15 Genuinely Fun Activities For Kids That Parents Made Up During Lockdown

These creative games kept families entertained.

How do you entertain kids on-the-fly, during those in between moments when they’re bored but there’s not much to do or time to do it in? Well, you get creative. If the kids are restless and driving you nuts during, say, that liminal space between dinner and bed, you conjure up a quick activity that, hopefully, keeps their attention. Often, the made-up game is a modest, but soon forgotten, success. But there are times when you strike gold and these quick activities for kids you created are so successful that they become a regular part of family life.

During lockdown, a lot of dads threw the proverbial spaghetti at the wall and found success. Alongside their kids, they created ridiculous, inventive boredom-busting games that were not only fun and entertaining on the first try but also had staying power. We asked a dozen parents for those activities. And boy, were we glad we did. From “Toilet Tag” (not what it sounds like) to “Human Worm” (kind of what it sounds like) to “Police Sketch” (exactly what it sounds like), these parents dug deep to keep their families entertained. Here, then, are 12 fun activities for kids that were created on-the-fly during lockdown and that are worth trying yourself.

1. “Toilet Tag”

“Our oldest son came up with this one. It’s basically freeze tag, but when you get tagged you have to freeze with your hand bent and up near your face…like a toilet handle. In order to get back in the game, someone who hasn’t been frozen has to run by and pull your hand like they’re flushing a toilet to unfreeze you. We’ve kept a pretty close social bubble during all of this, so he mostly plays with his brother and cousins who live next door. If they’re short on people, though, my wife, and I definitely join in. The game has since evolved to include flush noises and, of course, poop jokes and fart sounds when things get intense.” – Robert, 35, Ohio

2. “Next Car…”

“It blows my mind that this is a ‘game’. But, my kids love it. We live on a moderately busy street, and we have trees and bushes near the street that make it kind of hard to see when cars are coming. So, one day, we were sitting on our front steps, and I just said, ‘I bet you the next car that drives down the street is blue.’ It was! My kids (five and seven) went nuts, and the game was born. We try to pick the colors, sometimes the type of car — pickup truck, ‘regular car’. One time my son actually called a police car before it came down the street, which has easily been the highlight of the ‘season’ so far.” – Jeff, 37, Pennsylvania

3. “Bouncy Ball”

“There’s a park near our house with a huge staircase. It’s kind of like that one from Joker. One day our family went to the park and, as we were standing at the top of the stairs, one of my son’s bouncy balls fell down them. We all sort of looked at it, and we were all just watching it bounced. When it landed at the bottom, my son said, ‘Nine’. Without saying anything, we’d all been counting the bounces, and the game was born. So now we sit at the top of the steps, and whoever throws or rolls the ball has to call out the number before they do it, then try to get the ball to bounce that many times. It’s way harder than it sounds. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually guessed correctly.” – Erin, 36, New Jersey

4. “Human Worm”

“One time when we were messing around, I wrapped my daughter up really tight in a sleeping bag. She couldn’t really move except to inch across the floor like a worm. She loved it — she thought it was hysterical. We all did. So, four of us. Four sleeping bags. Sometimes we all pretend to be human worms and just slink around the living room. It’s silly, and it’s complete nonsense, but there hasn’t been a ‘game’ of Human Worm that hasn’t ended with all of us cracking up.” – Darrell, 33, Connecticut

5. “Crazy Toes”

“I learned this game from a friend who was a camp counselor over the summer. You get in a circle and you each secretly pick someone’s toes to stare at. Everyone closes their eyes, and points them toward the ground where that person’s feet are. Someone counts to three, and then everyone opens their eyes and looks up at the person whose toes they were staring at. If you both lock eyes — if that person was also staring at your toes — you’re both out. Last toes standing are the winner’s.” – Lillia, 32, Illinois

6. “Super Uno”

“I grew up playing Uno. I played with my father, my grandfather, my grandmother. I love Uno. Over the years our family has amassed what I think is a total of three complete Uno decks. We play ‘Super Uno’ by just using all of the cards in the house, all at once. It’s fun, but man is it exhausting. Games usually last for at least 45 minutes. I think the longest one we played lasted three hours. It was me, my wife, my son, and my daughter. We had to take breaks for dinner and stuff. My son ended up winning that game with a handful of ‘Draw Fours’ that took us all down.” – James, 35, Maryland

7. “Salt Pictionary”

“When our son was in school he had trouble with spelling. One of his teachers tried a method where she would pour salt on a cookie tray, and he would use his fingers to spell out the letters one by one. First of all, it worked really well as a teaching tool. Second, we turned it into a game. We use a giant cookie tray that my wife has, and take turns drawing in a huge pile of salt with toothpicks, chopsticks, and forks. It’s definitely not as easy as it would be with a pencil and paper, but that’s part of the appeal. The drawings are so ridiculous that the guesses make the game really fun.” – Kevin, 38, California

8. “Police Sketch”

