Although some of you are enjoying springtime, in the Northeast we've still got another 6 weeks of winter to go. And now that the holidays are over, the big kids are in school, and we have cabin fever. I brainstormed with Sonya of A Toy Garden about ideas for surviving indoor winter time with children:
When they were younger, Merlin and Elfie enjoyed using modeling beeswax ($22.95) to form animals, flowers and imaginary creatures. The beeswax starts out hard, but is softened by the warmth of ones hands and it smells delicious. The beeswax is reusable and is both a therapeutic and calming activity for children. And, adults enjoy working with beeswax, too.
A variation on this is candle making. One can use the modeling beeswax to decorate store bought candles or roll your own candles with beeswax sheets ($19.95). If you don't have a wild toddler (Linnea thinks anything on the table is fair game), use their candles as a centerpiece for dinner time! Merlin and Elfie considered dinner by candlelight fancy (even if it was just soup and grilled cheese!), and would always be on their best behavior.
A pair of scissors and paper and some Stockmar Crayons ($10.95-$18.95) will provide hours of fun. Add some tape and glue and they could play forever! For a change, try drawing a story on a long roll of adding machine paper or decorating a cardboard box to use as a house, boat or spaceship.
Younger children can do arts and crafts as well. My toddlers all enjoyed tearing pictures of babies out of magazines and making collages - just stock up on glue sticks. Or, cut some scrap yarn into short pieces and let them glue hair on a stick figure baby or fur on a teddy bear.
Older children will enjoy needle felting, wet felting, weaving, pot holder kits, knitting, crocheting, basket making, paper cutting and shaping, paper quilling or painting. A Toy Garden has a large selection of craft supplies and kits. If you made the Forest Gnome Family Kit ($19.95), you could then make up stories about how they work hard to wake up the flowers and bring spring to to the forest.
3. Writing on windows
Sonya recently returned from a vacation to the snow, and the children with her (ages 4-12) all enjoyed playing with Window Crayons on the glass sliding door of her hotel room. We haven't tried this in winter, but we used this as an activity for children (ages 2 and up) at a family reunion, and even the adults joined in. There's something that just feels mischievous about writing on windows.
If you have both older and younger children, a magnetic wooden puzzle is fun and the pieces stay of the floor. This one ($35.95) comes in a tin box from Germany is great for quiet indoor use or travel as well. It is also ideal for those times that mom's hands are full of baby and she needs her older child to do something quiet for a while.
We love books and stories on CDs. When everyone is hyper, I sit with a book and they all snuggle in to listen. One of Arielle's favorites is In a Nutshell ($7.95). It is a beautifully illustrated story about the life of a tree and how life passes from one organism to another.
Encourage pre-schoolers to do a play or puppet show with silks and a few finger puppets after they’ve read a favorite story. For this age, simple, repetitive stories like The Three Little Pigs or The Three Bears translate well into play. Get out the video camera and make it a movie.
Music sooths the savage beast -- or at least the rambunctious toddler. Ply along with a favorite CD, get up and dance (a good workout for kids and mom), or start a musical band and have a parade around the house.
Children love cooking. Arielle makes a great chocolate pudding for dessert. The our Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book or Waldorf Book of Soups have some great and simple ideas.
8. Tea Party
Invite some neighbor children or grandparents over for a little tea party with real yummy treats to eat and juice or tea to drink. Let the children make their own invitations for the party.
Or brave the snow, and bring the tea party to an elderly neighbor who can't navigate the ice.
9. Pretend Play
Use your imagination and play with Play Silks, Play Clips, and dress-up clothes. This is a huge favorite at our house. We are often princesses of pirates, or Star Mommy and Starielle who live in space and eat star-shaped toast for breakfast.
Play with wooden blocks and a few wooden or felt animals and figures. Build a zoo or a rain forest or an animal train. Talk about the outdoor adventures you'd like to have in the spring.
11. Letter writing
Make Easter cards or generic “I’m thinking of you” cards for relatives! Or use some "real" stationary and write letters to Grandma (or Daddy). Make a mail box out of a cardboard box and write each other letters. Then the child can deliver them, and you can read them together.
Stock up on inexpensive workbooks, lined paper and pencils and play “I’m at school”.
Arielle loves this!
13. Indoor hopscotch (suggested by my friend Tasha)
Use masking tape to make a hopscotch pattern on the floor. You can find the rules here. Or, play indoor Hide and Seek (set rules about where it is OK to hide).
14. Clean the house
Play at housework. Arm the kids with a few rags and a spray bottle of water and clean the table. Let them pretend to wash dishes in the kitchen sink. Just put down towels first, so the floor doesn't get slippery.
I wish my computer wasn't being repaired because I have a great picture of Merlin doing dishes at 18 months that I'd love to insert here. You'll just have to imagine it.
15. Go to the movies
If children (or even parents) aren't feeling well, pretend you're at the movies. We set up the couch with blankets, drinks (in covered bottles) and snacks and watch our favorite stories on DVD. Scholastic has a wonderful selection of classic children's stories. This keeps everyone in one place and relatively calm.
I'm sure all of you have great ideas as well. I'd love to hear them.
Sonya has given us a new coupon, STB1008. It is for 10% off an order over $25.00, and good through 3/31/08 on all items, including those mentioned in this post. Thank you, Sonya!