My family of seven lives in a small cozy log home. Living in a small home means we take most of our active time outdoors, but sometimes getting outside can be a challenge. Frigid temperatures, severe wind, blistering heat, or wildfire smoke keep us indoors. To prevent us from going stir-crazy, I draw upon some of our favourite active games and activities that work well in small spaces. If your family lives in a small space and you’re looking for some fun games and activities to keep your kids busy, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’m sharing 15 of my go-to small space games and activities for kids.
1. Hide and seek
Hide and seek is a classic childhood game that never grows old and works well even in smaller spaces. This simple game teaches kids how to problem-solve and manage impulse control, and it can help with separation anxiety. It’s also a type of risky play because a child has to hide or “disappear” and then be found again. To learn more about the benefits of risky play, here are 6 ways kids should engage in “risky” play. If classic hide and seek has lost its luster try one of these fun variations:
Sardines: One child hides and everyone else seeks. When a seeker finds the hidden child, they hide with the child. The next seeker that finds the child joins the two hiding. The game continues this way until everyone finds the hidden child and are all squished into the hiding spot together.
Hide and seek jail: Everyone hides and one child is the seeker. When the seeker finds a child, that child is put in “jail.” Once everyone is found and put in jail the seeker wins, but there’s a twist! Those stuck in jail can be freed by players still in hiding if they sneak over and tag a jailed teammate without being caught.
Back to home base: In this game of hide and seek, players hide while the seeker counts and then they try to make it back to home base (a wall, the couch etc.) without being caught by the seeker.
2. Animal yoga
With animal yoga kids make up their own poses based on their favourite animals. This is a fun activity for wild children that get antsy doing more traditional yoga poses while still reaping the benefits of improving balance, coordination, and strength. If your child needs some yoga inspiration, here are some printable zoo animal yoga cards for kids [PDF] and a great list of yoga books for kids that will make moving fun.
3. Tape games
If you live in a small space, I highly recommend investing in some coloured painter’s/masking tape for tape games. Tape games are activities created by putting tape on the floor in different shapes and patterns. Some of my kids’ favourite tape games are balance beam (walking along a strip of tape on the floor), hopscotch (jumping along a hopscotch grid on the floor), and car park (creating a parking lot and roads for toy cars). Tape games are great for encouraging the development of fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity. There are so many tape game ideas that the options are truly endless! Here are a few more ideas:
- Make a giant tic-tac-toe board and use hands and feet to fill in the grid.
- Tape big letters or numbers on the ground and have your child trace them with a finger, a car, or a dry paintbrush.
- Make large shapes on the ground with a tape and toss socks or bean bags into the shapes, or find similarly shaped objects to place on each shape.
- Tape lines on the ground and try to practice jumping from one line to the next.
4. Up down stop go
Up down stop go is a variation of Simon Says that’s fun and movement-focused. To play this game, start by agreeing on what each command means. There are plenty of options to choose from and I’ve listed some ideas below. Next, take turns calling out the commands (up, down, stop, and go), switching up the order until the player makes a mistake. If a mistake is made, either switch roles or the player has to do an extra movement like three frog jumps or a bear crawl across the living room.
Up: Jump up, stand up straight, stretch up and reach to the sky, do a jumping jack, hop up, jump on one leg.
Down: Sit down, squat down, lay down.
Stop: Freeze!, stand still like a tree, balance on one leg.
Go: Jog in place, do jumping jacks, hop, spin, crawl, act like your favourite animal.
5. Build a fort
My kids love it when I give them permission to use whatever they can find in our home to build a fort. Inevitably all the cushions come flying off our couch, the dining table chairs are hauled away, and all the blankets from our beds are rounded up. However, it’s more than worth the mess when I see them working together and using their creativity to build a fort. Fort-building is a quintessential childhood activity that works well in a small space. Not only does fort-building boost problem-solving skills but it offers hours of creative play.
