Ideas for Outdoor Play

Great Outdoor Play Spaces in Our Area

Ideas for Indoor Play


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Ideas for Indoor Play


1. Cardboard Boxes

  • Cardboard Box City/Sculptures: Tape the boxes closed. Have tape, crayons, paint, available for the kids to arrange the boxes into their neighborhood, buildings, a town, animals, a farm…
  • A Box Easel: Tape paper around the sides of a large box. OR Select a sturdy box, cut off the top flaps or remove the lid. Then cut the box in half diagonally. Set on the table like a tent. Tape paper to both sides of the easel.
  • Other ideas: Cardboard cars, mystery boxes, teddy bear trains
  • Read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis with your children

2. Marble Painting
Have an old box or a pan and want to provide a different kind of art experience for your child? Try marble painting.
Materials: marbles, paint, paper, spoons, and pan or box
Steps: 1) Place a sheet of paper in a box or metal baking pan (if you use washable paint, it will come right off of your pan). 2) Roll marbles in the paint, and then use a spoon to place them in the pan. 3) Shake and lift the pan to roll the marbles around. Variation: If you have a large box, you can also use different sized and textured balls. Children can work together, lifting and lowering ends of the box in order to make the painted balls make beautiful designs on the paper.

3. Salt Craft Dough
This easy dough can be made into holiday ornaments, gift-toppers, valentine hearts, lapel pins, or magnets.
Materials: (Recipe found at:
½ cup salt
1 cup flour
½ cup water
Rolling pin
Cookie sheet
Toothpick or straw
Cookie cutters
Options for decorating: Acrylic paints, glitter glue, glitter paint, ribbon

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Mix together, salt, flour, and water until dough is formed.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until the mixture is elastic and smooth. If dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour, continue to do so until stickiness is gone. Do not add too much flour, this will dry out the dough and will cause it to crack before you get a chance to bake it.
4. Roll out the dough to about ¼” thick with a rolling pin that has been dusted with flour.
5. Use cookie cutters to cut out as many shapes as you want.
6. Use a straw or a toothpick to make a hole toward the top of the shape.
7. Place all shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet and place into the preheated oven.
8. Bake for 2 hours.
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
10. Paint the ornaments using acrylic paint. Glue buttons, ribbons, and other decorations onto your shapes.
11. Use the handle end of the paint brush to dot on ornaments by dipping into paint then dotting onto ornament.
12. When paint is dry, use glitter glue or glitter paint to put a sparkling cover coat on your ornaments.
13. When dry, thread ribbon through hole and tie in a knot in the back.
14. Tie onto package.

4. Coffee Filter Designs
Materials: Coffee filters, scissors, watercolor paints, brushes, wax paper or newspaper
Steps: Use the wax paper or newspaper to cover your work area. Cut the coffee filters into shapes – you can fold the coffee filters in half, then make symmetrical snowflakes, hearts, or other designs. Use watercolor paints to decorate them. Let them dry on wax paper for easy removal. Tape these colorful designs to your windows and watch the light shine through them!

5. Create family paper people. Take full body photos of family members (pets, too). Cover photos with clear Contac® paper, cut out the figures, and staple to toilet paper rolls. The figures can stand up on their own and are fun to use as props with blocks, dollhouses, etc.

6. Set up a permanent art area in your house where all art supplies can be kept – perhaps in a kitchen cabinet, collected in a sturdy box, or an “art cart.” Keep the art area supplied with paper (both white and colored construction paper), markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, tape, glue sticks, stickers, stencils, water colors, etc.

1. Play classic card games (Go Fish, Slap Jack, War, Gin, Hearts, or Crazy Eights)

2. Play classic board games (Monopoly, Sorry, Parcheesi, and Risk).

3. Play other games, including: dominoes, Twister, Pick Up Sticks, checkers, chess, backgammon, Yatzee, or Scrabble.

4. For ideas for family games visit: and



1. Enjoy the fun (and relaxation) of water play. Experiment with kitchen utensils (measuring cups and spoons, basters, funnels). Add ice cubes or food coloring for variety. Gather (waterproof) household objects. Predict which will float and which will sink and then, find out!

2. Homemade Playdough Recipe From The Preschooler's Busy Book : 365 Creative Games & Activities to Keep Your 3- to 6- Year-Old Busy! Materials: ½ cup water ½ cup salt 1 teaspoon vegetable oil Food coloring or tempera paint 1 ½ cups flour 1 Tablespoon cornstarch Extract or spice (optional) Steps: In a bowl, mix together water, salt, oil, and food coloring (until the dough is the desired color). Gradually add flour and cornstarch until the mixture reaches the consistency of bread dough. For an added sensory experience, add a few drops of a scented extract (e.g., almond, vanilla) or shakes of a spice (e.g. cinnamon, ginger). In addition to the dough, you can provide the children with spatulas, wooden spoons, muffin tins, potato ricers, and other kitchen utensils to play with.

3. Cooked Playdough Recipe.
4 cups water
4 cups flour
½ cup oil
2 cups salt
¼ cup cream of tartar
Bakers’ food coloring (for intense colors)

Steps: Cook and stir ingredients together on low to medium heat. (Hint: start with the water and heat it before adding other ingredients). Cook and stir together until playdough pulls away from sides of pan. Knead 10 minutes, adding flour if necessary. Store in an airtight container.

4. Fun with Snow! Too cold and snowy outside to go play? How about bringing the snow inside for the kids to enjoy?! Fill a large laundry basket or plastic container full of snow and let the kids make mini-snowmen, snow ice cream, or just explore!

