Screen-Free Boredom Busters

Need some playtime inspiration? Here are some ideas to keep the kids busy while schools are closed that don’t involve a TV or tablet. 

Beauty salon

Turn an area of your house into a spa for real or pretend beauty treatments. Create an ambiance with pillows, soft music and aromatherapy. Don’t forget to make a sign listing the services. 

Cardboard box house 

Turn a large cardboard box into a house, hospital, ice cream shop, spaceship or school bus. Have your child draw where they want the door and windows, and get cutting.  

Card games

Introduce the kids to the classics: Go Fish, War, Uno and Old Maid.


Download and print a free copy of Cards Against Humanity Family Edition, created for adults and kids to play together.


Collage art

Make beautiful pictures using ripped up pieces of paper, miscellaneous art supplies, photos and old greeting cards.

Decorate the windows

Create some colorful art and write uplifting messages for your neighbors and passers-by. We will get through this together. Check out #Solidarityat8 on social media, a movement encouraging people to go to their windows at 8 p.m. every night and shout out appreciation for health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

DIY lacing boards

Cut cardboard or likewise sturdy paper into fun shapes and poke holes around the perimeter. Cut a long piece of yarn or string that is reinforced with wrapped tape on each end. 

Egg hunt

Who says egg hunts are just for Easter? Hide your leftover plastic eggs around the house. Fill them with treats or sweet messages. 
Experiment with Natural Dye 
Put in the petals from a few bunchs of sourgrass, or common yellow woodsorrel, in a pot of water, bring to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Soak a natural, white fabric for 30 minutes, rinse and marvel at the delightful shade of sunshine.

Fairy garden

Use an old flower pot, small succulents and pretty rocks and shells to make a fairy retreat. 

Family jam band

Don’t have any instruments? Bang on pots and pans. Make shakers out of popcorn and jars. 

Family photo album 

Curate a collection of photos of important friends and family members for your child to keep and carry. 

Fashion show
Use playclothes and regular clothes. Challenge your children to dress like a family member or their favorite character.
Fort Challenge
Make a fort using the furniture and blankets. How big can you make it? Challenge someone you know to make their own. 


Freeze dance 

Dance until the music stops and then strike your best pose. 

Garbage city 

Give small boxes and food containers new life with paint and other art supplies to create a garbage city. Adhere your buildings to a streetscape cardboard base.


Celebrate spring by planting seeds in your yard or create an indoor mini garden. Order seeds online, or use avocado seeds to sprout in the kitchen window. 

Homemade piñatas

Use cardboard and tape to make a piñatas of any shape. Paint and cut up newspaper to papier-mâché the exterior. 

Homemade play dough

There are many recipes online, but we like the stovetop version made with cream of tartar best. Add essential oils or food-grade extract (peppermint is divine) and knead it in while the dough is still warm for a relaxing sensory experience. 

Homemade snow globes

Hot glue a small plastic toy, a laminated photo or other insoluble item on the backside of a jar lid and fill with the jar with water. Add glitter, beads or other items to float around before connecting the jar and lid.  

Indoor beach day

Lay out a beach blanket and put on the swimsuits and hats. Build a different kind of sandcastle with LEGO while listening to the Beach Boys. 

Indoor obstacle course

Use paper or cloth shapes to map a course and then jump, roll and hop across the room. 

Make a volcano

If you have water, dish soap, vinegar and baking soda, you have the goods to make a volcano.

Paper chains

Make paper chains to decorate for an un-birthday party. 

Penny walk

Take a walk around the neighborhood and, at the end of each block, flip a coin to determine your route. Heads go right, tails go left.  

Play journalist 

Teach your cub reporter about the 5 W’s of writing (who, what, where, when and why) and have them interview a friend or family member. Make the assignment simple (i.e., first pet, favorite memory, birth place)  and have them report back what they learned.

Play library

Show them how we used to check out library books. Cut envelopes to make library card pockets and cardstock to make due date cards and catalog cards. Encourage reading time. Remember, it’s always quiet time in the library!

Play post office

Cut up and decorate a shoebox to make your mail box. Make your own stamp and reuse cancelled postage from your real mail. Draw pictures or write letters to friends and drop them in a real mailbox to conclude the game. 

Play school

Use all those stuffed animals they’ve collected to be the students and have your young teacher give lessons.

Pretend laser maze 

Use masking tape or string to make “laser beams” that criss-cross along a hallway and have the kids try to make their way through without touching it. 

Puppet show

Make your own puppets or use stuffies to reenact a favorite story or put on an original production. Make a video to send it to friends and family, or invite the neighbors over for a show in front of your window. 

Thumbprint family tree

Draw a tree with as many branches as family members and use thumb prints as leaves to teach kids about their roots.

Washing toys 

Fill a large plastic tub with soap and water and have the kids have some productive water play. Why should you do all the work? 

Malaika Fraley is a Bay Area Parent contributor. 


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