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With the holidays now past, and with the Polar Vortex still in our midst, winter is colder (understatement!), longer, and drearier than possibly ever before! Staying inside for days on end is enough to make anyone go crazy, so here are some creative crafts and activities to keep cabin fever away. Best of all, there's very little prep involved: you probably already have all the supplies in your house! Read on for simple and interactive ideas from snow coloring to making natural and recycled dioramas that will keep kids busy and Moms and Dads sane while winter weather keeps us cooped up.
Snow is usually pretty novel for the first day or two, but for those who live places where you see more white than green or brown, even the most snow-crazy kid may get some frosty fatigue. Renew their outdoor enthusiasm by letting their outside artistry shine.
Purchase a few condiment bottles (these can also be used to make edible decorations on pancakes, etc) or a use a clean, empty spray bottle. You can really use any container with a squirt top such as a water bottle. Add food coloring to water until desired color is achieved. Send the kids outside to do temporary graffiti, practice their letters, or “paint” pictures in the snow. They will love seeing the colors bloom against the snowy white backdrop.
While some kids are content to play with the same garbage truck for months on end, most tots like a little variety. A toy swap or craft supply swap, even a temporary one, can make a great playdate activity. Everyone goes home with a “new” toy and no money is exchanged. Toy swaps are also a good basic lesson in recycling for kids. And we know it might not be the go-to fun activity, but having kids weed through their old toys is a great way to get them used to the idea of donating toys to charity (and a sneaky way to help Mom and Dad clean up). Kids will be pleased and surprised to discover some of their lost, misplaced, and forgotten toys. Getting housework that’s been on your to-do list for months and helping your little one rediscover her favorite babydoll – priceless.
“New” Old-school Board or Card Game
Whether your kids are 5 or 15, breaking out some old-school board games like Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, or checkers can be a lot of fun (and a great alternative to plopping kids in front of the tube). Now that so many games are available electronically, it’s easy to forget how much fun it is to sit at the table with a board or card game and perhaps some popcorn. Once older kids learn how to play a game, they can teach their friends and siblings. Encourage kids, especially young ones, to make up their own rules and variations. There are truly a staggering amount of card games out there beyond war and gin rummy so check out a card site like Pagat, draw on your old childhood favorites, or, better yet, ask Grandma for inspiration.
This will be a family favorite forever. Put a bowl down outside while it is snowing and let snow collect (obviously only do this somewhere where the bowl is out of reach of animals, dirt, etc). When the bowl if full, bring it inside and add splashes of milk, a little sugar or agave, and perhaps a little chocolate syrup. Another snow activity: see how long it takes for snow “clouds” to melt in hot chocolate.
Between standardized test prep and after-school activities, school-age kids often have little time to explore their interests. Help your children pick an area they want to explore-whether its turtles from the Galapagos islands, life in France, or learning how to play guitar. Then find books, documentaries, websites, brochures, and help them learn whatever they can on the subject. They can make their own travel brochures, music videos, or perhaps experiment with some new artistic techniques (abstract and pointillist styles are easy and fun for kids to attempt). They will love displaying or uploading their “projects” for their friends and family to see. Chances are, you’ll learn a lot too.
Natural and Recycled Dioramas
The trees may be bare, but nature still provides a great canvas for play no matter what the season. Weather permitting, get kids started by having them gather whatever they can find outdoors – sticks, rocks, acorn tops. Bring out some old, empty shoeboxes and create a little world inside with their newfound goodies as well as odds and ends from around the toy chest (random cars, princess figurines, and miniature ponies welcome). Decorate backdrops by cutting interesting pictures out of old magazines and newspapers. Creating a diorama will keep kids busy as they get creative on a small scale – think acorn tops as fairy bowls bowls, rocks as chairs, tiny twigs as firewood, etc.
Wall Finger Painting
If you have an enclosed shower, make it into a temporary painting room. Let kids get into old clothes and then arm them with a variety of finger paints. Kids love getting messy, and this time it’s encouraged! When they are done painting, squishing, and decorating, simply turn on the shower and wash the whole area down.