Learning Through Play for 70 Years

Think: Novelty

Keeping kids entertained on cold or rainy days

Oh, those long, cold days of winter!

It can be so hard to think of ways to keep our children entertained while they’re cooped up inside, especially when many of us just want to curl up with some hot chocolate, a book, a blanket, and no interruptions…

Beyond inviting them to join us on the couch with hot chocolate and a movie (always a good plan!), here are some ideas of things to engage their wonderfully active minds and bodies.  Keep in mind that you can (and should!) change any of this up to work for your own space, your own kids, and your own tolerance for mess.

This will look different in every household, different with every kid.  Sometimes novelty is the key to that initial burst of engagement on those days that seem to drag into each other.

Balloons – blow up a few balloons and have the children keep them in the air by tapping with their hands (or have them lie down and do it with their feet!).  Keep it interesting by putting on a fun song and whenever the music stops, they have to stop completely and start again when the music starts.

For older kids, use masking tape (painter’s tape works well for this) and tape up a 2×2 grid on the floor and teach them a variation of Four Square using the balloon.

Painter’s tape – I am a big fan of painter’s tape.  It’s removable, so you can put it on the wall or floor without worries of ruining a surface.  Tape a line on the floor.  Use straight lines, zig zags, have it loop around furniture, make it looooong.  Challenge the children to walk on the line without stepping off.  When they get good at it, change it up: can they hop on one foot?  Crawl?  Tiptoe?  Walk backwards?

Obstacle course – create an obstacle course in a family room or playroom.  Use blocks or tape to have a straight path that leads to back-to-back chairs with a blanket draped over them to crawl between.  Pillows can be rocks in a river that they need to jump from one to another without touching the floor.

Music – make a set of 8-10 activity cards with various movements written on them (jumping jacks, hopping on one foot, walking backward, spinning around four times, and etc..).  Put some music on, draw one of the cards, and go crazy!

Minute to win it! – Have you ever played any of these?  Great for kids and crazy fun for adults, too!  Two of my favorites:

Cookie Face – participants starts with an Oreo cookies on their forehead.  They have one minute to get the cookie from their forehead to their mouth – by only using the muscles on their face!  If it falls, they can start again, but always starting back on their forehead.

Popsicle stacker – participants start with a Popsicle stick in their mouth.  They have 3-6 dice (try it out to see what would work for your kiddos) in front of them.  They have one minute to stack all of the dice on the popsicle stick using only one hand.  They can always start over if they fall, but they only have a single minute to complete the challenge.

If you need more of a sedentary activity…

Baking soda & vinegar – put a layer of baking soda in a large baking dish, set it on a dishtowel on the table, and give your children two cups of vinegar colored with a few drops of food coloring.  Use spoons, pipettes, or old squeeze bottles to squirt vinegar into the baking soda and watch for eruptions!

More? Add tiny animals or Duplo guys and make a world of play.

Even more?  Mix the baking soda with crushed ice and have cold eruptions.

Shaving cream – spray a pile in the middle of a cookie sheet, put a bowl of water and a towel nearby and let the squish, draw and spread.

Washing station – another baking dish on a dishtowel on the table activity. Pour a layer of warm water with a few drops of dish soap into the baking dish.  Add small sponges, toothbrushes, washcloths, rags.  Let the children wash baby dolls, cars, Duplo guys, anything that would capture their interest.  Have a bowl of clear water available and a few towels. Things will splash.

Cooking/baking – pull up a chair to the counter and choose a simple recipe (biscuits, pancakes, muffins).  Let them help you measure, pour, and mix.  Sometimes, having a part in the process makes the children even more eager to taste!  This is a great time to make play-doh!  Use the ACPS recipe and get the kids involved measuring, mixing, and kneading.  The dough is so much better after having been kneaded quite a bit, so let them get those muscles involved!

Writing/drawing/coloring/art – think outside the box! Switch things up! If your child is used to using 8 ½ x 11 sized paper while sitting down, change it!

·       Buy a roll of drawing paper (IKEA has some very affordable rolls) and tape a 6 foot length on the wall or on the floor.

·       Cut paper into different shapes (ie, all circles, but different sizes) and see what they do with it.  Then another day, have an assortment of shapes.

·       Is their favorite color green? Get some green paper!

·       Move all the kitchen or dining room chairs and set up a drawing station under the table.  Another day, add flashlights!

·       Staple 3 sheets of paper together into pre-made books and let them make their own picture books.

·       Buy a book of stamps at the post office, fold some card stock in half, and make cards for everyone you can think of, then walk to the mailbox and mail them.

As always, set these up and see where your children take them.  You’ll often get some of the best extension ideas by watching what they do.  Follow their lead. They’re quite clever.

But you knew that already.  🙂