Tag? Bread-baking? Ghost stories? Here’s a whole bunch of simple but fun activities to do around the house

The Wall Street Journal

With families holed up at home, we pulled together a list of 100 nonscreen activities to keep kids engaged. Most use supplies you might already have. Others require not much more than your brain and your feet. Some involve even less—and can help occupy kids while parents are working.

Outdoor Games
1. Hide and Seek

Little kids never seem to tire of watching their parents lie to them. Children, they see you.

2. Kickball

All you need is a ball and bases (try place mats in a pinch) for a game that may wreak less psychological havoc than grade-school dodgeball.

3. Jump Rope

Long before HIIT trainers claimed it, kids were the masters of the fancy footwork. Try tricks like the double under, the boxer skip and the skier.

4. Tag

Need we say more? Some people never outgrow it.

5. Capture the Flag

An outdoor staple where the flag can be anything, including a glow stick at night.

6. Hopscotch

A playground standard that has inspired at least one stunt version.

7. Croquet

To the British, it’s snooker on grass. To Americans, it’s the thing you ignored at summer camp. Household items can substitute for mallets and wickets.

8. Horseshoes

The shuffleboard of the sand pit.

9. Gaga

It’s basically dodgeball with a better name.

10. Four Square

Not the best for social distancing but great when played inside the family germ bubble. Draw a grid with chalk and grab a rubber ball.

11. Jacks

The game stretches back to prehistoric times, some say, when it was played with rocks and animal bones.

12. Tiddlywinks

Use those squidgers (plastic discs) to flick for a family championship.

13. Sprinklers

As the weather warms up, turn on the hose and unleash the children.

14. Bubbles

For a splashier pop, create tri-string wands with loops and two handles

Indoor Games
15. The Classics

Scrabble, backgammon, chess, checkers.

16. Candy Land

A board game for the littlest players is as old as the grandparents.

17. Cards

Learn how to play: War, Hearts, Poker, Go Fish, Bridge, Crazy 8s, Gin Rummy, Solitaire.

18. Jenga

Party in the block room: Build a tower. Pull it apart until it falls. Scream. Try again.

19. Monopoly

For those who think the board game takes too long, a version with playing cards claims to take only 15 minutes.

20. Risk

A strategy game involving diplomacy.

21. Battleship

What you play after diplomacy fails.

22. Clue

The murder mystery game. Mrs. Peacock in the library with a candlestick.

23. Operation

A patient’s nose flashes red while parents make malpractice jokes.

24. Chutes and Ladders

A starter game for the 3-plus crowd that does not require reading.

25. Etch A Sketch

A must-have holiday gift in 1960, it now resides in the National Toy Hall of Fame (and on Amazon).

26. 1,000-Piece Puzzles

Try some that come in obvious sections so little family members can participate, but be prepared to wait: Many popular puzzles are sold out online.

27. The Settlers of Catan or Catan Junior

The game made famous in Silicon Valley is an elaborate study of supply and demand.

28. Uno

A matching card game that’s easy to play while half asleep.

29. Sushi Go

Because every preschooler should know their sashimi from their nigiri

Fun in the Living Room
30. Treasure Hunt

Bring together an indoor search party to decode hints hidden around the house. Stumped for clues? Some ideas can be found here.

31. Escape Party

When home life feels like an escape room, why not make it official?

32. Family History

Reach out to locked-down relatives with podcast-style interviews.

33. Radio Drama

Make a radio play. Add any of 16,000 sound effects from this free BBC trove.

34. Build a Fort

Neat freaks remember, it won’t take all that long to clean up. Small additions for kids, like snacks and a private reading nook, add to the appeal.

35. Ghost Stories

Parents going for extra credit can pitch a tent in the living room and turn on a flashlight. Pick up ideas for creepy tales from camping sites like this one.

