Mindful Mothering: Six Simple Indoor Activities To Do With Your Kids When You’re Kinda Sorta Maybe Really Freaking Out

Six Indoor Activities That You Can Do With Your Kids When You're Kinda Sorta Maybe Really Freaking Out

When you live with PTSD, or any anxiety disorder, you know to be ready for an episode any day, any time. Symptoms can range from mild to severe; an episode could mean heightened awareness of other people’s micro-expressions, or it could mean a full-on, totally debilitating panic attack. Anxiety won’t wait. It doesn’t care where you are, who you’re with, or what you need to do. The other day, I watched a member of my peer support group gasp for air in front of everyone after sharing her experience of loneliness. She ultimately had to be wheeled to a medical floor until she was calm again. Anxiety allows its victim no dignity.

As a mother living with an anxiety disorder, I have an intimate knowledge of the disruption which anxiety can wreak upon daily living. But all of us mothers, hyperanxious or not, know that we don’t get ‘sick days.’ We can’t triage extended self care into our schedules, no matter how much we need it.

The abuse which caused my PTSD was prolonged and severe. The symptoms, therefore, likewise. I also live in the Pacific Northwest, where we receive abundant servings of yucky, rain drenched days. Between the weather and my moods, I spend a lot of time indoors with my kids. Don’t worry, they get lots of physical activity at daycare, and I do make a special effort to go out when the weather is nice. The truth is, however, that a lot of our time together is spent indoors, and that I spend a lot of it trying to covertly treat my anxiety. As a result, I have created an arsenal of simple, kid-friendly indoor activities that also provide secret opportunities for mindfulness and other forms of de-stressing.

If you’re a mama, papa, grandparent, or some other person who spends lots of time with young children, and you’re also prone to bouts of anxiety, give these six activities a try!


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Six indoor activities to do with your kids when you're too anxious to go out-www.bettysbattleground.com

1. Connecting Blocks

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking Legos. Of all the childhood activities in the world, who doesn’t have great memories with Legos? We have LEGO DUPLO  and Mega Bloks, which are basically just even bigger Legos with a slightly different feel because they are made by a different company. The cool thing about these two is that even though they’re basically the same thing, my kids count them as different activities. They get bored with the Duplos? Okay! Bust out the Mega Bloks! Another half hour to an hour of just sticking blocks together.

This is suuuper relaxing. I especially love the Mega Bloks because they produce a really satisfying, smooth clicking sensation when you put them together. It’s in the same pleasure category as popping bubble wrap. If that sounds weird to you, try constructing something with them while you are in the middle of an anxiety episode. They are hypnotic.

The Duplos are fun because they are still big enough to be held by chubby hands, but small enough to allow for more versatile creations than the Mega Bloks. I have definitely gotten lost in the building of a Lego-bot on more than one occasion. And the girls, of course, love it. One of my daughters gets this really intense look in her eyes when she builds; I think she experiences the hypnotic effects too. The other, loves to put shapes together really quickly and then smash them with a maniacal grin plastered on her face. Whatever. They are entertained, their minds are engaged, and I am able to focus on a task which takes some skill but has no real consequence.  What better way to de-stress?

2. Drawing to music

I have always loved to paint or doodle, but I have always been ‘just okay’ at visual art. Maybe above average briefly when I was a teenager, but I’m definitely just kinda okay now. Which is fine, since I don’t aspire to be a muralist or anything, but drawing can sometimes be frustrating for me. I am a very creative person, and when I can’t transmute to the page the beautiful images I see in my mind, it bugs me.  Recently, however, a post I read in my new favorite children’s book review blog, Babies to Bookworms, reminded me about an activity I used to do when I was younger.

If I was feeling very stuck in my writing, I would turn on some music, usually some kind of psy-trance like Converting Vegetarians by Infected Mushroom, and write just whatever I felt. No thoughts, no judgments, no editing. Just writing. It never amounted to anything publishable, or usually even comprehensible, but it would got me writing, and open up my mind so that when it was time to sit down and do some serious work, I had an abundance of interesting ideas.

