I was sitting at the ball field with my husband the other day, waiting for one of my boys’ baseball games to start. It’s about the only uninterrupted time we get to talk and catch up. We can cover everything from current events, dumb jokes, and dream vacations all in those precious 30 minutes. Somehow we got on the topic of childhood and the things we used to do to entertain ourselves when we weren’t busy with school. For him it was always sports but for me, spending my earlier years in California, it was running around outside with the neighborhood kids. On weekends and summers I would get up, throw on my clothes, scarf down some breakfast and run out the door. We played outside all day, every day, and wouldn’t come home until dusk or if we heard a distant holler from our mother. Then we’d run back home for a quick check in, and disappear for several more hours. But raising my kids in rainy Washington is different; much of the time my kids are trapped inside due to some sort of precipitation. We take advantage of every sunny moment we can get but on the wet days they can get a little bored. I don’t know about you, but in our house, a bored kid equals a cranky kid. And a cranky kid is contagious. So if you need ways to keep your kids occupied when you can’t count on sending them outside to play, here are 8 activities sure to keep their minds and bodies engaged in some good old productive fun.
- Plan a Treasure Hunt. Find something good to hide and set out clues for the kids to follow. For older kids the clues can be in the form of riddles. For the littlest kids the clues can be pictures. They’ll have fun searching out the treasure.
- Now this one serves the dual purpose of getting them clean and keeping them occupied. Try some bathtub fun. You can make homemade tub paints or bathtub crayons. (see recipe below) If you want to get even more bang for your buck, grab a good book and take a little Mom break while they are in the tub. This got me through the toddler years quite nicely and I had the cleanest kids on the block
- Play outdoor games, inside! Set up a bucket for a basketball hoop and use a soft foam ball or even a wadded up newspaper. Play HORSE and have candy as prizes. Set up bowling pins made out of Tupperware and let the kids go bowling in the living room with a foam ball.
- Make an Indoor Sandbox. Use a plastic bin and fill it with rice, small beans or even oat or cornmeal. Set it on top of a table cloth for easy clean up later. Put little toy cars, scoops, funnels, little cups and other small toys in there and let them go for it. I even caught my teenager with their hands in it the other day. The good thing is you can pop the lid on it and slide it away when not in use.
- Make home movies. Most digital cameras and cell phones have a video feature. Use one of those or your video camera to make silly home videos. My kids have built Lego people and voiced their characters or even whipped up crazy costumes and just ran the camera while they acted out impromptu plays.
- Pitch your tent in the family room. The kids have tons of fun playing “camping”. We turn out the lights, pack some goodies, pull out the sleeping bags and crawl in. If you don’t have a small tent try a table with blankets over it.
- Dust off the board games. With modern technology and all the fun it has to offer, board games are left to collect dust. Most families have them stashed on the top shelf of a closet so when they finally get pulled out they are new and fun again. Turn off the video games and have some good old fashioned fun.
- Use your biggest window as an art easel. Whip up some homemade window paints and let the kids draw on the biggest canvas they’ve ever seen. The good news is it comes right off with paper towels. (See recipe below)
With these ideas you’ll buy yourself some sanity and keep those kids happy and productive until the sun decides to show its face again.
1 Cup grated Ivory soap
¼ cup warm water
Food Coloring Plastic cookie cutters or hard candy molds
Directions: Mix water, soap and food coloring together in bowl. Remove the mixture from bowl and knead it until it’s the consistency of thick dough. Spoon mixture into plastic cookie cutters or candy molds. Place the cookie cutters or molds in the freezer for 10 minutes or longer. Pop the crayons out of the cookie cutters and allow them to dry overnight.
1/3 cup mild clear dish washing soap or clear baby shampoo
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Mix cornstarch and liquid soap in bowl. Pour into an ice cube tray, (sometimes I use plastic cups) filling about 1/2 full. Put 4-8 drops of different food coloring colors into each section and mix till blended.
Homemade Window Paint
Mix together equal parts dishwashing liquid and washable liquid paint or powdered tempera. For paint brushes use fingers, cotton swabs, art brushes, or feathers for different painting techniques.