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7 Indoor Games for Little Kids to Play

Awesome old-school activities for lots of participants—or a party of one

Highlights 4Cs

Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
The light bulb icon represents curiosity. For content about raising a curious child, look for this icon.
The paint brush icon represents creativity. For content about raising a creative child, look for this icon.
The holding hands icon represents caring. For content about raising a caring child, look for this icon.
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Treat your youngster to a rollicking good time—at home, indoors, minus technology, and virtually without any equipment. In other words, the same way you used to play!
Play these awesome indoor activities

Got a kid’s bash to plan or a rare day with nothing on the agenda? Vintage games offer little ones a welcome break from apps and videos. Introduce your kids to one or two of these old-time favorites—but eventually show ‘em all.

1. Name of the game: Musical Chairs

Best for: Group playdates, birthday parties, vacation get-togethers, snow days, or Sunday dinner with the cousins

Number of players: At least four, but more will up the fun

Where to play: A space large enough to accommodate a number of chairs and ample room for kids to move around safely

What you need: Sturdy kid-size chairs (one fewer than the number of players), music, and an “MC”

How to play: Arrange the chairs in one straight line, two rows back-to-back, or a circle with the seats facing outward. Players stand single file, about a foot away from the setup. A parent or an older sibling starts the music with a plan to stop it at random moments. When the music stops, each player claims a seat. The player left standing is out. One chair is removed and the next round begins.  

Game is over when: One child is left standing—well, sitting—in the remaining chair

Variation: Use pillows or cushions on the floor if you don’t have enough chairs.

Fun factor: yesyes

2. Name of the game: Freeze Dance

Best for: All ages

Number of players: One or more

Where to play: An open, obstacle-free area

What you will need: Music and a “DJ”

How to play: The DJ starts the tunes while everyone dances—all moves count. When the music stops, kids freeze and hold the position—until the music starts again. Encourage kids to strike a unique pose—and reward all efforts. Or play the traditional way: kids who can’t hold the pose are out.

Game is over when: Fatigue takes over or only one dancer is left

Variation: Instead of asking players to freeze, give them 10 seconds to get into a position called out by the DJ, such as stand on one foot, in a star shape, or on the floor on all fours.  

Fun factor: yesyesyes

3. Name of the game: Hide-and-Seek

Best for: Four- to six-year-olds

Number of players: Two or more

Where to play: In a house or an apartment

How to play: Designate a spot as “home” and choose a player to be the seeker. The seeker closes his eyes and counts to ten while the other children hide. (You may want to establish some rules beforehand, noting off-limit locations and no climbing on furniture or beds.) Once the seeker is done counting, he can start searching for the other players. Kids try to make it back to home base without being found or tagged. Tagged kids are out.

Game is over when: Only one player is left hiding. That child becomes the seeker in the next round.

Variation: If your house or apartment lacks space, have one kid “hide the thimble” or another small object instead and encourage other players to find it.

Fun factor: yesyes

4. Name of the game: Hallway Bowling

Best for: Coordinated four- to six-year-olds

Number of players: One or more

Where to play: Long, unobstructed hallways

How to play: Raid the recycling bin for six medium-to-large water bottles. Add enough water to give them some weight, and set them up at the end of the hallway—three in the back row, two in the middle row, and one in the front. Invite bowlers to stand at the other end of the hall with a basketball in hand. Each player bowls twice (except those who get a strike on the first round!). Each pin knocked over is worth one point.

Game is over when: Each child bowls ten rounds. Highest score wins.

Variation: Slip glow sticks into water bottles and turn out the lights for some glow-in-the-dark fun.  

Fun factor: yesyesyes

5. Name of the game: Rock-Paper-Scissors

Best for: Squabbling sibs and calling dibs

Number of players: Two

Where to play: Anywhere they like

How to play: Kids stand face-to-face and shape one hand into a fist. At the count of three, the players simultaneously make one of three gestures: a rock (fist closed); paper (open hand, palm down), or scissors (index and middle fingers extended, palm down).

Game is over when: One player overpowers the other: Rock smashes scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper covers rock. Both players used the same gesture? Do it again.

Variation: Two out of three rounds determines the winner.  

Fun factor: yesyes

6. Name of the game: Thumb Wrestling

Best for: Coordinated and competitive children ages four to six.

Number of players: Two or more

Where to play: Kitchen table or island, or the playroom or family-room floor.

How to play: Two players sit or stand face-to-face, extend their right hand, and clasp fingers into a locked position with their thumbs resting on top of closed fists. Moving thumbs back and forth, the players chant: “One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war! Five, six, seven, eight, try to keep your thumb straight!” The ”war” begins as each player tries to pin the opponent’s thumb down with her own.

Game is over when: One child pins the other child’s thumb for a count of five

Variation: More than two kids? Hold a tournament. The player who outmaneuvers all the others wins.

Fun factor: yesyes

7. Name of the game: Simon Says 

Best for: Kids ages two to six and larger groups

Number of players: Three or more

Where to play: A pared-down space

How to play: A mature child or an adult serves as Simon, who stands in front of the group and issues commands other children must follow or ignore, depending on the words Simon uses when he issues the command. If Simon says, “Simon says” before the command, the players must follow those directions. Those who don’t are out. If Simon delivers the command without the directive and players follow the command anyway, those players are out.

Game is over when: There is one remaining player

Variation: Try this with older children: Whatever Simon says, do the opposite. If Simon says, “Raise your right arm,” players raise the left. If Simon says, “Stand,” players sit. If Simon says, “You’re out,” you stay in!

Fun factor: yesyes