by Jeremy Zongker
It’s winter break…. or maybe it’s a snow day. Whatever it is, the kids are home from school, you’re broke and they’re driving you a little crazy. Besides begging a relative to take them for a few hours, what can you do to entertain and enjoy your kids when it’s cold outside and you’re stuck indoors?
1. Encourage the budding movie maker – Have the kids write, act, and produce their own mini-movie. Most still digital cameras have the ability to record short movie clips if you don’t have a video camera of some sort – you can always record the “movie” in short segments and then piece it together with Windows Movie Maker (or the equivalent) on the computer, later. If your kids are a little too young to come up with their own screenplay from scratch, have them act out a scene from their favorite book, television show or movie and encourage them to create a new ending.
2. Soda bottle bowling – Raid the recyclable bin for empty plastic soda bottles. Set them up like bowling pins on one end of your living room, hallway or in the basement, and roll a ball at them like you’re bowling. You can make the game more challenging by adding some water to the bottom of the soda bottles (if you still have the caps!) or by bowling blindfolded.
3. An “Unbirthday” – Take a clue from Alice in Wonderland and celebrate your child’s Merry UnBirthday! Bake and decorate a cake, blow up some balloons if you’ve got them, and have the other children create gifts (drawings, play doh masterpieces, etc) to give. To prevent any issues and arguments, let everyone take a turn in the “unbirthday” role and receive gifts from the other siblings.
4. Bottle cap Shuffleboard – Create a triangle on the end of the kitchen table out of masking or painter’s tape, and create 3 sections: the tip of the triangle is worth 30 points, the center is worth 20 points, and the larger base of the triangle is worth 10 points. On the other end of the kitchen table, place a piece of tape to create the push-off line. Use bottle caps (4 per player, and mark with stickers or paint to determine who the caps belong to) and push them so they slide from the push-off line toward the triangle. Players can push another player’s cap off the triangle (or even off the table!) and the winner is the person who reaches 200 points first.
5. Classic card games – Often forgotten in a world of technology, classic card games like “Go Fish”, “Crazy 8’s”, and the “Old Maid” can be played with a standard deck of cards. Introduce your children to the games you used to play.
6. Photographic memory – Everyone looks at the same photo for 30 seconds. Remove the photo and write down as much as you can remember about the photo. Person with the longest list of items that are really in the photo wins.
7. Animate a stick figure – Find a pad of paper or a post-it pack. Start in one corner of the page and draw a stick figure. Lift up the page and draw the same figure on the next page, but move an arm or leg just slightly, and continue on each page of the pack. On each page, you’ll draw your stick figure just positioned a little differently. When you flip the pages with your thumb, you’ll have an animated stick figure!
8. Walk on stilts – Turn two coffee cans (or plastic containers, as they tend to be these days) upside down so the lids are on the bottom. Poke a hole through the center of the can from the top. Thread a piece of rope into the hole and tie a knot inside the can. Make the rope long enough so that when the child stands on the can, they can hang onto the ropes while walking with the cans as their stilts!
9. Group story – You can do this on paper, or use a recorder to tell the story out loud. Have each person sit in a line and take turns telling a small part of a made-up story. The first person in line starts the story and stops after a specific period of time. The next person in line picks up where the first left off, continuing the story. You can write it down and the read it aloud, or record it with a tape player or digital recorder and listen to it when you’re finished. It’s sure to get a few laughs!
10. Indoor bubbles – Who says you can’t play with bubbles indoors? Put two drops of dish detergent in the center of a plate and add a few drops of water. Give the kids a straw, and let them blow bubbles on the plate. You may want to give your child traditional bubbles and a bubble wand and let him or her blow bubbles in the bathtub.
11. Build an indoor “snow” fort – For some reason, kids love to build forts. Give them some blankets to hang on the back of chairs, couches and other items to hide underneath. Give each child a box or bag of crumpled up newspaper “snow balls” and let them have an indoor snow fight. Forts are great for playing house, or any number of activities active imaginations can drum up.
12. Card towers – Get out a deck or cards (or several) and use them to build a tower. Lean one card against another, creating a triangle with the table top or floor. Create a second triangle a couple inches to the left or right of your first one, and connect the two with a card laying flat over top. See how tall you can make your tower – either with all children on the same team, or as a competition.
13. Blindfolded penny hunt – Clear a room of breakables or anything that could hurt a child if they bumped into it. Blindfold each child and give them a paper bag or small container. Scatter a bunch of pennies around the floor and set them loose crawling around for pennies. The person who gathers the most pennies wins.
14. Marble race – You need an empty toilet paper or paper towel tube for each child and a marble or small bouncing ball for each. (Keep an eye on the little ones!) Create a finish line with some masking tape on the floor or table, and position the kids on the other end with their cardboard tubes and marbles. Send the marble or ball through the tube launcher and see who crosses the finish line first.
15. Count and roll the change – If you’ve got piggy banks and buckets of change around the house, give the kids the task of counting them and rolling them. You can deposit their rolled change into their banks on your next trip to the bank, or let them buy something with their rolled money.
16. Floating pasta toss – You know the carnival game where you throw lightweight plastic balls at a stack of fishbowls? Try the kitchen version: fill a casserole dish or roasting pan with water. Use a permanent marker to write some numbers on the inside of plastic lids (soda bottle lids, juice bottle lids, margarine containers, etc). The numbers become point values for keeping score. Give each child a few pieces of pasta which they can color with a marker (different color for each child) and let them stand near the floating targets and toss their pasta in to earn points.
17. Micro golf – You’ve heard of mini golf? In the micro version, you’ll be putting with popsicle sticks (or unsharpened pencils) and sending a marble into the holes. First, create your micro golf course: lay a cardboard box on it’s side and create a few holes in a few different places just large enough for the marbles to drop into. You could use more than one box and build ramps with additional cardboard or the kid’s train tracks if you’re really feeling creative! Set up obstacles on your micro golf course with blocks, toilet paper tubes, and other toys around the house. Next, create your “putters” with your popsicle stick or unsharpened pencil, and add a piece of foam or cardboard to the end to make the putter head. Finally, let the games begin! See who can get their marbles into the holes with the shortest number of putts.
18. Pillowcase races – Most of us don’t have potato sacks around the house, but you can probably dig out some older pillowcases. Have each child stand in a pillowcase at the starting line and hang on to the opening. Whoever hops over the finish line first wins.
19. Find it in print – Gather some books, magazines and newspapers. Have the kids go on a “Where’s Waldo” type adventure, finding various things in print that you call out, try:
things that move
things that bark
animals that eat meat
something you find in a kitchen
things that breathe
20. Make a tornado in a bottle – In a plastic soda bottle, fill it three quarters of the way full with water and add a couple drops of food coloring. Place an inverted soda bottle on top of the first bottle, so their openings line up. Wind the bottle necks tightly with tape to secure them with a water-tight seal. Hold the bottles with two hands and swirl the water in a circular motion, flip upside down and set it on the table to watch what happens.
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