Trapped inside because of cold weather, rain, or a chicken pox quarantine? Just plain bored? It’s probably driving your little ones nuts, and chances are it’s draining your sanity as well. You’ve already tried television and exhausted your supply of toys. Here are some ideas for new activities and changes of scenery to help you stop the indoor insanity. We’ve included a few out-of-your-house adventures, too, for those whose kids aren’t contagious. After reading through the list, you might create an inclement weather emergency kit with a few toys, craft supplies, and books that you can pull out when the weather drops below ten degrees and a case of the stuck inside blues threatens to strike.
Snow on the ground? Heap a bunch into pots and pans and sculpt away. Wet, cold, and constantly changing, it’s especially interesting to texture-oriented babies and toddlers.
Pretend the power’s out and set up a tent in the living room. Don’t have a tent? A rigged-up sheet will do just as well. Surround the tent with stuffed animals, and then eat lunch while sitting on the carpet. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you can also cuddle in front of the fireplace (or stovetop, or microwave) and make s’mores.
If you’ve got flour, water, and salt in the cupboard, you can make homemade playdough. Food coloring or vanilla extract can spice it up a little. Since the ingredients are all from your pantry, it doesn’t matter if a bit ends up in the sculptor’s mouth during the creation of a miniature Eiffel Tower.
Your town probably has lots of attractions that you’ve never tried. Even art museums that seem targeted to adults can have hands-on, interactive activities for kids. Planetariums or science museums are always an option, and you can also try obscure museums you’ve never hit before, like the Captain Kazoo museum. Other cities have museums just for kids filled with hours of indoor fun. Search the American Association of Museum’s directory to find more options across the United States. If you’re far from museums, many still have online resources, like the Smithsonian Kids site. And hey, even when it’s cold outside, there are still animals at the zoo – and some of them, like the reptiles, are roaming around in the warmth of an indoor area. Dash from inside space to inside space and enjoy having the zoo all to yourself. Indoor aquariums are also an option.
Don’t want to spend the money on admission to museums? Then explore free or low-cost indoor attractions. Go to the train station and watch people coming and going. Check out an art gallery or the library. Visit the tallest building around and ride the elevator to the top. Request a tour of the local fire station. Get on the bus or subway and see where it takes you. You might find a new grilled cheese hot spot in a part of town you haven’t visited in years.
This old school entertainment is still good today. Get out the pillows and blankets and start piling them up. Then, after building the fort, let your kids get out some energy and crash down the walls. Diving onto a few pillows won’t hurt, and it’ll likely inspire a few giggles. Later, you can use the same supplies to create an obstacle course.
Go to someone else’s house and use their toys – or, if you don’t want to venture out into the cold, invite them over and ask them to bring along a few toys or games to share.
Crafts can be a great distracter, especially when you’re stuck inside because someone’s under the weather. Get an early start on Valentine’s Day Cards by doing a little vegetable stamping – cut a potato in half, cut the flesh into the shape of a heart, then let your child dip it in some paint and stamp the potato on construction paper. Grandparents will love whatever masterpieces are created. Other craft possibilities include fun with stickers, gluing together paper chains, stringing necklaces of dried pasta, or sewing cardboard cards with yarn.
Imagine that the floor is covered in hot lava, and encourage your child to figure out how to get across the house without touching the floor. Note: this is not a good option for homes with a firm “No climbing on the furniture” policy.
Even kids as young as two can mix up some real – or fake – food. Make English muffin pizzas and let the kids pick their own toppings. Stir a batch of cookie dough. Roll up the little ones’ sleeves and let them knead some sticky bread dough. Follow a recipe, or just wing it and see what comes of combining maraschino cherries, oatmeal, almond butter and marshmallows. Best of all, they’ll have something delicious – or at least edible – to try afterward. Try http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/cafe/ or www.weelicious.com for recipes.