5. Set up a car wash, washing all vehicles in the kitchen sink or bathtub. Or bathe all waterproof baby dolls. Besides soap and water, include washcloths, scrub brushes, and squirt bottles.

6. Shaving cream on a washable table top, in the bathtub, or on a plastic tray is fun for “fingerpainting,” smells good, and is easy to clean up. You can also add a drop of food coloring.

7. Collect rocks or pebbles next time you are at the beach. Put them in a tub or tray. Children can measure them, stack them, scoop them, or use them for play with dinosaurs or other props.



1. Enjoy a family baking day. Bake and decorate cookies. Bake a cake or brownies, using a mix. Try baking bread from scratch.

2. Snow Ice Cream Recipe

1 gallon snow
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk

1. When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes.
2. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency.

3. Make butter. Pour ½ pint whipping or heavy cream and a pinch of salt into a jar, filling the jar only halfway. Screw the top on tight and then shake, shake, shake until the cream turns into butter. Spread on warm toast. Yum!

4. Rock and Roll Ice Cream.

1. 3 pound empty coffee can
2. 1 pound empty coffee can
3. 1 pint of half & half
4. 1/2 cup of sugar
5. 1 teaspoon of vanilla
6. Optional: frozen fruit
7. Rock salt
8. Ice

1. Be sure empty cans are clean!
2. In the small can mix: half & half with 1/2 cup of sugar and vanilla.
3. Place the small can inside the big can. Add enough ice to cover the small can. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of rock salt on the ice.
4. Put a sheet or other large covering on the floor. Children sit on the floor. Roll the can back and forth between the participating children. After about 10 minutes, check to see if ice cream is hard enough. If not, keep rolling.
5. Eat the ice cream and enjoy!

5. For more creative play ideas visit:



1. Put on a show! Create a poster with the name of your band or play, make tickets, prepare “the stage” with props or instruments. Sell popcorn and drinks, Invite family, neighbors or friends. Sell tickets and enjoy the performance.

2. Put together a dress up box or trunk where all kinds of dress-ups can be gathered and stored. Include old clothes, rummage sale finds, costume jewelry, and Halloween costumes saved from years past. One item to consider including in your dress-ups are Play Silks are a collection of brightly colored silk scarves that can be used for everything from princess gowns to superhero capes to baby blankets. Order from Magic Cabin:

3. Create a pretend store in your kitchen or pantry. Name the store and make a sign along with an open & closed sign. Make inventory lists for each family member, based on that persons favorite foods. Make paper money and assign prices for different items. Make flyers about the store and pass them out to Mom & Dad inviting us to visit their store.

4. Drape blankets over a card table for a ready-made hideout, house, or fort.

5. Hold a family skit night. Pick favorite stories, such as “The Three Little Pigs,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” or “Billy Goats Gruff.” Tell (or read) the story and then act it out. Make it simple or elaborate, using props and costumes.

Turn one room of the house into an indoor playground. Push back the furniture. Create an indoor obstacle course.

2. Have a penny or button hunt. Hide 20 pennies or buttons around the house. The first to find 20 pennies or buttons gets a small prize (or gets to keep the pennies!).

3. Play balloon baseball. Use a balloon and pool noodles to play indoor baseball (or hockey, tennis, or golf).



1. If you buy one thing to encourage hours of creative indoor play, that would undoubtedly be a set of wooden unit blocks. Children as young as two and as old as ten or even older can enjoy and learn from building with unit blocks. Add additional materials such as cars and trucks, families of people, dinosaurs, zoo or farm animals or anything else to spark imaginations and extend the play. Check out for many block choices, including accessories.

2. Wonderful additions to basic unit block sets include windows and doors, colored see-through shapes, architectural blocks, and designer blocks. Check out

3. Other tried and true building materials that promise hours of creative fun include:
a. Legos
b. Bristle blocks
c. Tree blocks
d. Magnatiles
e. Wooden train sets



1. Create an Idea Jar. Write suggestions of fun things to do at home. Add “chores,” as well. When looking for something to do, pull out a slip of paper and follow the directions.

2. Set up several project tables that stay up for several days, allowing kids to return to them day after day. Try a jigsaw puzzle table; an art table; a Lego table; a paper doll table; or a model making table.

3. Hold a Teddy Bear Picnic. Invite family and/or friends to bring their favorite teddy bear to a Teddy Bear Picnic. Send out invitations. Make teddy bear wagons by decorating boxes, attach a ribbon or string, and have a parade, marching to the song “Teddy Bear Picnic.” Hold a contest to choose the cutest, biggest, smallest, and funniest bears. Decorate teddy bear-shaped cookies. Modify kids’ games to put a teddy bear spin on them (“Duck, Duck, Goose” becomes “Duck, Duck, Bear”). Read stories and sing songs about bears (The Three Bears, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, etc.

4. Assemble several Surprise Bags to bring out when kids are bored. Fill paper bags with a few ingredients for fast fun and/or to spark your child’s creativity. For example:

a. Creature Bag: a bunch of googly eyes, pompoms, and glue for making “creatures.”
b. Paper Doll Bag: a set of paper dolls, plus scissors and gift wrap for making a wardrobe
c. Yoyo Bag: a yoyo and a book of yoyo tricks
d. Spy Bag: a magnifying glass, a “spy notebook,” and a secret code to break
e. Jacks Bag: a set of jacks and a book on how to play
f. String Games Bag: several pieces of string and a book on how to create string games like Cat’s Cradle.