Somewhere along the road of abuse and recovery, I forgot about this tool. When I read the Babies to Bookworms post about drawing to music, however, I remembered it. I originally intended to use it as a way to get in some writing time while my daughters drew to music. The first time I sat them at the table and turned on Infected Mushroom, however, I was feeling too anxious even to freewrite. I decided to do the activity with them. Lo and behold, scribbling with markers to the varied, psychedelic beat of electronica proved extremely relaxing.  My daughters got really into it, I got really into it, and by the end we all had some pretty interesting drawings that I doubt any of us would have created had there not been music playing. And, of course, you don’t have to choose psy-trance to do this. If that’s not your thing, try classical music, opera, folk…whatever. I have personally found that music with few or no words works better, but that is simply a personal preference. Kelly Clarkson it up if that’s what you like!

A variation of this that I invented when my girls got bored of paper was to use our International Arrivals Rainy Dayz Gel Crayons. These are “crayons” (to me, they seem more like markers) which can draw on glass surfaces, such as windows or mirrors. They truly do wash off of glass easily, and if they happen to get on a wall or something (which they may, because they are a bit smudgy) it doesn’t take much extra effort to get them off of it. My girls really love these; I think they feel like they are doing some “wrong,” which they think is great. I guess they really are my kids. Since we’re standing up at the window or mirror when we do this, we also dance around to the music, which adds an extra level of anxiety relief. Dancing=exercise=endorphins! Which brings me to the next activity…

3. DJ Robot Dance Party!

DJ DANCE PARTY-www.bettybattleground.com

Our DJ’s real name is Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo, but I call him DJ Robot. He…it…whatever…plays different songs, including a hyped-up version of the alphabet song, a body part movement song, a “Freeze Dance” song, and a song that records whatever you say and then loops it back with a silly vocal distortion…Just yesterday I learned that it actually has more songs than I had known about. My toddlers like to push the buttons that control (and repeat) the songs a lot so we kept hearing the same songs over and over. Yesterday they somehow managed to refrain from spazzing out on the buttons and DJ Robot began playing stuff we’d never heard before! So I can’t even tell you how many songs it features. But whether it’s the four we grooved to for weeks, or fifty others that we have yet to hear, they all seem to be constructed following some kind of Kids-Love-It algorithm.

Seriously, my girls go nuts whenever DJ Robot comes out. And it gives me an excuse to move my body, which releases anxiety-relieving hormones. My girls get to expend a LOT of energy without forcing me to be around other humans, I get a burst of endorphins, and we all have a good time jumping around together. Another plus is that many of the songs are educational. It is Fischer Price, after all.  They teach body parts, body control, creativity, the alphabet, and probably more if there truly are a ton more songs I have yet to hear.

Of course, if you don’t have or want DJ Robot in your home, you can still do Dance Party. Just pop on a Kids Tunes channel on Pandora, or a playlist that interchanges you and then your kids’ favorite songs (to be fair 😉 ), and then get moving!

Another awesome variation of the dance party is “clean up dance party.” It’s simple: You turn on some energetic music and dance while picking up toys. It’s the perfect way to get yourself moving, get your kiddos involved in clean up, and to get rid of the some of the anxiety caused by clutter.

4. Play Yoga

You are probably already aware of the stress relieving properties of yoga.  The key to making this a kid-friendly indoor activity is not to think of it as a “real” yoga session. If you’re like me and you need to do at least 20 minutes of dedicated exercise everyday to stave off depression, don’t count this as your exercise. If your kids are old enough to follow directions well, you may end up able to do few real poses; maybe even a few reps or close to a full routine.  If your kids are toddlers like mine, however, don’t expect to do anything that looks like a real yoga routine. This time, it’s more about bonding with the kiddos while also breathing deeply to calm your hyper-aroused nervous system.

So, roll out the yoga mat and lead the kids through some easy yoga poses. Make sure to tailor the time each pose is held, and the pose itself if necessary, to your children’s abilities. I have found that my twenty-one month old can usually hold a simple pose for two full breaths. Which is great! When I’m doing my real yoga routine, I usually hold my basic poses for six breaths during each rep, but when I’m feeling super anxious, even getting in two deep breaths and a little extra focus is helpful. Plus, I am helping my kids relax too.

