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8 Ways to Bring Outdoor Activities Indoors

8 Ways to Bring Outdoor Activities Indoors

Whether it's too cold for your liking or you don't have a backyard of your own, here are eight ideas for outdoor fun you can have indoors.

I’ll never forget coming home from work one February afternoon to discover that my husband and son had set up our tent in the living room. It stretched from the couch to the opposite wall, which, given our tiny Manhattan digs, meant that we had to do a parkour routine to get into the kitchen. My kid loved it. Luckily, you don’t have to block access to every any rooms in your house to have "outdoor fun" when you can’t actually get outside. Here are eight other ways to outdoor activities indoors.

Use Balloons for Balls

Any game that requires a ball can be modified for indoor fun using balloons. Flip over some chairs to make goals and—voilà—soccer. Tie a string across the center of the room and you have volleyball. Grab racquets, and you have tennis; whiffle ball bats, and you have baseball or, if you swing low, golf. You’ll want to establish some ground rules, hide the heirlooms, and make sure rugs are rolled up to prevent falls. After that, may the best team win!  

Play Outdoorsy Board Games

Everybody knows about the board game boom. While board games might seem like the ultimate indoor activity, there are a slew of games that let you "explore" the natural world.   Wingspan (10 and older) fosters an appreciation of animals as players try to create and attract birds to habitats. Younger kids will enjoy Wildcraft! (ages 4 and older), a cooperative game that requires players to collect ingredients for a huckleberry pie, learning about more than 25 different edible plants and herbs they go.

RELATED: The 9 Best Board Games for Family Game Night

Let it Snow!

No snow? No problem. Make your own! Dump a two-pound box of baking soda into a plastic tub or large bowl, squirt in an entire can of shaving cream, and then mix and mix and mix. According to the lifestyle blog Make Life Lovely, the result is “light and powdery.” Like regular snow, it can be molded and manipulated. Unlike the real stuff, it won’t melt all over your floor.

Sculpt with Sand

For something a little less arctic and a little more tropical, consider making your own sand. The basic recipe blends 1 cup of oil (vegetable or baby) with 8 cups of flour, yielding a crumbly, squeezable substance that mimics moist sand. Jazz things up by adding glitter, food coloring, or scents. As with the fake snow, do the mixing inside a plastic tub or large bowl. In other words, expect a bit of a mess.

RELATED: How to Make Slime That Looks Like Outer Space

Stuff Your Face with S'mores

The principle of indoor s’mores is the same as the campfire version—chocolate and marshmallow sandwiched between graham crackers, and heated. For the indoor version, you’ll want to use the broiler for a minute or two to achieve the ideal level of gooey goodness. Feel free to give my adaptation a try—subbing a peanut butter cup for a square of plain old chocolate in your s'mores. Bonus! Turning your oven on high will help heat the kitchen.

Have a Floor Picnic

This one’s so easy, it kind of feels like cheating. Spread a blanket on the floor, cue up some crickets or summery songs on Spotify, and hand around finger foods like grapes or sandwiches. Up to you whether to don shorts and tank-tops as well. Your kids will love the novelty—and since you can toss the blanket in the wash, you’ll love not having to sweep or vacuum.

RELATED: Picnic Spots in NYC

Welcome Worms

By now you probably know the benefits of compositing, including reducing the release of methane by keeping organic waste out of landfills and decreasing our reliance on chemical fertilizers. You can schlep your egg shells, coffee filters, etc. to a collection site, or you can try a worm-full composting bin. The bin requires a little attention to prevent smells and discourage critters, but frankly so do kids. As the worms turn, tunnel, and twirl through the composting bin, you and your little ones just might find yourselves marveling at the miracle of life.

Update Rock Painting

Rock painting goes back a long, long time. No doubt tiny Neanderthals painted rocks as their mommies and daddies painted cave walls. The Pinterested Parent adds even more nature to this time-honored tradition of rock painting by using leaves. Painting a leaf and then gently pressing it against the rock creates a charming silhouette. You might also try ‘painting’ with twigs, blades of grass, acorns, and anything else that you find outside.    

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention pinecones, another endlessly adaptable staple of nature-based art-and-crafts. With a little glue, yarn, googly eyes, glitter, paint, and imagination, the humble pinecone can be transformed into a troll, penguin, turkey, and pretty much any other animal you can think of.  



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Jessica Allen


Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, and New York City, where she lives.

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