36. Dress Up

Pull the wedding dress out of that box and let the kids put it on. Or surprise the family at breakfast by making pancakes in your fanciest clothes. It’s not like you’re wearing this stuff anytime soon.

37. Family Lego

Buy a giant set and give everyone a section to build.

38. Animal Trivia

Voice assistants offer various diversions. A game from Google Home features surprising questions about critters.

39. I Spy

“Is it outside the car?” The road trip game—I spy with my little eye—works anywhere.

40. Mad Libs

If the real thing isn’t handy, make your own with fill-in-the-blank sentences.

41. Letter Writing

A welcome break from Zoom chats. Get ambitious with a message in a bottle: Stain paper with tea bags, roll the note into a scroll, tie it with a ribbon and box it up. Or not—you’ve done enough.

Art Projects
42. Sunlit Murals

Use washable finger paints or water colors on windows or glass doors. Get complete buy-in before the first smear: Everybody knows this is not forever.

43. Playdough Making

Here’s a recipe: 2 ½ cups flour, ½ cup salt, 2 packages Kool-Aid, 2 cups boiling water, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. Technically, it’s edible.

44. Slime Kit

Simplify the process with a few ingredients: Elmer’s glue, contact-lens solution, baking soda, glitter.

45. Sidewalk Chalk

Cheer on essential workers by writing thank yous outside your home, draw a picture for passing neighbors or scrawl a surprise message outside a friend’s house.

46. Guess the Artist

Kids try to name the legends behind famous works. Make it so they never look at a Campbell’s soup can the same way again.

47. Photo Albums

Create a book of pictures with help from sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly. Hard to go completely screenless on this one but you can hold the result in your hands.

48. Spirograph

The vintage toy now claims the educational benefits of STEM, four letters that seduce parents.

49. Origami

Paper cranes in vibrant colors brighten the strictest quarantine

50. Window Drawings

Get neighbors on a list-serv to tape up handmade drawings of the same thing, then take a walk and see how many you can spot.

51. Paint Easter Eggs

Try decorating wooden versions. Go big with a goose egg.

52. Dye Easter Eggs

Blow out the insides and try everything from shaving cream to splatter art.

53. Papier-mâché Piñata

Candy and sticks, what’s the problem?

54. Calligraphy

Books like “Modern Calligraphy for Kids” break the craft into small steps.

55. Coloring

The Colorscape app turns family photos into printable coloring pages.

56. Friendship Bracelets

The kids can make a collection for all the besties they cannot see.

57. Face Painting

Use stencils or temporary tattoos if steady hands are not your thing.

58. Bob Ross Experience

Follow along with the 80s and 90s art show host known for his groovy take on mountains and clouds. Screens required but we’re looking the other way.

59. Birdbox

Build a spring nesting box for birds using plans from nestwatch.org.

60. Puppets

Organize your dresser, weed out a sock that no longer sparks joy and draw eyes on it.

New Hobbies
61. Magic

Teach your child how to throw up playing cards. It’s a thing.

62. Dog Tricks

We love a dimwitted dog, don’t get us wrong, but clever pets might be more gratifying for this one.

63. Fly a Kite

Kids can make their own kites using straws, string and paper. Newspaper works—this story, even, for those with home delivery.

64. Plant a Garden

“No, beet it! I don’t carrot all for gardening.” (Farm humor from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.)

65. Build a Terrarium

Baby tears, lucky bamboo and nerve plants are aptly named terrarium greenery for this anxious moment.

66. Juggling

Start with two simple objects and add more to increase the challenge.

67. Hair Braiding

Tutorials abound. If braids are too hard, try the Booksmart hair balaclava for laughs.

68. Fishing

Find a secluded spot, get a rod and go. Try a barbless hook—it’s easier to remove and many areas don’t allow barbed hooks anyway.

69. Flower Picking

Press early blooms in wax paper tucked inside heavy books. Later, when screens are allowed, identify flowers and foliage with nature apps like Seek.

