For centuries, during long, cold winter months, when kids can’t go outside to play, parents have been plagued by this statement, “I’m bored! What can I do?”. While, throughout the centuries, all parents have entertained their kids in some fashion or another, the way we entertain our children has changed dramatically! This past week, as we experienced single digit and negative temperatures, I was presented with the very same, age-old statement!
So, what does one do when it is too cold to go outside or colds and stomach bugs have rocked your household? Well, you could always make some suggestions of things your kids might want to play, something that you would like to see them play, or direct them to something they haven’t played with in a while. However, if your children are anything like mine, after about ten suggestions, they will still be rolling their eyes at you, flopping themselves onto the couch and turning down every suggestion that comes out of your mouth! You can also fall into the trap of letting your kids watch too much TV or play too many video games (your kids will gladly take this option), but after a while you might start to feel guilty that you’re not guiding your kids to a more productive use of their time. They may even become bored with the electronics and, if you have more than one child, too much time in front of the television may result in a fight over whose turn it is to pick a show or play a video game. Plus, there is always the added bonus of the tantrum when you decide to turn the television off!
Here’s what I’ve learned….STATIONS! If you’ve ever volunteered or worked at a preschool, most likely they had multiple activity stations set up for the children. The preschoolers travel to and from the various stations, performing the task or activity of their choosing until they finish or grow tired of the activity. At that time, they simply move to the next station. Why does this work? One, you presented them with only about five options to choose from, not their whole closet or shelf full of toys! In my experience, when children (and grown ups too) have too many choices, they can’t decide! Two, they are given the power to make the decision on their own as to what they want to do. NO POWER STRUGGLE! Three, if you have more than one child, children can play at separate stations or work together to complete an activity. At the end day, everyone is happy! You can give yourself a pat on the back for being a great parent and your children are happy because they had fun!
Stations That Have Worked In My House
- Table Activities – I usually put one or two activities on my kitchen table.
- Crayons, coloring books or blank paper
- Scissors, glue and old magazines
- Play dough
- Lacing or sewing
- Sensory play (cotton balls, or popcorn with scoops, funnels and tractors)
- Building – I always like to put at least one building activity out. Building is a great activity that can keep children busy for a while. First they build it, then they play with their creation! Plus, you can brag that you have your own Makerspace at home!
- Lincoln Logs
- Marble Run
- Exercise – This is an important one when everyone is cooped up inside and can’t release pent up energy!
- Laser tag
- Nerf gun war – (Have them wear safety glasses)
- Ride bikes, scooters or roller skates in the garage
- Just Dance or Wii
- Dance party in the living room
- Balloons – Put a balloon over a vent! Toddlers love this! Older kids also like just bouncing a bunch of balloons around!
- Reading Station – Pick a cozy little nook and place some must-read books in a basket, along with some kid or family magazines. Then, let your little or big ones settle down with some good old-fashioned literature!
- Car races – Kids love to race cars!
- Ramp – I use a sled and tilt it up on our hearth. Then, we get Hot Wheels and send them down!
- Remote control
- Pull back and go
- Musical Instruments – Being a former music teacher, I have instruments on hand, but you can always make your own and then play them along with some music on the radio!
- Pretend play – My kids love it when I set up some pretend play.
- Science experiments – Science is so fun! We love to put on our goggles and make things bubble on our kitchen table! There are several science kits in the stores for kids or you can look on Pinterest or get a book from your library.
- Board Games – Winter is the perfect time to pull out those family board games!
Themes are always fun! They take a little more preparation, but the payout is usually worth it.
- Ice Storm – I did this one last year (winter of 2017) and it’s probably one of my favorite! The ice storm didn’t end up being as bad as the meteorologist predicted, at least in our area, but we had fun being stuck inside for a couple of days!
- Game – Don’t Break the Ice
- Building – Build an igloo (Discovery Kids – Build and Play Construction Fort)
- Pretend – Dog sled (Get a sled and some stuffed animals.)
- Art – Ice painting (put colored sugar crystals on paper and use an ice cube to create color as it melts), painting snow (Place some snow in a bin, then color it with colored water and medicine droppers.)
- Snack – Snowman Soup (A.K.A. hot chocolate), build a snowman (marshmallows, pretzel sticks, chocolate chips)
- Around the world – I borrowed this one from my Mom, who borrowed it from my sister! Pick a country and pretend to travel there! Pretend to take a plane, boat, train or spaceship! Read about it in a book. Draw some of the landmarks and then eat some food from that country! I also like to play some music on Pandora from that country!
- Zoo – Place stuffed animals around your house. Make a train out of chairs and then grab your baby dolls and toy cameras to make a family day of visiting the animals! My kids also like to eat at the “café”! I make a menu that they can choose from and fix it for lunch (It’s usually chicken nuggets or hot dogs!)!
- Science Center – Think of science experiments or activities that you can mimic at home. One activity that we did was we made parachutes out of popsicle sticks and tissue paper. We then tested our creations by blowing them up in the air with the cool setting of our hair dryer. (Make sure you supervise this activity, so that your child doesn’t get burned!)