6. Sock games
Where do missing socks go? My kids are convinced the washing machine eats them. All I know is that I have a basket overflowing with socks that have lost their match. The solution? I use them for sock games! Socks, like scotch tape, are another handy thing to have on hand for small space games and activities. Here are some ways to use socks:
- Sock toss: Roll socks into balls and toss them into a bucket or basket.
- Snowball fight: Roll socks into balls and toss them at one another.
- Colour match: Match socks into colour categories.
- Puppet show: Make puppets out of socks and tell a story.
For more ideas, here are 6 active games kids can play with a pair of socks.
7. Dance shadow
If you want a fun activity that’s sure to put a smile on your child’s face, play dance shadow. For this activity, put on some fun tunes and bust out those dance moves. The shadow part of this activity comes from the fact that each player takes a turn dancing and then the other player has to copy the dance moves. Another fun dance activity is dance freeze—when the music turns off the dancers have to freeze in whatever position they’re in. If you’re looking for some fun tunes for playing this game, check out these 57 awesome family dance party jams.
8. Go on a bear hunt
This is a simple treasure hunt activity that’s great for younger children. Hide a bear or stuffed animal somewhere in your home for your child to find. Older kids might enjoy playing “hot and cold,” which is a similar activity but instead of hiding a bear someone hides a smaller object. The finder has to discover its location using temperature clues (hot = close, hotter = closer, cold = far, colder = further).
9. The floor is lava
This classic childhood game has been around a long time. While traditionally played on the school playground, it’s equally fun and challenging to play inside, even in a small space. The gist of the game is that the floor is lava and if you touch it, you’re out! The only way to move across the lava is by walking along furniture, cushions, blankets, etc. This is a great game for developing problem-solving skills and creativity while practicing movement skills like balance and coordination.
10. Indoor bowling
There’s no need for fancy equipment here. Simply set up some empty water bottles or toilet paper tubes at one end of a room and grab a small ball and let the bowling begin!
11. Balloon games
Balloons are great for small spaces because they’re less likely to ricochet off the wall and break something (I speak from experience). There are plenty of fun games and activities that can be played with a balloon or two. Here are some favourites:
- Keep it up: Keep the balloon from touching the floor by tapping it up as long as possible.
- Balloon waddle: Place a balloon between the knees and walk like a penguin.
- Spoon walk: Try to balance a balloon on a spoon and walk around the house.
- Balloon juggling: Learn to juggle two or three balloons.
12. Mini obstacle course
You don’t need a big space to make an indoor obstacle course for your child. A hallway, living room, bedroom, or dining area will all work wonderfully. The trick is to use whatever space and items you have on hand. Use chairs to make a tunnel, cushions to hop on, or a toddler mattress as a slide—you get the idea. Also, get your child involved in coming up with the obstacle course design—that’s half the fun!
13. DIY Twister
Twister is a great game for small spaces and you don’t even need to own the game to play. Make your own DIY Twister by cutting out large circles from pieces of coloured paper (yellow, blue, red, and green) and taping the circles to the floor. Use the paper scraps and draw a hand or foot on the different coloured cards. Have one person draw the cards and the others play the game. This is a fun activity for working on coordination and balance.
If your child enjoys board games, check out this list of active board games for kids.
14. Paper airplane toss
Teach your child how to make paper airplanes and then play a game of airplane toss! Try to land the airplanes into a laundry basket, or to a target in your home (a wall or the couch). This activity is helpful for developing fine motor skills (making the airplane) and working on large motor skills (throwing).
15. Activity dice
If you’re looking for a simple activity to get your child moving indoors, try out this fun activity dice [PDF]. Your child could even make their own activity dice using this printable template. Other ideas are to print out movement cards or a game of movement bingo from the internet, there are lots of printables available for free.
I hope you enjoyed this fun list of small space games and activities to try out with your child. What are some of your favourite small space games and activities for kids? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below. If you’re looking for more small space games and activities check out 25 ways to have big fun in small spaces.