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Ten easy ways to entertain the kids indoors this winter
Story by Belinda Graham.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
For more kid-friendly activities, check out our holiday survival guide.
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Ahh winter. The season we love to hate. All that cold, wind and rain – not the best collection of weather types, let alone when they're combined with energetic little ones. If you're stuck indoors and aren't keen on day-in, day-out Dora or Ben 10, try one of these indoor activities. It'll get them creating, imagining, playing and having a ball.
1. Make a newspaper tent
That large expanse of a living room is screaming out for a transformation. This one will keep them busy building it AND playing in it... bonus! Use picture rails, hooks or curtain rods (anything up high and stable enough) to tie lines of string around the room, connecting up to where you started so you've created the "foundations". Now lay two to three sheets of newspaper side-by-side lengthways so you've created a long, narrow column. Tape the sheets together so you have a "wall". Tape or peg one end of the column to the string. Continue your way around until all walls are up. You can add rooms by tying more string to existing string and cut out doorways and windows once they're in place. Alternatively... Turn a giant box into a cubby house. Turn the box upside down and use a box cutter to cut out a window then cut up from the floor and across for a door (bend the third side so it is "hinged"). The kids can then get creative making cling-wrap glass for the window, stick a bottle-top lid on the door as a handle and play decorator with paints, textas or crayons.
2. Have an indoor tea-party picnic
Pop your prettiest sheets over the dining table (move the chairs out of the way first) and pile the inside with as many cushions, blankets and rugs as you can find – and that'll fit! Let them get all dressed up and then cosy into their tea-party cubby with some treats. Fill a teapot with milk and lay out your tea cups with the sugar pot filled with flavoured milk powder like Nestle Quik or Milo. Let the kids make their own "tea" by mixing their powder and milk in their tea cups.
3. Make a doorway puppet show
Get an old sheet, curtain or large piece of fabric and cut it so it's slightly wider than a doorway. Now cut a square window in the centre – low enough so that when it hangs from a doorway a child will be able to stand or kneel and comfortably hold a puppet at that height. Using two pieces of contrasting fabric (tea towels or pillowcases are ideal) pin them lengthways from the "inside" of the theatre at the top so they fall as curtains. Use ribbon or string to gather them to the sides of the window and tie when the show starts. Tie string around the top corners of the sheet and hook onto 3M hooks or some nails on either side of a door frame. For puppets, put all those odd socks to good use (use string or wool as hair, buttons as eyes and sticky felt as spots) and make good use of a collage box and glue! You could also cut out people from magazines and tape them onto paddle-pop sticks or straws. Perform a show and then let the kids make up their own show.
4. Create a reading/family tree
Stretch out your weekly library trips (your local or school library trip) with this activity. If you're happy enough to paint one onto a wall, go for it, but for a less permanent tree, draw the tree stump and branches on large sheets of paper – Ikea has a great roll of paper (Mala Drawing Paper Roll) that is ideal – and tape up with 3M removable poster strips on the wall (it's best to tape the paper in place first and then draw the tree onto the paper). Next, cut out a whole bunch of large-ish leaves on various pieces of patterned paper. Every time your child reads a new book, have them write the title, author, date and what they loved about the book onto a new leaf and have them stick it on the tree. For more variation on your tree, have the children draw characters or items from the books, then cut them out and stick them amongst the leaves. Alternatively... try making a family tree. Have the children take pictures of all their family members, print them out and stick them on a branch with a collection of things about each family member. Have them cut out things from magazines or toy catalogues they associate with each member – fave colour, toy, book, food, etc.
5. Build a box city
Start saving your cereal, tissue and shoe boxes! Once you have a collection, set up the dining table with paints, scissors, papers, buttons, pipe cleaners, cotton wool, textas and anything else you can think of! Have them paint the boxes and stick square pieces of paper as windows and doors to make buildings. Let them create their own city and use toy cars or little people from the dollhouse as its inhabitants. Also try turning the city into a fun photobooth. Lie the box buildings on their side so the fronts of the buildings face upwards. Also lie cars and people on their sides so as you look down on the "city" from above, it looks as if it's the right way up. Now have your child lie on the floor above the buildings and have them positioned so it looks as though they're leaping over the buildings. Take happy snaps from a ladder of your super-human children!
