9 TV-free ideas for when you’re stuck indoors with your kids

Paint, build a fort, read, wrap up some outdated toys

Staying cooped up inside all day can be hard, especially if that means getting trapped indoors with your children.

It’s no big deal if we’re talking about one rainy day or a lazy weekend. But if you’re stuck inside for any significant amount of time, or you have a long few days of travel, for example, it can start to pose a challenge -- especially if your kids are younger and have a harder time entertaining themselves.

What’s a parent or caretaker to do? We came up with nine suggestions. Obviously, some of these ideas will be age-appropriate in your home and others might not. Pick out a few activities that might work for you guys and let us know how it goes.

1.) Read, read, read. Make it fun! Use silly voices. Read quality literature that you and your kids can enjoy together -- not just any old book that you assume is age-appropriate. Ask your librarian for recommendations if you’d like to freshen up your collection at home. Don’t assume that books are just for bedtime; you can read any time throughout the day. And don’t think that your kids are too little -- even newborns love the sound of your voice. Pro tip: Mo Willems is the new Dr. Seuss. You’ll be cracking up (or in tears) by the end of “Knuffle Bunny Free.” Here are some more tips.

2.) Make Play-Doh or slime. Play-Doh is usually just some combination of flour, oil and cream of tartar (with some water and food coloring, of course). You probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen already, and this will keep your kids busy for awhile. Grab a rolling pin and some cookie cutters and you’re good to go! Getting messy is pretty fun.

3.) Play as if you’re at the grocery store, or really, any role-playing game -- especially if you have a toddler or younger children. This teaches them new words and language skills, there are about a million different scenarios and you could even set up a little area of your house to fit the bill. Get creative!

4.) Who says bubbles are just for the outside? You could do bubbles in the bath, for example, or even in the kitchen if there’s an area that’s easy enough to wipe down when you’re all done. Break free from your living room and the kids’ bedrooms. You’re there all the time! Think of other spaces in the house that might be fun. A change of scenery can really freshen things up, especially when you’re feeling stir-crazy. Today, we're painting in the kitchen!

5.) Go through your basement or attic and find things your kids are no longer playing with. Even if these are odd trinkets or things that seem outdated, wrap them in aluminum foil for them to unwrap.

The unwrapping is half the fun, and you never know -- sometimes old toys make for the best toys. You just might revive an old favorite. On the flip side, you could buy a few new things from the dollar store if you want a fun surprise. If you have older kids, maybe you could hide these around the house or make a little scavenger hunt.

6.) Bake something, or make a pizza. You don’t have to go all out -- you could just purchase pre-made dough from the store with some sauce in a jar and a bag of cheese. Decorating the pie with all the toppings is the fun part, anyway. Baking can be a cool shared experience as well, even with toddlers. They love stirring, so as long as you can keep the mess confined, you’d be surprised what a kick they’ll get out of “helping.” And then when you’re done, or when the rain has cleared, deliver your baked goods to your neighbors.

7.) Build a fort. We say you should go totally hands-off on this front. Let your kids build the fort of their dreams.

8.) Have an indoor picnic. Just another change-of-pace idea that might be fun!

9.) Step back. Let your child play, even if he doesn’t have a sibling. If you have more than one, that's an even better reason for you to read in the corner. Don’t feel bad: You’re not there to play with your them every second of the day. This is healthy! Even if you only have a few toys in the room, just see what she comes up with. You might be surprised. Kids have really good imaginations. Don’t micromanage a thing, or suggest anything, or throw toys at them if you fear they’re getting bored. Let them. They’ll figure it out. It’s healthy. Flip through a magazine, fold some laundry and don’t feel guilty for a second.

Good luck out there!