Ready for the Arctic Freeze? Another Polar Vortex?
We’ve all been there. It’s a snow day, and you can’t stand to referee another Lego building match (“I had the red piece! I HAD the red piece! I NEED the RED piece!”). Or you’ve picked up Thing 1 from school and you just need 15 minutes of quiet to figure out what everyone’s going to eat tonight instead of repeatedly asking Thing 2 to let go of your leg and telling Thing 1 to stop running laps around the kitchen island. Or maybe it’s about 10:30 in the morning, and you’ve read aloud the entire canon of the Berenstain Bears epic adventures. Twice.
When you find yourself in a moment like this, here are a dozen quick activities that can (a) burn some kid energy (and mama calories, if you didn’t make it to the gym again today), (b) increase your odds of Best Mom of the Year award in your child(ren)’s eyes, or (c) possibly buy you time to make that cup of coffee you’ve been dreaming of…Hey! Maybe you’ll even get to drink it all while it’s hot!
‘Snow Ball’ Fight
Supplies needed: scrap paper
Pretty simple. Find some scrap paper. Ball it up into several wads. Go crazy.
I set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes (it’s amazing how long five minutes really is when you’re in the heat of battle). While the game is on, you can run in the house. You can throw things (the ‘snowballs’) in the house. Moreover, you can throw things (again, only the ‘snowballs’) at people in the house. But when the timer goes off, the game is over, and standard household rules apply. In between rounds, we find all the ‘balls’ and divide them evenly between players. We usually do three rounds before mama has to call it quits.
Mama’s role: Player if you have an only child. Player or coffee-sippin’ peanut gallery if you have more than one in your stead.
Supplies needed: scrap paper
You remember this classic from middle school lunches, yes? It’s still pretty awesome. If you need a refresher course, here’s how to play and how to fold the ‘football’. Great practice for hand-eye coordination, taking turns, somewhat small motor skills, counting points, figuring out who has more/less, good sportsmanship, etc.
Mama’s role: Active player, unless you have two kids and one is pretty coordinated and patient. However, since your kid will probably be chasing errant footballs periodically, you can definitely get that coffee in during this game.
Supplies needed: string, tape
Here’s one I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t quite figured out where in the house it will work. Basic idea is to tie strings across the house to mimic a laser maze (similar to one a trespasser would have to get through on their way to stealing a diamond). My Kids’ Adventures has a How To on lockdown (including a little Tom Cruise video from Mission Impossible to get you in stealth mood). I pinned the picture on the right years ago but can’t find the original source. (So, if it was you and your kids made it through that challenge, let us know!)
Supplies needed: household things
You know you love this one. Start simple. Make a path around your coffee table or kitchen island. Put a couch cushion on the floor and a few pillows. Drape a blanket over the back of the couch and a chair. Now you have to jump from cushion to cushion without touching the burning hot lava (AKA the carpet) and then go through the tunnel and then… you get the idea.
The Crafty Mummy has mapped out some ideas if you’re looking for inspiration.
Mama’s role: Help set up the first few obstacles and then let the kids have at it. Set any parameters up front (e.g. you may not climb over the couch—automatic trip to the penalty box or end of game… or whatever you feel like you need to limit). Younger kids might need you to participate a little longer. Older ones will probably take it and run.
Supplies needed: directions
Mama’s role: You’re an active player in this one (depending on the age of your kid).
Supplies needed: CD or internet connection
Put on some music and have at it. You can google ‘toddler dance party’ or ‘child dance party’ for musical inspiration. Personally, I find listening to and watching little kids that I don’t know sing and dance in front of moving, flashy backgrounds to be insanely annoying, so instead I opt for classic group dance songs (like the ones everyone dances to at wedding receptions…YMCA, Shout, Electric Slide, Shuffles, etc). Here’s a good YouTube playlist (you might need to be present to make sure language is appropriate for your kid).
Mama’s role: Party DJ or dance floor queen, depending on your mood. Go on…show ’em how to do the sprinkler and the lawnmower and the running man. They’ll love it.
Supplies needed: instruments or household things, maybe a CD or internet connection
Get out those musical instruments and have a blast. We have a bunch of song books from Wee Sing from the 80s that we rock out to…if you don’t have a jukebox of kid’s songs in your head, you can throw on a CD and play along or print out a few songs from this list that you remember from your childhood.
You can sit in a circle with your kids and pass the instruments before every song…or put a pile in the middle and let them explore as they please. For older kids, you can work on repeating simple rhythm patterns. Take turns picking songs.
Don’t have kid-proof instruments lying around? Get a spoon and a metal mixing bowl, put some dried beans in a tin can, clap your hands, slap some rubber scrapers together—endless possibilities await!
Mama’s role: Help turn-taking with picking out songs and playing with instruments. Or just throw on a CD. Either way, take a seat and plan to sing your heart out (while you sip on that coffee). If you’re having fun, your kid(s) will probably want to do it too.