6. Create a string obstacle course
Here's a fun way to make them earn their afternoon treat (or special gift/surprise). Tie one end of a roll of string around the "surprise" and then wind your way throughout the whole house, letting the string fall behind you as you go, until you either run out of string or patience! Hand the other end of the string to the child and have them follow the string around the house to find out what's on the other end. For older kids, make it a treasure hunt with little notes as clues. Each note can be a riddle or just a visual clue (like a picture of the fridge) so they know where to look next.
7. Have a prankster day
Think April Fool's Day jokes but not on April Fools. Think of silly pranks or little jokes that will have them in hysterics and wondering what on earth will happen next. Try these:
Cling-wrapped doorway: Tape clingwrap to one side of a doorway, stretch the roll across and tape it to the other side. Repeat above and below the first wrap several times so it's not so obvious.
Jelly drinks: Make up some fruit-juice coloured jelly and pour it into their cups. Insert a straw and place it in the fridge to set. When you offer them their afternoon juice they won't be expecting not to be able to drink it normally!
Balloon rockets: Blow up a balloon and twist the end rather than tying it off. Now jam the twisted end into the top of a doorway by closing the door. When the children open the door, the balloons will zoom around the room.
Tricky milk: Place a little drop of food colouring into the bottom of their cereal bowl and pour cereal on top. When they pour their milk into the bowls, it'll mix with the dye and magically change colour!
Short-sheet their beds: Just when they think the tricks are over, this classic will have them sleeping with one eye open. Using a flat sheet, tuck it around the mattress at the pillow end as though it is the fitted sheet. Stretch it out to the bottom of the bed, now fold it back on itself up to the pillow as though it's the regular flat sheet. Tuck in the sides and replace the doona. When they get in, they'll wonder why their legs get stuck halfway down the bed!
8. Make your own cool-shaped crayons
If you have a bunch of old shabby crayons you don't know what to do with or want to turn some store-bought crayons into something special, try recycling them into new shapes. You'll need to remove all the paper and group them into like colours. Place like-colour crayons into an empty tin and place them in a pot of boiling water. Once the crayons have melted, pour the liquid into a shaped ice cube tray (try Ikea or Chalet for a great range of shapes like hearts and stars) and allow to cool and set. Once they're hard, they're ready for use. These make great party gifts. Also try making rainbow crayons. Follow the same instructions, but don't fill the entire mould with one colour. Use less in each mould, wait to set, then pour in the next colour until you have a rainbow of colours per crayon.
9. Make a memory game
Cut up a large sheet of cardboard into an even amount of squares about 5cm x 5cm. For younger kids, 10-12 cards is plenty; for older ones, you can make it more challenging by adding more cards. Trace around something round that will fit on the cardboard square (like a small tin) with a black marker and have the kids decorate them in pairs (polka dots, stripes, zig zags, solid colours). Mix the cards up and lie them face down in a grid formation. Each player gets to turn two cards over, trying to get a matching pair by remembering where each card was. You can also get creative with this idea by making anything into a memory game: photos, images from the computer, pictures the kids draw (as long as they're good at repeating the same picture!), scrapbook paper, fabric swatches...
10. Have a "snowball" fight
Here's one way to get rid of the wriggles and allow a jolt of energy. Give each child and adult a pile of newspaper and stand them around the room. Use a timer or stopwatch and set it for a few minutes. When you say "go!", everyone has to scrunch up a piece of paper into a ball and throw it as a snowball. You can hit whomever you like and can return the ones that hit you when you run out. Go until the timer buzzes and the person with the most "balls" at their feet gets to put all the paper in the recycling!
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