Have more fun when you and the kids are stuck inside
Anyone who’s spent a snow day stuck inside with kids knows that it’s certainly not a winter wonderland. Really, it’s more like a winter migraine. No matter how large your house, it’s never big enough to contain the pent-up energy of kids stuck indoors. No matter how many toys or games line your shelves, they’re never enough to prevent kids from whining, “I’m booooooooored.” No matter how much you hound them to clean up, after a day spent inside, your home will inevitably look like it’s been ransacked by burglars. So when the weather outside is frightful, the mood inside can get pretty frightful too.
But if you’ve got a severe case of cabin fever on your hands, we have help for you. We’ve cobbled together a list of simple, fast, and totally free activities for kids of all ages using stuff you have lying around the house. No batteries required. Some assembly necessary. Mondo fun guaranteed.
Kids of all ages absolutely love sensory play, especially the young ones. Playing with water and sand and rice is fun, but to up the ante, let the kids get sticky! Oobleck is a marvelous, mysterious substance, at once solid and liquid, and to make it all you need is cornstarch and water (for companion reading, check out Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss [Random House, 1949]). You can also easily whip up the wonder substance flubber and totally transfix your tots with that gooey goodness. Homemade play dough or cloud dough are also awesome options.
After the kids have gotten properly gunked up, toss them into a nice warm bath to clean off and continue their sensory play. A surefire way to transform a regular old bath into an engrossing lark? Add shaving cream. To make it even more engaging, give them some naked babydolls to wash.
Make a fort
This is a classic—and for a good reason. From toddlers to tweens, nobody can resist the allure of a dark, cozy, secret space inside a living-room fort. Toss the kids a bunch of blankets or dark sheets, and give them permission to move the furniture, and they’ll have at it. Once they’ve built their wonder-fort, arm them with flashlights, books, and snacks, and you probably won’t hear from them for so long that you’ll almost like winter again.
Have a pillowcase potato-sack race
Find some old pillowcases you don’t mind getting distressed, then clear out an area in your living room. Hand over the pillowcases, and let the races begin!
Let kids set up a scavenger hunt
Older kids can easily spend hours picking out objects to hide, choosing hiding places, and then creating the chain of clues hard enough to stump a grown-up.
Raid the recycling bin
You don’t need fancy, expensive supplies to make cool art. The recycling bin is chock-full of wonderful resources—the building blocks of great, eco-friendly art projects. Armed with tissue boxes, pasta boxes, toilet paper rolls, newspapers, and coffee cartons, the possibilities are endless.
Write letters on homemade stationery
Here we have two activities in one, because chances are, you don’t have fancy stationery lying around. So first, make some. Have you child decorate a border on a piece of paper with drawings of their favorite things; in the middle they can add their monogram. Then have them write a short letter to a family member, friend, or someone you know who’s moved away. Bonus perk: in a few weeks, they’ll probably get a letter back.
Make things fizz
An oldie but goodie: teach your kids how to make baking-soda volcanoes. Have them pour a mountain of baking soda on a cookie tray and then watch what happens when they pour vinegar in the middle. Add food coloring to take it to the next level.
Have a feather battle
Sit side-by-side at the kitchen table with drinking straws in your mouths and a feather in front of each of you. At “go!” you both blow through the straws to push your feather across the table first. With any luck, you’ll both get so light-headed you might win a chance to lie down for five minutes.
And if all else fails, when the cabin fever gets too hot, send kids outside to play and play and play . . . and cool off too.
Nicole C. Kear, is the author of Now I See You: A Memoir, recently published by St. Martin’s Press. Kear, who lives in New York City, is also an editor, speaker, and mother of three.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.