Way past cabin fever? Running out of ideas for what to do with the kids? Falling into screen time ruts? Feeling like there’s nowhere to go, even by COVID standards, as we ride out this winter wave – I mean it’s too cold for the park, even?
I feel your pain. Honestly, if our preschool wasn’t in session, which it blessedly is, I’m not sure what we’d be doing right now. It’s hard enough to get through a long weekend with a house full of young kids, much less an entire week. For those parents who are doing it, I salute you.
One thing that has helped around our house lately is doing some new activities. Several of them are my boys’ own ideas, which is all the better, because when I can check my patience level and just say yes, I’m realizing that activities they pick make them even happier and keep them entertained longer.
I figured I’d share a list of five activities that have brought smiles to the faces of my three sons, ages 4 and 3-year-old twins. Hopefully it will inspire some ideas around your house.
If you need a wider range of activities to choose from, I found a guru online who is masterful at this. Jamie Reimer is a mom blogger with a wealth of fantastic ideas for easy activities to do at home. I have no idea how she comes up with so many, but she’s a rockstar in my book, especially as a mom of three boys who understands the need for activities with motion, building, climbing and “driving.” Check her out here: www.handsonaswegrow.com.
(You can sign up to receive e-mails with daily activity ideas, specific to certain ages. Just one example of a preschool activity was an “Alphabet maze” she made with painter’s tape on a hardwood floor, having her son drive a toy car around the maze going from one letter to the next, singing the ABCs.)
Meanwhile, the Walton list.
1. Cardboard city. I broke down a cardboard box and flattened it out into one long piece. With a Sharpie and the boys watching on, I drew a road, houses for each boy, a Target, the grocery store, a swimming pool, a hospital, a library, you get the idea. They get out little cars and trucks and drive on it and create their own stories. It’s not fancy but it’s personal, and they’ve made it even more their own by coloring it, so they love it.
2. Bubble House. My 4-year-old, Wade, came up with this one himself, including the name. Luckily I happened to have an oversized jar of “Bubble Juice” (though you could mix dish soap and water in a pinch.) I pour some into a plastic cup, maybe an inch or two from the bottom, and add a little water to make it last longer. Then I put a straw for them to blow bubbles into, and they go to town. We always do this on the back patio because there are always spills, and wet sleeves, but they’re so happy doing it they don’t mind getting a little damp. Even if it’s 5-10 minutes of fun before they realize it’s cold out, you’ve set the tone for some happy playtime.
3. Creating with recyclables. This idea came from Wade’s preschool teacher and we love it. She suggested I set out a bunch of recyclable materials and give Wade painter’s tape and let him create his own little sculpture. All three of my boys will jump in on this one too. I’ll load up a kids table with soda bottles, plastic egg cartons, toilet paper holders, packing peanuts, you name it. Then it’s my job to tear off pieces of tape and watch what they come up with. My 3-year-old Johnny made his own “snow globe” the other day, and it was precious.
4. Pencil trick. This was another of Wade’s suggestions; I think he got it from watching Ryan’s Mystery Playdate on TV. Once I figured out what he wanted to do, it was easy. You fill a gallon Ziploc bag one-third full with water, hold it over the bathroom sink, and let the kids pierce holes through the bag with sharpened pencils. They can stick them all the way through without any water coming out. Then the fun begins as they pull the pencils out and watch water flow out of the holes they poked. Water is such easy entertainment, even indoors. A great parenting trick I keep in my back pocket is letting them take a bath in the middle of the day, without the pressure of impending bedtime. Easy fun.
5. Winter Wonderland. Wade decided he wanted to create a winter wonderland of artwork in his bedroom at home like he had in his classroom at preschool. I was glad I had left some walls in his room pretty bare, rather than filling them up with artwork of my choosing. Wade and I spent an entire morning cutting strips of paper and stapling them into loops to form paper chains. We hung the chains, then decorated the walls above them with winter-themed artwork he’d either brought home from school or created on the spot. It’s an ongoing project, which makes it the gift that keeps on giving. Next up is cutting snowflakes out of folded paper. They make it look so easy on You Tube. Wish us luck!