Cosmic Kids’ Yoga
Supplies needed: internet connection
All kids’ yoga is not created equal, but Miss Jamie and the team at Cosmic Kids Yoga have got it figured out for little ones. The episodes are 15-20 minutes long, and the woman is like Mary Poppins (accent and all). The ‘yoga’ is different poses that the kids can imitate or just watch. My littlest loves to watch her and has just started staying engaged the whole time (he’s 2y 9m right now). My four year old has loved it since we found it last winter.
Mama’s role: You might consider doing the yoga with your child the first few times. Eventually, your kid will follow along on his/her own, and you can sip on that steamy beverage.
Teach a New Game
Supplies needed: deck of cards, UNO deck, or chess set
We have two favorite games in the house right now…Crazy 8’s and UNO. So many math skills come into play here, it’s unbelievable. We started with Crazy 8’s and got the concept of matching the top card (here’s a refresher) with suits or numbers. We just added UNO (which has colors and just the digits—no little hearts to count to figure out what the numeral is). We don’t harp on the strategy part of the game yet, nor do we keep score. We started with our kids just flipping over their cards…now our 4 year old holds his own hand of cards and can basically play on his own. Obviously, you need to give guidance at whatever level your kid is able to comprehend.
If card games aren’t your thing, try chess. I do not know strategy or quick win moves—I only know how each piece can move across the board (i.e. Queen can go in any one direction, King can go in any one direction but only one square, Pawn can move forward one (or two if the first turn) but only diagonally to capture the opponent’s player, etc. (Here’s a crash course if you’ve never played). We happened to stumble on some boards at our local community center, and the guys there encouraged us to sit and play…my 2 year old quickly lost interest and just played with the knight, but the 5 year old I was watching for the afternoon played with my 4 year old for well over 30 minutes. It was awesome! My son clearly didn’t get the point of the game, but he was ecstatic whenever his opponent captured one of his pieces and they happened to be tied. Ha!
Mama’s role: Again, this is terroritory where you have to follow your kid’s lead on engagement and understanding. Start with the basics. With chess, I just told the kids what players they could move, and then once they picked the player they wanted to move, I would tell them where they could move it and if they would capture anyone…or if anyone would be able to capture them.
Supplies needed: mugs, spoons, tea bags, hot water, sweetener (optional)
- Kid picks out mug and tea bag.
- Mom boils water/starts Kuerig machine. I use the smallest setting for amount of water (so the mug is about half full).
- Steep tea briefly (I take out the bag within 10-30 seconds).
- Kid squeezes honey in (if using sweetener) and stirs.
- Kid adds 1-2 ice cubes and stirs. Once the ice cubes disappear, kid attempts a sip.
Mama’s role: I’ve done this with both of my boys since they were under 2…but with a lot of coaching. Clearly, this is an activity during which you have to be on your game and anticipating potential disasters. Once they get the hang of the procedure, however, it’s pretty fun to enjoy the process of taking tea with each other. Please don’t give honey to kids under one. Not sure if I would do tea with a kid under one anyway, but that’s your call, mama.
Smash Something (for Cooking!)
Supplies needed: baggies, ingredient, and smashing tools
Double bag something, and let them have at it. We needed butterscotch hard candies crushed for a cookie exchange a few weeks ago, so we put the hard candies in a ziploc (and that in another ziploc) and told the kids to get out their hammers. Daddy had to get the real one to really crunch those little suckers. You could use a rolling pin or let the kids use their imaginations on what might smash well.
- Crush those leftover candy canes, and use the dust in hot cocoa (or rim a glass later and have a peppermint martini).
- Crush Oreos (or graham crackers any hard cookie). Use as a layer in a yogurt and fruit parfait or mix with sugar and butter for a pie crust.
- Crush crackers to make bread crumbs for easy oven breaded chicken or as a casserole topping.
Mama’s role: Supervisor and head chef. Sip that coffee or get dinner started while your kids are pounding away.
Supplies needed: basic ingredients
This category should be really called ‘bake anything’ because kids love to cook and baking is a little easier…I guess because you don’t introduce the heating element until everything is mixed and ready to go. Banana bread or muffins (recipe) is always a hit because someone needs to smash many bananas…
Making roll out dough is perfect because you get to cut out shapes in addition to measuring out all the ingredients (again with the math!). If you are working with a wee one, consider letting them use a chop stick to stir the dry ingredients instead of a spoon (it will help keep spills down until little one’s coordination improves). Make biscuits (I love Sandy Meyer’s recipe) for breakfast. Or supper. Or for tea time (see above). Make cookies (Alton Brown’s recipe is a favorite in our home) for dessert. Make homemade play dough for play.
Mama’s role: Active participant. Dole out responsibilities liberally. The worst that can happen is that you make a mess and don’t have biscuits. But, oh the fun (and learning) that will take place!
What other things do your kids love to do in your house? How do you keep sane with the weather outside is frightful?
P.S. If cabin fever really strikes and you need to find a place to burn some energy stat…get out of the house and head to one (ore more) of these FREE & inexpensive indoor Nashville play zones!