15 Hardwood-Safe Games to Play Inside this WinterDecember 14, 2015
Winter is here and the holiday break is upon us. While there is plenty of fun to be had outside (check out our post on keeping the outside out), this is the time of year when family fun tends to move indoors. If you’re worried about how the added traffic might affect your floors, there are some things you can do to prepare your floors for heightened holiday activity. Plus, we’ve come up with a list of fun games that are perfect for a home with hardwood.
Who doesn’t remember the delights of building a fort out of sheets and living or dining room furniture and bedding? If you’ve taken our advice, your furniture should all have soft pads where its legs come into contact with the floor. As long as fort building doesn’t involve chair stacking or table climbing (falling furniture is dangerous for kids and floors), you should be good to go on this fun-for-all indoor activity. If the kids are on holiday, consider letting them build a fort somewhere where they can continue to add to it throughout the week. It can then also be a great staging ground to make other indoor activities – like puzzles and reading time – that much more fun.
2. Jigsaw puzzles
The flat, smooth surface of your hardwood floors is also a perfect place to lay out a jigsaw puzzle. There are some really cool ones out there these days that can keep the family entertained for days. Just section off an area of the floor (perhaps by building a fort…) where the jigsaw will reside and folks can come back to it whenever they want.
If you’re looking for something a little more creative, have the kids draw a picture of their own or color something out of a coloring book then paste their creation to some thin cardboard. You (or they, depending on their age) can then cut the picture into small (or small-ish) pieces and they can reconstruct their own picture or each other’s. Hint: Adult coloring books are becoming popular and easy to find and have some more complicated images that can sometimes be more fun to put back together.
Have you ever seen a proper dance floor that wasn’t made of hardwood? The smooth surface of a hardwood floor is perfect for swirling and twirling and generally getting down. So move the coffee table aside, turn on some tunes, and get the whole family out in their sock feet (slipping and sliding makes everything more fun – though bare feet might be better for the littlest ones) moving and grooving. It’s a great way to get some indoor exercise and use up some of that winter energy.
Most people are pretty familiar with the game musical chairs. Well, a great way to play the game without having to worry about chairs sliding all over your floors, is to replace the chairs with large pillows or cushions. If you’ve got older kids who enjoy a bit of a rumble, you can just set the cushions in a pile in the middle of the floor so that players have to grab for them. The result? A tumble of cushioned fun. Bonus: This game can be surprisingly fun to play with adults as well.
5. Laundry basket ball
All you need to play this version of the high-energy game is…laundry. Just place a laundry basket at the end of a hall or against a far wall (you want to make sure it won’t slide around), ball up some socks or gather up some stuffed animals, and have at it. To make it more engaging, you can set out prizes at certain intervals away from the basket that the kids can collect when they make it in from that distance.
6. Balloon ping pong or tennis
This is a great and easy way to use things around the house to create a fun and energy-consuming game for the indoors. All you need is some paper plates, something longer than it is wide to serve as a grip (longer for tennis, shorter for ping pong), and a balloon of whatever size you wish. Attach the grip to the plate using heavy-duty tape or staples, inflate the balloon, and decide on a court. For extra fun, the kids can decorate the plates before attaching them to the grip. For the smaller kids, bigger balloons can be easier to hit, while older kids may prefer smaller balloons, or even use more than one at a time!
7. Plastic bottle bowling
Have some empty plastic water or soda bottle waiting for the recycling bin? Why not have some fun with them first? Just find 6-10 bottles of roughly the same size and set them up in a triangle pattern at the end of a hall or in an open space in one of the rooms. Then find a soft plush or rubber ball (a tennis ball works great for smaller water bottles, a soccer ball is good for 2-liter soda bottles) and knock ‘em down. One word of caution: It is sometime recommended that you put water, marbles, or something else heavy in the bottom of the bottles to stabilize them. This is not recommended for hardwood floors, since bottle often have seams in the bottom that can cause scratches if partially-filled bottles go sliding. On the flat surface of hardwood, though, the bottles should stand up find on their own. If you really want to make them harder to knock down, you can put a rubber mat underneath them and put a little something dry in the bottom like rice or, yes, marbles.
This can be an especially fun one for homes with stairs and is a hardwood floor exclusive. Pick up a couple of sets of dominoes at the local dollar store and let the kids find out what it means for something to “fall like dominoes”. If they’ve never done it before, they can start out small, maybe with one pack, and experiment with what works and what doesn’t. It’s a great way for kids to practice problem-solving, observation, and special awareness. Just make sure they don’t let any stray dominoes get underfoot.
9. Grocery bag blocks
If you haven’t switched over to reusable grocery bags yet, or if you have but still have that stash of paper bags in your utility room, this is a great way to make them into something fun. Just put one inside the other, mouth to mouth so that the bottom of one bag makes one side of a block and the bottom of the other forms the other side. You can easily change the size of the blocks by cutting down the bags and you can make them a little more stable by crumpling up newspaper or ad sheets and putting them inside first. And, of course, you can always add a little fun by having he kids color the bags first. If you have older kids, you could even have them plan something to build with the blocks and figure out how they need to color them accordingly to come out with the design they want. Then, when all is done, you can recycle the whole thing!
10. Slip-n-slide cleaning
You’ve probably seen those slippers with the cleaning fibers on the bottom so that you can walk and dust your floors at the same time. Well, why not let the kids try them out? You don’t even have to buy anything new. Just take the hardwood-friendly cleaning cloths you would normally use and attach them to the kids slippers with tape or an elastic band around the ankle (you want to avoid safety pins, since they are likely to cause scratches if sliding gets rambunctious). Hardwood mop covers often fit nicely on feet with no extra attachment necessary. Then give them an area to slide around on and let them free. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even attach cloths to their bellies or back-sides and let the older kids pull the younger ones around. Depending on how big your cloths are, they may be big enough to serve as a sort of sled for this purpose. Just make sure the kids are in their pajamas – you don’t want the rivet of a blue jean spoiling the floor or the fun.
This is another classic game that seems to be made for hardwood floors. You should be able to find a set at any variety or toy store. The instructions are simple and the game is challenging enough to entertain older kids (and adults) while helping younger ones (older than 5 or 6, though) develop their fine motor skills. Another game, by the way, that can be played inside the fort.
12. Pom-pom obstacle course
Set out a series of goals throughout the house (these can be as simple as a shoe box on a counter or bed). Get different colored pompoms and place one of the same color for each kid in each goal. Each player starts out with a spoon and the starting color. They then have to make their way through the house keeping the pom-poms on the spoon and exchanging them for the new color at each goal. Make up a fun rule for if they drop the pom-pom, like they have to pick it up with their toes or they have to ask someone else to help them. Each kid who makes it back to the finish with the correctly colored pom-pom (the one from the last goal) gets a treat or some other prize.
13. Paper cup tower
Have a bunch of cups left over from your holiday party? Maybe let the kids have a go at them? Or the adults at your party. You can divide the players in to teams (teams of 1 work fine if you’ve got just a couple of kids) and have them stack the cups as high as they can without the towers falling over. You can then re-use the cups for a cotton ball toss once the towers fall.
There is perhaps nothing better than curling up in a cozy place and reading through the winter doldrums. Whether it’s in their fort, on the big living room chair, or a warm place by the fire, the right book can keep kids and adults alike content indoors for hours at a time. Plus, you can involve the whole family by having family reading time, by reading to the kids, or by having the older kids read to the younger ones. You can even take it a step further and have the kids act out what they’ve read for the rest of the family.
15. Card games
Card games are an old go-to for keeping busy while stuck inside. Hardwood floors make and excellent venue for all kinds of card games – as easy to use as the dining room table. Tired of playing “Go Fish” and “Old Maid”? Check out these 40 games kids can play with a deck of cards.
There are tons of fun things to do inside when our Colorado winters get to be too much. Often, the precautions you take to avoid things getting broken (soft, lighter toys in lieu of heavier ones) will also help to protect your floors. Making sure to keep arts and crafts confined to tables and counters can also help to avoid abrasions from things like glitter and damage from paint, water, etc. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy you family indoors during the winter months and still be able to enjoy beautiful hardwood floors for the rest of the year.
Pillow Fort by David Sprankle, via flickr, Some rights reserved
Pick-up sticks by Kim Love, via flickr, Some rights reserved
Solitaire by Roger H. Goun, via flickr, Some rights reserved