Music
70. Name that Tune

Playing songs and making kids guess the artist is good for at least five minutes of entertainment.

71. Band Camp

From the Pointer Sisters to the Jonas Brothers, music history is filled with families that sing together. What rhymes with Corona other than My Sharona?

72. Dance Party

Have a ’60s day, a ’70s day, an ’80s day and so on. Add dance moves for each decade.

73. Classical Class

Teach kids about one musical composer a day with help from books like Clemency Burton-Hill’s “Year of Wonder,” or listen to pop songs that sample classical music

Science
74. Identify Butterflies

For ideas, go to the Lepidopterists’ Society and remember Margaret Fountaine, a Victorian butterfly expert who collected more than 22,000 specimens. (Maybe don’t stuff butterflies in your pockets like she once did.)

75. Make a Volcano

Gather vinegar, water, dish soap, a tiny bit of food coloring and an empty soda bottle. Add baking soda. Take cover.

76. DIY Microscope

Turn a cellphone into a microscope with the lens from a cheap laser pointer, a flashlight and some other supplies using instructions on science sites like this one.

Sports
77. Family Bike Ride

Pack water, snacks, layers—and, depending on the location, gloves even when you think you don’t need them.

78. Skateboarding

This how-to-skateboard video for beginners has 9 million views on YouTube.

79. Basketball

H.O.R.S.E., the basketball version of Simon Says, does not require teams and can be tailored to skills.

80. Baseball or Wiffle Ball

A dinger, a moon shot, a four bagger, a tater…put the home run slang to good use.

81. Inline Skates

New designs make Rollerblading easier than it used to be. Bring Band-Aids.

82. Pogo Sticks

We read about an insomniac pediatric neurosurgeon in his 60s who pogo-sticked outside at 1 a.m.

83. Unicycle

There’s even an X-Games version: muni, mountain biking on a unicycle.

84. Soccer

Goal posts can be made from anything—buckets, tubes, siblings.

85. Football

Sites like activekids.com are handy for tips.

In the Kitchen
86. Bread Baking

Try fancy scoring on top of gourmet loaves or no-muss recipes that don’t require yeast. For inspiration, get lost in bread-baking time lapse videos.

87. Soufflé’s Up

Homebound teens can rise to the challenge: According to Martha Stewart, soufflés are not as temperamental as most people think.

88. Cookie Experiment

There will always be sugar cookies, but overlooked treats also have potential, like fortune cookies with funny messages or a chocolate chip cookie the size of a pizza.

89. Soup Time

For the stir craziest among us, track down alphabet pasta and spell out “SEND HELP” in your bowl.

90. Cake Day

Bake a pink castle cake with turrets made from overturned sugar cones or a chocolate construction zone cake topped with toy trucks. Or just dump a mix into a bowl and call it a day.

91. Pizza Project

Make the dough, cook the sauce, set up toppings, crank up the oven, eat, repeat.

92. Pull Apart Cupcakes

Head online for ideas about making creatures and superheroes from batches of cupcakes joined together with icing.

Bedtime. Are We Done Yet?
93. Marshmallow Roast

Burning a sugary treat over a candle seems like it could backfire, but for some it’s an incentive for good behavior.

94. Shaving Cream

Let the kids make designs with it in the tub and have them clean it with a squirt bottle.

95. Good-Time Charlie

Get the yayas out by loading every stuffed animal into the bed or allowing a few other minutes of parentally pardoned crazies.

96. Constellation Study

For the overscheduled child, the ultimate activity is staring into space.

97. Shadow Theater

Use a flashlight to make pictures on the walls with your hands.

98. Two Truths and a Lie

Exchange details about the day, only one is made up, guess it.

99. Choose Your Own Adventure

Make up a bedtime story, trade turns continuing the tale.

100. Photo Finish

Page through old yearbooks and photo albums showing family members when they were younger and remember that this too shall pass.