamwork.

Here are four ideas your family can try:

1.    Challenge your memories: In addition to working your preschooler’s memory, card matching games will help her hone her concentration and planning skills. Try spicing up the game with variants that promote math or vocabulary skills for added educational value.  Bonus: Using your arts and crafts skills or just a working printer, a deck of memory cards is easy to whip up.

2.    Follow the leader: Games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light are a great excuse for toddlers to get silly and also burn off some energy. And they require only a little space and some imagination.  Children take away a better understanding of the structure of rules, how to follow instructions and focus attention.

3.    Build together: Young children of all ages love to build and create. Piecing together a puzzle or building a block castle is a great way for toddlers and young children to pick up nuances of cooperation.  As they work toward a common goal, they learn the value of teamwork and planning, while reinforcing positive social-emotional skills and developing small motor dexterity.

4.    Stretch your imaginations: Build-a-Story and Act-a-Story games challenge your preschooler to help construct or enact a fun, silly or adventurous narrative with others.  You may want to start things off, but before you know it the whole group will be rolling as the story twists and turns.  Your child may even surprise you with his creativity as he sharpens his attention, working memory and impulse control.  Keep a pen and paper or video camera handy—you may want to record these stories for posterity!

So until you can get back outside again, enjoy your indoor time playing and learning with your child. It goes without saying that some games will come across as silly—but the simple play belies the critical lessons learned. Through playing and interacting, you are also helping your child develop essential skills and strengthening your bond. It may be Simon Says today, but it will be so much more down the road.

Check out our tools for parents for more advice and activities you can do with your children—indoors or out.