(Written by Nancy Parker) Winter is almost upon us and that means more time spent indoors with the kids. Sometimes we all get a little stir crazy when the weather gets harsh but there are ways to keep the kids happy and to keep our sanity. It does not have to take a lot of effort or expense to make children happy and so many times you can have fun with things you already have around the house.
As I look back over the years I recall times when I went to great efforts and expense to entertain my kids and then my mom would come along to babysit carrying with her the simplest items, things she already had on hand, and make the children’s day. On one particular occasion she brought her sewing kit out to do some mending and started the kids off with a blunt needle and a scrap piece of material and showed them how to sew.
Who would figure that it would keep them entertained for hours? It was not just learning how to sew that amazed them so much but investigating grandma’s sewing kit was like finding hidden treasure. She had dozens of old buttons of various colors and sizes which they loved looking at and then she offered them some string to make necklaces or showed them how to sew a button on their material. My son was enamored with the thimbles he found in the basket! He had one on each finger before he was done which then inspired the making of finger puppets out of their little scraps of left over material. With the fabric markers and a couple stitches they had a mini puppet show.
My mom’s sewing kit was full of interesting items from years and years gone by. She even had a sack of old marbles in her kit which she opened up and let the children examine and before long they had built a track for the marbles with some empty wrapping paper/paper towel rolls we had. They had a marvelous time making the tracks and rolling the marbles through and catching them at the end. Mom showed them how to tape them together and made some amazing tracks!
She also had some clothing glue in her kit and she let the kids use some safety scissors and cut out shapes of flowers, houses, or anything they could imagine and glue them on the scrap material to make a collage. With the fabric markers they could draw designs on their scraps of material as well. She showed them how to sew the edges of the material with yarn to finish them off. They had a blast working on their arts and crafts projects; even my son who does not usually sit still for too long was thrilled.
Another day we used some craft sticks that we found at the dollar store. We got out the hot glue gun and started putting the sticks together. This is something that may need some supervision for very young children but my kids were in about the third and fifth grade and they had no problem using the hot glue gun after we explained the seriousness of not getting the hot glue near their skin. Both of them made houses out of their sticks and then they created designs with glue and glitter or markers. It was a wonderful way so spend an afternoon. They sat at the kitchen table and I was able to prepare a meal while we interacted and I was available to assist them when they needed help.
Over the years I have learned that the expensive toys often get ignored and the boxes get played with instead. So every time I run across boxes big enough for the kids to play in I pick them up. Bigger is always better. I can not tell you the days of fun my kids have when one of us brings home a refrigerator or washing machine box. Give them a marker and let them go wild in their creativity. If they wanted a window or door I was there to help them to cut it out because generally you have to have a very sharp pair of scissors or you have to use a knife. It is so much fun to watch the adventures they have with a plain old box. We have made houses, forts, castles, airplanes, cars, trains and so many things with our boxes. The only thing that limits what you can do with an empty box is your imagination!
My children used to love to get the canned goods out of the pantry and each of them would sit on opposite sides of the kitchen and build a fortress and then they would roll a can across the room to see who could knock down the most cans. Or they would line up the cans and make a track to roll their Hot Wheel cars, marbles, or balls through. They had a blast just playing with the canned goods.
Another fun bad weather activity is making cookies, especially cookies that can be cut out with cookie cutters and decorated. We have a favorite sugar cookie recipe that has been in our family for years so that is our go to when we want to have fun cutting and decorating. We also have cookie cutters that have been passed down through the years; there is a huge selection of cookie cutters at our house. It keeps the kids entertained just looking through the cookie cutters and picking out the ones they want to use while I am making up the batter. I always look for cookie cutters on sale after the holidays and buy new ones because it is so much fun watching the kids go through them.
The kids love to use the rolling pin too and help roll it out the cookies before cutting. It is so cute to watch them cut the cookies. It is just like play dough only they get to eat it! When we have the cookies on the cookie sheet we decorate them with sprinkles, nuts, raisins, and some we leave plain so that we can ice them after they are done! That is special fun, everyone loves icing the cookies. We mix up powdered sugar and milk and add what ever color of food coloring they want. We just generally drizzle the icing with spoons but you can use craft sticks or fingers and paint it on as well. The cookies are so cute and they taste delicious! This is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. If you are not a baker they have the rolls of sugar cookies you can buy at the store which works just as well.
Another way we have fun on bad weather days is by making a tent with sheets or blankets over furniture and playing board games, reading, or having a picnic in the tent. I have a small three man dome tent that I have actually put up in the living room over a particularly long bad weather spell and we had a wonderful time. We played games, had snacks, and even napped in the tent. The kids loved being in the tent, it made them feel like they were having an adventure. Having mom and dad climb in the tent adds to the adventure and these are memories that will stay in my heart and theirs for years to come.
There are so many things the kids can do with you and by themselves with minimal supervision if you have chores that need doing. It really does not take a lot to keep them happy but if they are left on their own to find things to do it sometimes gets a little crazy. Setting them up with a craft, box, tent, or some canned goods can give you a couple hours of joy for them and peace for you. It also makes for great memories that do not normally happen when everyone is in front of the television or on their own in their rooms. Make the most of these upcoming bad weather days and make some great memories for yourself and your children.
About the author: Nancy Parker loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015[at]gmail.com