25 ways to have big fun in small spaces

With two kids in a small, downtown apartment, rainy or otherwise unpleasant days sometimes meant that we had to get creative with our space. But we were up to the challenge! Mostly.

Small spaces don’t have to equal small fun. Grab your kids and get moving with this list of activities kids can do on their own or with others.

1. Hand clapping games

From your basic Patty Cake with a new baby or older child, to Concentration, A Sailor Went to Sea, or Miss Mary Mack, clapping games are fun for all ages. (I have to admit that I wouldn’t turn down a Say, Say, Oh Playmate if offered a chance.)

2. Catch and clap

This game is catchy and can be played with one or several players. One child throws a ball or bean bag to another child who has to clap before they catch the ball. To play on their own, see if your child can throw the ball in the air and clap before they catch it. How many times in a row can they throw and catch?

3. Hopping obstacle course

In a hallway or living room, set up a maze of items such as shampoo bottles, toilet paper rolls, or stuffed animals. Can your child hop around them, hop around them with one foot, hop around them with one foot while touching their nose, hop backwards around them?

4. Indoor skate

No ice in your home? That’s probably a good thing! But you can recreate the thrill of skating with the use of a non-carpeted floor. Have your kids place each foot on a face cloth or felt square, and have them push and slide across their own personal rink. Have them use one foot to twirl and spin, or see how far they can go with one push.

5. Snowball fight

Save yourself the wet snowsuits and mittens with an indoor “snowball” fight. Scrunch up tissue paper into “snowballs” and let the throwing commence!

6. Car wash

Toddlers love water play. You love clean toys. Combine the two with a fun activity.

Fill a bucket or tub with water and give your kids washable toys (ie. nothing that will take forever to dry like a stuffie or an electronic toy). Place the tub on a non-carpeted floor and provide lots of towels for the washed toys and for the wet clothes.

7. Velcro catch

Pick up a Velcro mitt and ball set at a dollar or toy store or make your own for this throw-and-catch game.

To make your own, use one child’s glove (let’s be honest, who doesn’t have one unmatched glove in their winter stash?). Pick up a wiffle ball (or two in case the first goes missing—see glove example above) along with fuzzy Velcro circles at the dollar store. Put eight of the hooked portions of the Velcro stickers on the ball and voilà. You have your own set.

Have your kids alternate as the thrower and the catcher and watch as both skills improve.

8. Musical statues

The rules are easy and the laughs are certain. Pick any music and have your kids dance as wildly as they can. When the music stops, they have to freeze in whatever position they’re in. If they laugh or move, they’re out.

9. So you think you can (make up a) dance?

Have your kids pick a favourite song and choreograph it with their favourite moves. Perhaps dinner and a show so your kids can perform their dance? Letting them pull together costumes for their performance will add a lot more fun and glitz!

10. Charades

The options are limitless in this classic game of acting and guessing. Have your kids pick an action such as brushing their teeth or reading a book, an animal such as an elephant or monkey, or an instrument like a piano or guitar. Can they act it out and see if others can guess what they’re doing?

11. Minute to win it

Set a timer and see how many jumping jacks your child can do in a minute (or pin jumps or burpees). Join in with your child! There’s a chance that they might out-burpee you, but you’ll be having fun AND will be a great role model.

12. Movement songs

Combine your love of song (whether or not you can hit a note) with movement. There are so many songs you and your child can move and groove to. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Hokey Pokey, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Wheels on the Bus, or Shakes Your Sillies Out. If you don’t know the words, find videos of the songs online. Adding your own words makes the activity even more fun.

13. Sack races

Have your kids step into reusable shopping bags or pillowcases for this classic picnic game. This activity will definitely result in a whole lot of hopping fun.

14. Window cleaning

Wait… cleaning? Honestly! Kids love to use spray bottles. Fill a bottle with water or water and vinegar and let them spray and wipe. You might get gleaming windows, you might get smudges, but you will have happy kids.

15. Letter hunt

Send your kids on a hunt around your home to see how many things they can find that begin with a chosen letter. If they haven’t yet learned their letters, choose a colour instead.

16. Over-the-door mini-hoops

Hang a mini basketball net over a door and have your kids shoot from a standing position or a lying position. Can they sink a shot while standing backwards or one one foot?

17. Sensory crawl

Cardboard boxes provide the basis of so many games and activities. Make a sensory tunnel out of a cardboard box for your baby and toddlers. Dangle socks or ribbons at either end of the tunnel for crawling through. Fill the tunnel with feathers or balls, or blow bubbles into the box for your kids to pop.

18. Yoga

Yoga is awesome for developing your kids’ strength and flexibility while focusing on mindfulness. Print out cards or a poster with yoga moves and practice your cow, tree, or boat pose alongside your child.

19. Mini sticks

Turn a laundry basket or tub on its side and use as a net for this miniature hockey game. Have your kids use a light object as their puck and keep—or don’t keep—score.

20. River bank

Place a rope or string in the middle of a room and have your kids line up on it. Have one person stand off the line to be the caller. Show your kids which side of the rope is the river and which is the bank. When the caller calls, “river,” players have to jump to the water side. When they call “bank,” kids jump over the rope the other way. The caller can mix up their calls by using “water” twice in a row or speeding up their calls. If a child jumps the wrong way, they switch up with the caller and the game begins again.

21. Standing hot potato

This classic birthday party game is mostly played in a seated circle. Get your kids standing and pick a “potato” (could be a ball, a bean bag, or, heck, even an actual potato). Have one person play music while the others throw the potato back and forth. When the music randomly stops, whoever is holding the potato is out and they become the DJ.

22. Loonie cup toss

No birds will be hurt in the playing of this game. Gather together a collection of loonies or other coins and a number of empty tubs or cups. Pick a line from which your kids will throw the coins. Give your smaller kids a spot closer to the cups. How many of the coins can they throw into the cups? For the older kids, can they get a coin into each of the cups?

23. Bean bag balance challenge

Improve posture and balance with this fun game. Can your child walk from one side of a room to another with a bean bag on their head? Can they balance two bags? See if your child can walk backwards and still keep the bags on their heads. Can they walk on their tiptoes or waddle like penguins?

24. Towel parachutes

The outdoor versions of nylon parachutes take up a lot of room and need many hands to hold. Use a towel as a home version. With at least two people holding the edges of the towel, put stuffed animals, balls, or rolled-up socks in the middle, and watch them soar as you wave the towel up and down.

25. Egg hunt with a twist (and a jump and a spin)

Pull out your plastic eggs if you have them, or head to your local dollar store to pick some up. Instead of chocolate, fill them with action notes. Actions could include 10 jumping jacks, 5 burpees, or 15 jump spins.

Here’s to big fun in small spaces!

While you might not live in a castle, (who would truly want all those bathrooms to clean anyway?), there are so many ways to get your kids off the couch moving and having fun.


Further reading:

10 Lego games to get kids moving

49 fun physical activities to do with kids aged 2 to 4

10 ways to get more active in just 10 minutes

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