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Kids Safe Rainy Day Family Room Activity "Houseboats"

Updated on March 25, 2013


The pretend activity of "Houseboats" is totally free and safe inside your home. It involves using furniture, blankets, and toys to create a new world and role play. As with so many activities for preschoolers and early elementary age children, much of the time will be spent in organizing the structure and deciding rules, limits, and power hierarchy. This type of playing is safe, relatively quiet, and powered by the imagination. If you "listen in" to your children from another room, your heart will be warmed by what they create and how they do it.


An ordinary couch with removable pillows
An ordinary couch with removable pillows

Simple supplies

You may already have one of these around the house: a sofa which is not super fancy and not "just for company." In the photo above, all eight cushions are removable. If you have a couch with some cushions permanently attached to the frame, bed pillows or cushions from a chair could be used to supplement the supply.

The idea is to use the cushions as building blocks for walls, ceilings, doors, and decks. In many ways, it is like LegosTM. Pillows can also be flagstaffs or telescopes or anything imaginable. The floor is the pretend water. So, much of the fun is figuring out how to move about without touching the floor.

A houseboat

One possible creation
One possible creation

A place to hide and dream and play

One the absolute charms of this activity is that the child creates a secret space of her own. it has hide-ability behind the walls and is KID-sized. A five-year-old can curl up completely behind a single cushion, whereas an adult will stick out. There is ultimate flexibility in what can be made and the cushions are light enough that no help from adults is needed. However, children may need a "kid buddy" to help hold one cushion in place while trying to put a roof piece on top. And this fosters cooperation, one of those skills we want our progeny to learn! Also, as the children are manipulating the cushions, they learn how much of one block will need to rest on another to prevent falling. They learn about gravity, mass, and domino effect. BONUS POINTS: This is called "physics" in college!

Another houseboat

A few extra building materials
A few extra building materials


How more beautiful can it get? If a cushion falls on a child, it is soft and light enough that no one is the least bit injured. Cushions falling onto each other, the couch frame, or the floor will not cause property damage. Make sure your children clearly understand what rules you have about jumping or not jumping and where and how each is permitted. With those rules and as long as the floor is clean (enough) and nothing is being thrown, no one is being wrapped up over nose and mouth, etc., this is safe, safe, safe.

Of course, check in as frequently as you must to keep it safe!

A special and secret place

Peaceful reflection
Peaceful reflection

Kids need to create

Children need to create. It is so strong a need within them, that they may spend their entire playtime building and then undoing their houseboat to redesign a new one. This is as wonderful a type of play as is using the houseboat to act out a story.

Playing houseboats with my sister and brothers whiled away many an enjoyable afternoon for me in my childhood. I passed it along to my sons and it was equally great for them. Now I try to teach my nieces and any other child who lives in a relaxed enough home to handle sofa transformation. I hope it will be a special activity for your children, too.

Wouldn't it be nice to be a child again, just to play houseboats?

Photos and text copyright 2008 Maren E. Morgan


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks! Thank God I had tolerant parents who had the wisdom to know that the best fun kids can have is fun they create for themselves. Thus we made many, many houseboats and so did my own sons.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      great fun hub idea to keep kids amused

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      That sounds like a possibility - do you mean to use on top of the sofa? Or to just build on the floor? The advantages, as I see them, of having the sofa as the "base" is that there is the strong back of the couch to hold pillows in place, and that if you are going with the bopat analogy, that the deck is raised above the water level. Thanks for that idea of extra cushions!

    • profile image

      Snowshoe 9 years ago

      Interesting - How about just buying (or making) cushions?