5. Baking cookies

Of all the activities on this list, this one is probably the activity we do the least often. It’s also one of the activities everyone enjoys the most. Yes, baking comes with mess, which can be stressful and requires clean up, but it’s also a lot of fun.  In my Rocking Motherhood Challenge post, I talked about the meditative qualities of cooking:

The strong and various sensory markers help anchor me to the present, which is helpful when I am having a flashback, very very high anxiety, or, most commonly for me, an especially acute dissociative episode.  I especially like making gingerbread cookies because it’s easy to anchor to their strong scent, and they contain a medley of textures such as flour, molasses, and grated ginger. Also, this dough is super easy to roll out and make into shape cookies!  I recently scored a Wilton 101 Piece Cookie Cutter Set and I am super stoked to see how my girls react to this enormous variety of fun shapes. They loved just having the choice between the random gingerbread man, flower, and heart cut-outs that I already had. I can’t imagine how they are going to react when I reveal this treasure box of possibilities!

Another anxiety aid that comes along with baking cookies is that when you’re done, you have a bunch of sweets to eat. That’s the reason we don’t do it very often, because for anxious foodies like my husband and myself, we would never stop eating the cookies. When we do indulge and bake a sheet or two, though, it’s a wonderful treat. There’s nothing quite like alleviating a bout of anxiety with a cookie.

6. Play-Doh

I saved the best for last.

If you don’t have anxiety, you have no idea how incredibly relaxing it is to squeeze a big handful of soft, yet firm, Play Doh. And every kid loves it. Plus, it’s just wheat and water so while you should teach your kids not to eat it, if some does end up in their mouths, they won’t keel over.

Seriously, have you ever met a kid who doesn’t flip over Play-Doh? My daughters have a basic set, a Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Swirl and Scoop Ice Cream Playset, and a Play-Doh My Little Pony Make ‘n Style Ponies set. And they legitimately use all of them.

While they are scooping neon pink and green “ice-cream” clumps, and in between requests for me to build them another pony to promptly smash, I like to squeeze and roll the Play-Doh. The girls have actually become quite fascinated with the balls I am able to roll out of the stuff; they haven’t yet mastered the technique themselves, so they have begun also asking me to make them various sized balls. Which is cool because it gives me an opportunity to teach them about sizes while also creating makeshift tension balls for myself. I honestly think Play-Doh may have been invented by someone with an anxiety disorder; it’s that helpful!


Post Traumatic Stress symptoms, or any other types of anxiety, are never going to be fun. There is nothing in this world which can make having an anxiety disorder something to aspire toward, but once you’ve got it and it’s not going away, there are ways to ease the impact on your life. These six kid-friendly covert anxiety easing activities have helped me lessen the impact of anxiety on the lives of my family.  If you suffer from anxiety, share some things that you do to help keep yourself calm and able to mom (or dad, or just human)! I know I would certainly appreciate more techniques to add to my arsenal.



42 thoughts on “Mindful Mothering: Six Simple Indoor Activities To Do With Your Kids When You’re Kinda Sorta Maybe Really Freaking Out

  1. These sound like some great ways to help yourself when you are going through an extra tough time :(. Can I add speaking to others with similar issues as well, sometimes sharing can help.

    • Yes, sharing is a huge help! This blog has been very healing for me, for example. Maybe not the best thing to do around the kiddos though, it might freak em out haha 😛

  2. These are some great activities! I have been spending a lot of time indoors with the kids lately due to heavy rain and I’m pretty sure they’ve completed most of their coloring books. A DJ robot dance party sounds right down my kids alley! I used to loathe play-doh but alas we now have hard wood floor and all is well again =) It can still be a pain to clean (somehow they manage to cram it into every possible crevice) but I err on the side of optimism and figure…at least it’s not carpet!

    • Haha oh yes, that’s true. Play-Doh can get messy. We keep it to the dining table because we do have carpets! It actually helps. Plus having all the compatible tools helps because they can just stuff the Play-Doh in there, haha

    • Haha yes! I know, I love to bake. Too bad most of it is sweets so I don’t do it very much…you know, to save my sanity from toddler/husband/my own sugar rushes and crashed. But when I have the time, fresh baked bread is delicious, mmmmm!

    • Thank you for reading and sharing! I am still working on building an audience, so any shares are greatly appreciated.