“We didn’t actually call it ‘Police Sketch’, but that’s basically what it was. We would describe famous people or characters without saying who they were, using only five one-word clues, and then one of the other players would have to draw them. So, like, SpongeBob was pretty easy. ‘Square.’ ‘Eyes.’ ‘Holes.’ ‘Pants.’ ‘Water.’ Harry Potter would be ‘Boy.’ ‘Glasses.’ ‘Scar.’ ‘Wand.’ ‘Scarf.’ Actual people are a lot harder. Our daughter tried to describe Taylor Swift to me and my drawing ended up looking like He-Man.” – Carl, 34, Arizona

9. Spin Master

“I have an old office chair that was going to be thrown out. This was back in May, I think. So I took it out to the garage and, sure enough, our sons and daughter started spinning around in it. I noticed they started timing each other, and seeing who could spin around the most times in a minute. Then two minutes. And so on. I had to give it a try. I crushed them the first time, but then they started practicing while my wife and I were working during the day. Our son is the reigning champion — he’s 15, and he just had a growth spurt. So he’s got the long legs and stamina. Total ringer. I think his record is 29 spins in 60 seconds. That chair isn’t going anywhere until he’s defeated.” – Jim, 40, Florida

10. “LEGO Derby”

“This is a game I started with my two sons. There’s no winners or losers, but it’s a great way to stay creative and busy. I’ve saved all of my LEGOs from when I was a kid, and we’ve acquired, like, 100 more pounds of random pieces over the years. We’ve got a box full of random words, objects, and things to build, and the LEGO Derby consists of us pulling one out, then each having a certain amount of time to build it. We’ve done the Eiffel Tower. Bikini Bottom. The Statue of Liberty. None of them and up looking like their official LEGO models, but it’s always fun to see what we come up with. I love watching my kids’ imaginations at work.” – Jay, 37, New York

11. “Driving Dogs”

“My kids get so, so excited when they see dogs in cars while we’re driving. So, we made a game out of it. Basically, the position of the dog in the car determines how many points it’s worth. A dog in the front passenger seat of a car is worth two points. A dog in the backseat is worth one point. Two dogs in the same car is worth double points. And whoever has the most points — by spotting the car and dogs first — when we get back home wins. My husband and I are driving, so we can’t really focus on the game too much, but the girls love it. They’ll look all over the road to see if they can find any dogs riding along with people. It’s really cute.” – Jennifer, 36, Pennsylvania

12. “Cover Tag”

“Our niece and nephew came up with this one, and our kids love it. Whoever is ‘it’ gets covered by a blanket so they look like a ghost. You can’t just use a blindfold, because the blanket makes it harder to see and move. Beyond that, it’s just like regular tag. The kids usually play it outside, but if it’s raining they play in the basement, which is big and open. They try to avoid the ‘ghost’, but someone always ends up laughing, or making a noise, and then the ghost starts getting an idea of where everyone is in the room. Things can get rowdy pretty quickly, but we’ve only had one bloody nose over the course of about six months.” – Pamela, 36, Michigan

13. “Work Day/School Day Bingo”

“My wife and I started this game when we both began working from home. We made Bingo boards full of things that would happen throughout the day. Some were pretty mundane, like: ‘Get an email that starts with I hope you’re doing well.’ Others were a little more fun, like: ‘Kid runs through the background of someone else’s ZOOM meeting.’ So — and I don’t know that this is the best parenting move — we made some for our kids, who are both doing virtual high school. ‘Teacher’s microphone stops working.’ ‘Cat walks into frame.’ Stuff like that. Our kids are good students, but are pretty bored with virtual learning. So it’s been a welcome distraction for them. I think it actually keeps them more interested in class.” – Josh, 41, North Carolina

14. “Finger on The Nose”

“This is a ‘gotcha’ game. We have a big family. It’s me, my husband, and our six kids. So, we’ve spent a lot of time in the house together, many times in the same room when we’re eating dinner or watching a movie. It works like this: One person puts his or her index finger on the side of their nose, and waits for the others to notice; when you notice, you subtly put your finger on your nose. Eventually, all but one person notices, and everyone’s finger is on their nose except that person. He or she loses. The fun of the game comes first from the excitement of noticing the finger – it’s very like, ‘Oh! Now it’s on!’ – and then the anticipation of waiting to see who will notice.” – Bailey, 35, Connecticut

15. “Tape Maze”

“This one is kind of hard to explain, but it’s a great game/brain teaser for kids. You make a grid on the floor with masking tape – we usually do 5 x 5. Then you draw the same grid on a piece of paper. Whoever holds the paper then draws a path from the starting square to the ending square, and keeps it secret from the players. The first person goes, and just has to guess which way the path goes. If a player steps on a square that’s not on the path, they’re out, but now they (and the other players) know that square isn’t part of the path. The winner is the one who can get to the end without stepping on any inactive squares. It’s fun for the kids to try and figure out, and it’s a really good memory and deductive reasoning exercise, too.” – Mark, 39, Wisconsin