COVID-19: Fun, Non-electronic, Indoor Activities for a Stay-at-Home Winter

Categories: ASD and DD, Child-focused; COVID-19 Topics

By Erica Kearney, M.A., LABA, BCBA, and Brittany Juban, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D

[This column was published in the West Springfield Republican on 1/14/21, in the Randolph Herald, Canton Journal, Stoughton Journal, and Holbrook Sun on 1/23/21, and in the Daily Times Chronicle on 2/12/21.]

In previous years, many of us might have welcomed the advent of winter and the opportunity to stay home with the family to enjoy inside activities together. This year, however, it seems as if we have been doing that for the past nine months in an effort to stay safe while the pandemic rages outside our doors.

It’s no wonder that many families are looking for new ways to keep their children busy and happy during the long, cold winter months ahead. This can be especially challenging for those who are trying to limit the amount of time their children spend watching TV or playing games on electronic devices.

It’s time to get creative and think outside the box. Listed below are a few ideas to get you started. They are appropriate for neurotypical children and for those with special needs.

  • Make an inside fort. This is a great way for kids of all ages to engage in imaginative play. Inside forts are wonderful places to enjoy some quiet reading time, eat a snack, or hide from your siblings! Gather up some sheets, a couple of chairs, and a pile of books, and check out this video.

  • Host an indoor scavenger hunt. Make a list of things your children can easily find inside. Your list might include: 1) stuffed animal, 2) dish towel, 3) refrigerator magnet, 4) plastic cup, 5) coaster, 6) bar of soap, etc. There are many websites that offer free, downloadable lists of items for scavenger hunts. This is a fun activity for children of all abilities. You may need to use pictures of items for younger children and those who have difficulty reading. 

  • Baking! Who doesn’t love to bake? Baking cookies, brownies, and other delicious treats with family members is a great way for kids to practice a variety of skills. Have your children follow directions to gather the necessary supplies (bowl, spoon, measuring cups, etc.). Check out these easy baking recipes for kids

  • Create an indoor obstacle course. Your “obstacles” might include cushions, blocks, books, laundry baskets, and the stairs in your house. Children crave movement, and they sleep better when they are worn out from an active day! Again, there are lots of helpful ideas available online.

  • Have a dance party or host a virtual talent show! Everyone has a hidden talent, and it is times like these that we get to showcase them. This is an excellent opportunity to work on social skills, turn taking, and connecting with family and friends. You can even make a video to share with those who cannot join.  

  • Arts and crafts projects! Combine cooking and crafts and make a colored pasta necklace. When making pasta necklaces, children can work on their counting skills and pattern skills. It is also a great fine motor task.  

It is important that we all stay positive and continue to do our best to keep ourselves and loved ones safe during these unprecedented times. Finding time for family fun can help to raise spirits during the long winter months.    

Erica Kearney, M.A., LABA, BCBA, is Executive Director at the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Chicopee, Mass. She can be contacted at

Brittany Juban, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D, is a Clinical Director at the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in West Springfield, Mass. She can be contacted at

May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis, serving individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded more than 65 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. May Institute operates five schools for children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disabilities. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit