Sue Cowley: 10 Indoor Activities
for a Rainy Day

Stay active and playful when the wind's howling outside.

As you know, “come rain or shine” doesn’t always resonate with a two year-old. Sometimes it’s just too nasty out there.

When that’s the case, indoor activities provide a great opportunity to break out the paint and scissors for arts and crafts, or gather together for a story.

So for when the world beyond the windows just isn’t that inviting, here is a collection of ideas from our expert contributor Sue Cowley on how to keep your indoor provision engaging and fun.

Want more? Sue Cowley contributed these activities as part of our NMT award-nominated Activity Library, a resource that you can access for free as part of Famly Free – a light version of our software which gives you access to observations, learning journals, and parent communication at no cost. So why not sign up today? Head in to see 20 more free activities from Sue, as well as more than 50 other free activities.

Without further ado, here are those 10 great indoor activities for your setting.

1. What’s in the Box?

The indoor activity idea: Children build, decorate and role play using a giant box.

What you need: 

  • A giant wardrobe or appliance-sized cardboard box (available at storage companies, and often through home supply stores)
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Role play costume pieces

How you do it:

  • Present the children with a giant box, big enough for several of them to fit inside
  • Talk to them about what they would like their box to become — Perhaps a home, a submarine, a laboratory, or a time machine.
  • Supply the relevant craft materials so that the children can work together to create whatever they decide.

2. At the Shop

The indoor activity idea: Children explore concepts of weight and money as they role play as shopkeepers.

What you need:

  • Role play area
  • Till
  • Water
  • Scales
  • Play money
  • Shopping bags or baskets
  • Various food items for sale (can be real items or toys)

How you do it:

  • Set up your role play area as a shop. Incorporate real or toy food items, coins and notes, plus a set of scales and a till.
  • Encourage the children to create labels for the foods and to put prices on items.
  • Allow the children to take on different roles, taking it in turns to role play as both shopkeeper and customers.
  • Depending on the age of the children, you might incorporate some maths puzzles to solve, for instance giving the correct change.

3. That’s a Wrap

The indoor activity idea: Children develop their fine motor skills as they experiment with wrapping differently shaped and sized boxes.

What you need:

  • Boxes of various shapes and sizes
  • Leftover or recycled wrapping paper
  • Adhesive tape
  • Ribbons
  • Bows
  • Scissors

How you do it:

  • As part of your continuous provision, set up an art area with lots of different materials for wrapping boxes.
  • Be sure to include a range of differently sized boxes (e.g. sweet boxes, cereal boxes, small appliance boxes)
  • Encourage the children to try their hand at gift-wrapping the boxes with the materials provided.
  • Include ribbons, so that the children can develop their dexterity by tying knots and decorative bows.
  • You could do this activity in the run-up to a celebration, for example an important birthday or the holiday season.

4. Kind Hands

The indoor activity idea: Develop thinking around the rule of having ‘kind hands’ by doing this art activity and creating a display with the children in your setting.

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Scissors

How you do it:

  • Talk with the children about your ‘kind hands’ rule – what does it mean, and should we behave like this?
  • Offer the children the chance to make ‘kind hands’ to create a display for your setting.
  • First, they will need to draw around their hands, using a pen or pencil. You may need to help the younger children with this.
  • Now they should cut out the hands. Again some children may need help with cutting technique, or you might need to do this for them.
  • Finally, they can decorate their ‘kind hands’ and you can write what the children say about what kind hands look like, or why they are important, on each finger.
  • Young children might do handprints in paint, rather than the cutting out activity.
  • Older children may be able to do the writing on the hand shapes themselves.
  • The hand shapes can be used to make a lovely ‘kind hands tree display’ for your setting.

5. Pass the Animal

The indoor activity idea: Children take turns to role play holding a toy animal, and discuss how to handle and treat animals.

What you need:

  • A soft animal toy
  • An open space

How you do it:

  • Talk together about how we need to treat animals, drawing out the children’s thinking about why we need to be careful and sensitive to them.
  • Show the children the soft toy – hold it as though it is real.
  • Explain that you are going to pass the animal around the circle, and that the children should also pretend that it is real, through the way they handle it.
  • If any of the children are ‘rough’ with the toy, talk together about how that might make the animal feel.

6. Choices Book

The indoor activity idea: Create a ‘choices book’ that helps children have a discussion about choices and personal preferences.

What you’ll need:

  • Images of your continuous provision
  • A ‘choices book’

How you do it:

  • Create a book of choices of activity by taking photos of the different areas of continuous provision in your setting, and assembling them in a scrapbook or binder.
  • Sit with the children, as individuals or in small groups, and look through the book.
  • Talk with them about which activities they want to choose that day.
  • Encourage them to explain why they are choosing those particular activities.
  • Ask them to talk about why they are choosing certain ones – what is it about these activities that appeals to them?
  • This activity can also give you useful information about adapting your continuous provision to the children’s interests.

7. Reading Feelings

The indoor activity idea: Show the children images of people with different expressions to talk about how they might be feeling.

What you need:

  • Images of people from a range of backgrounds and identities, expressing different emotions and body language

How you do it:

  • Talk with the children about how we can tell what people are feeling by looking at their faces.
  • Make some different expressions and ask the children to copy them.
  • Talk about how we can tell whether people are looking happy, sad, upset, interested, puzzled and so on. What happens to our eyes, eyebrows, forehead, mouth, and so on?
  • Now show them the images, and continue to talk about how they can ‘read’ other people’s feelings from the way that their faces look.

8. Germ Busters

The indoor activity idea: Create a handwashing poster to display near your setting’s toilets.

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Art and craft materials
  • Laminator

How you do it:

  • Talk with the children about the importance of washing their hands to stay healthy and clean.
  • Ask whether they can identify the different times throughout the day when they might need to wash their hands.
  • Explain that you are going to make posters to go in your toilets and kitchen areas, all about hand washing.
  • You might like to develop some superhero characters to go on your posters, for instance, ‘Germ Busters’.
  • Laminate the children’s posters and display them near your setting’s toilets and handwashing stations.

9. Recipe Writing

The indoor activity idea: The children use a writing template to create their own recipe cards.

What you need:

  • Writing template for a recipe (bullet point ingredient list & utensils/method)
  • Pencils and pens
  • A theme for your recipes

How you do it:

  • Brainstorm and write a list of any vocabulary that the children might need.
  • Explain that you are going to write some recipes as a class.
  • Model the process for the children using the writing template.
  • The children should then create their own recipes.
  • You might link this writing activity to a book in which recipes or food play a big role. For instance, you might write the recipe for the sandwich in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda and David Armitage
  • You might also do some recipes for disgusting dinners, perhaps inspired by Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes book.

10. Snack Time Maths

The indoor activity idea: The children help to prepare snacks for the whole group.

What you need:

  • Snack foods
  • Chopping boards
  • Child-safe knives
  • Plates

How you do it:

  • Discuss the safety aspects of handling food and tools, including hand washing and safe use of a knife.
  • In preparation for snack time, work with small groups of children to cut and prepare different foods (e.g. cheese, fruits, vegetables).
  • As you cut the foods, use mathematical language – discuss what is means to cut them in half, how many pieces you need to cut them into to share with the whole group.
  • Count the number of children in the group, and the number of snacks you have, to work out whether there is enough to share, and how many pieces each child can have.

50 Free EYFS Activities

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