      I keep hearing these Play-Doh horror stories in response to this post, and I have to say I don’t have any…yet. Thus far, my kids have been pretty good about playing with it properly. The worst one of them did was to coat blue Play-Doh over her nose and then “sneeze” a huge “snot” glob, haha. But they are SO horrendous with SO many things (you should see my living room right now because they wouldn’t pick up their toys last night and I haven’t yet had the energy to do it…I SHOULD leave it for them to do when they get home but…it’s such a mess!) Anyway, I think with all of the things that they mess up and destroy, I deserve a break with the Play-Doh, ha. Especially since it’s so helpful with my anxiety!

      Question: For you, or for anybody who has similar problems with Play-Doh..Do you have tool accessories? Like we have the ice cream and My Little Pony sets, but they make a variety of them including just basic cutters and things. If you don’t, I would definitely give a set a try (if you haven’t already given up on Play-Doh; there are certain activities my kiddos just went too crazy with and I just got rid of because of it). I think that having the variety of tools, and having them be related to things my daughters truly enjoy, has helped them stay focused on *playing* with the Play-Doh, rather than throwing it or sticking it in their hair.

      I feel you though…you should see them when they use markers or paint. I have tattoos on my arms and hands, so they like to give themselves tattoos as well…For some reason, my littlest has gotten into face “tattoos” oh no!

  3. These are all fantastic ideas for getting through the tough times, especially on those yucky days. I have to say Legos would be my favourite; I would happily build with them for hours! x

  4. These are great ideas. I have suffered with anxiety before but I can not a mum so can’t imagine how hard it can be at times! Is it OK to buy play doh at 29 – I love the stuff – or I’ll have to stick to my LUSH fun in the bath 😉


  5. These are all fantastic ideas! Thank you so much for the shout out! I am so glad that you and your daughters had so much fun with it. I will have to check out those crayons too, since my daughter would LOVE drawing on the glass door. Thank you for the idea!

  6. These are fantastic activities / suggestions. Play doh is FANTASTIC for mindfulness, I used to work for a great organisation and they gave all the staff play doh during long meetings to keep us present (or at least happy!).

    Sorry to hear of the horrific trauma you have experienced 🙁

  7. What I love about your suggestions is that they can be equally relaxing for kids and for grownups. Playing with Play Doh is such a stress reliever for me.

  8. such a good post, my boyfriend has a son and he’s struggling with it still be cold and not wanting to go out xo

  9. I never connected mindfulness and playing with my kids before, I always saw mindfulness as a solo activity. These are great ways to keep yourself calm, while also keeping the kids calm too, brilliant! 🙂

    • Thank you! Yes,I created it out of necessity but it works. If you give any of them a try, I’d love to hear how it goes:)

  10. These are such a great ideas to bond with your children. Good to do in any day as well, whether its winter or summer. Many parents really finds it a lot of work and time. These ideas might help them.

  11. these are so much better than sticking your kid in front of the TV (i’m totally guilty of this). another thing that i discovered was those books with the special markers that don’t mark anything BUT the book. i tape it to the table so my kids don’t get frustrated every time it moves!

  12. I used to love good old play-doh – to the point that I’d always rather have played with that than most of my other toys. I do remember, like most kids did (and still do I think), I did have a tendency to eat it… 😀 x

    • I completely 100% totally (can I say more?!) understand the feeling. I am glad that I could help in any way.

  13. These are some fantastic, simple and mindful tasks to do with small kids – I love drawing to music and doing Duplo – the only thing I find a little stressful with my toddler is play doe – he keeps trying to eat it or stick it up his nose – otherwise the other options are great

    Laura x

  14. These are great activity ideas for when you just don’t feel up to it, but still want to play with the kids. I have those days where I just cant get out of my own way, but these are great ideas I can use to still be active in a way I can manage. Thank you for adding such a helpful post to the #allformamas link party. I pinned this.

    • Thanks Stephanie! And thanks for setting up the linkup-and reminding me! I did the comments but I still have to get the badge!

  15. Some great ideas here. My kids are massive fans of Yoga, but we have been so busy being busy we have missed out lately. Time to bring out the mat again. Thank you for the timely reminder.

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