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The Best Indoor Games for Quarantined Kids and Families

Need to tire out the kids so you can get some work done? We've got you covered.

hief among the many threats posed by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 now sweeping the nation like a 2010 Justin Bieber bop is that of prolonged exposure, specifically to children. As working parents become working-from-home parents, and schools prepare to evacuate themselves forcefully, a considerable number of caregivers are wondering what life will look like under quarantine. The answer? Probably like one of those Family Circus cartoons where Bobby bounces off the walls and furniture and off-puttingly evangelical overtones.

All the £2, black market double-ply won’t absorb that kind of energy. What is needed cannot be looted from the grocery or hoarded via Amazon Prime. What is needed is a distraction. Fortunately, distractions are free.

The Copycat Game

Think of this as a ‘no-losers’ version of “Follow the Leader” designed to improve toddlers’ motor skills while wearing them out.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Realistic Time It Will Entertain a Child: 15-20 minutes

How to Set Up: Setup is as simple as clearing out a section of a room so everyone can move freely about and/or explore the studio space ⏤ around 10 square feet should do. Carpeted or grassy surfaces work best, especially if you plan on going crazy and doing movements that require rolling around on the ground. If you use objects like chairs, set yours directly across from your child’s, leaving at least three feet between.

How to Play: As the name suggests, all you’re doing is engaging in an activity or motion, literally anything, and trying to get your little one to follow along. To get things started, I throw out a challenge: “Do you want to play ‘The Copycat Game’? I bet you can’t do what daddy does ….”Start with simple movements ⏤ marching, touching your toes, etc. ⏤ and work your way up to more complex gestures. Then do jumping jacks and push-ups. That’s healthy for everyone. Depending on the age of the child, you can also take turns being the leader.

Chair Hat Toss

Think of this as an indoor version of horseshoes. As simple as it is, though, it’s remarkably entertaining past-time that teaches kids to throw.

Prep Time: 1 Minute

Realistic Time It Will Entertain a Child: 10-15 minutes

How to Set Up: Turn over a kitchen chair so that its legs stick up. Find a hat — baseball is best but winter and cowboy work.

How To Play: Try to throw the hat onto the legs of the chair. That’s it. Want to complicate it a bit? Give each leg a point value. Now we’re learning about counting (but mostly just throwing a hat around). If kids are super into it, have them make DIY rings out of rope or cardboard.

Balloon Tennis

Think of this as a way to play organized sports without taking the time to actually organize yourself or your home in any meaningful way.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Realistic Time It Will Entertain a Child: 30-60 minutes

How To Set Up: Get two chairs and prop them up roughly 10 feet apart. Tie a strong between them. Inflate a balloon. Hand out fly swatters.

How To Play: It’s tennis. The only real difference is that there needs to be a clear rule about how many times a player is allowed to hit the balloon while it’s on his or her side of the net. Two works for coordinated kids, but three is probably the best bet. If kids are struggling, a game of family doubles will do the trick. Also, tennis scoring makes absolutely no sense so skip it.

The Camouflage Game

Think of this as hide-and-go-seek for indoor kids or kick the can family edition. This is not ideal for those living in small apartments but is otherwise well suited to multi-child families.

Prep Time: None

Realistic Time It Will Entertain a Child: Forever, which is a curse in its own way.

How To Set Up: Designate a “Counting Zone.” Stand in it.

How to Play: Count down from 20 out loud while the other players run off and hide within eyeshot. When you hit zero try to find the hidden players without moving and call them out. If you can’t find all of them, call “15!” and put your hands out. The hidden players must run-up, high five you, then squirrel themselves away again. Repeat for 10 and 5 until everyone is found. Don’t play around furniture with sharp edges.


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