Saturday, March 8, 2014

5 Easy Ideas for Stay-at-Home Fun

I can't stand the feeling of being stuck in the house. Whether it's a rainy day, or a sick day for one of my boys, or a school holiday with no plans. (Hello, a whole week of Spring Break!) Being in the house all day makes me really antsy. I want to get out and go on adventures!

My boys however, sometimes really, really like to just simply stay home. To them the idea of just getting dressed and getting in the car is too much of a chore. So when it's a lazy day and there is no place we HAVE to be, I slow down and try to relax about staying put in the house.

But in order to stay calm, minimize the fighting and wrestling (did I mention I have three boys?), and limit screen time (we can't watch TV all day!), I have a few tried-and-true easy activities to break up the monotony of stay-at-home days. Sure the boys have a thousand toys to play with, and of course we take time to read every day, but sometimes even with all of that, they need a few activities throughout the day to keep going in a peaceful manner (because somehow everything really ends in fighting). None of these are mind-blowingly original, but the bonus is that they require very little effort, planning, or supplies. Because really, if the boys get a lazy day, so should mom.

1. Scavenger Hunt

This is so simple and easy and never seems to get old in my house. Make a list of items you have in your home and let the kids go around the house finding them and checking them off the list. The longer your list, the longer they'll be busy with this. I should also note that this works well in our house because my oldest is 8 years old and can read. If you've got little ones, you'll need to go along with them and read the checklist for them. That doesn't give you a break, but it gives you a simple game to do together. 

2. Water "Paint"
Oh paint, I have a love/hate relationship with you. Why must you get under those tiny fingernails and all over those clothes? If you're seeking something with less mess than paint, just pull out brushes and water and let the kids "paint" on a chalkboard or any concrete surface, such as the sidewalk (or in our case, the front porch). I like to keep brushes and rollers of all sizes in the house. In addition to regular brushes, you can try mini rollers from the dollar store, sponges,  Q-tips, cotton balls, etc. No clean up required -- except maybe a change of clothes. But chances are we were still in our PJs anyway (or like today, the Peter Pan costume over the jammies).

3.  Making Cards
Thanks to Facebook, lots of far-away friends and family know what we're up to with every photo I post. But doesn't everyone love to get a card in the mail -- especially just a "thinking of you" card? Pull out the paper, crayons, markers, or whatever you wish and let the kids create something to send to Grandma or whomever your child is thinking of that day. Sometimes we write out notes for our favorite librarian or our sweet mailman (shout out to Ms. Elizabeth and Norman!). If you know yourself well enough that you think getting a card all the way to the post office to mail is too much of a hassle, have them create something for a neighbor or a teacher who you will see in person.

Cards for March: Want an easy idea for a Saint Patrick's Day card? This takes very little effort, but does require a tiny bit of paint. Take a bell pepper and slice it in half. Dip it in green paint to make shamrock prints, and you've got yourself some cute cards for this March holiday. No luck of the Irish required.

4. Playing with your Food
I know lots of mamas take advantage of rainy days to bake with their kids. Sometimes I do this. But sometimes getting all of those little fingers in the kitchen fighting over who gets to stir is more than I am up for. But there is always fun to be had in the kitchen.
  • Beans, Pasta & Salt: I love to pull out dried beans and pasta for them to make collages with. Go to town with the glue! But sometimes we also do sensory-type tables. The kids like having baking pans full of coarse salt that they can write in with their fingers -- or even drive cars in for the youngest.
  • Cooked Spaghetti: You can also cook up a big batch of spaghetti, mix it with a small amount of oil, and put it in a big tub (like the big plastic bins you keep sweaters in under the bed). Give the kids big spoons and forks or throw in tiny toys for them to fish out. If you think they will be too tempted to eat it, cook a little extra and put it aside for afterwards. And of course, this activity is just perfect for pairing with More Spaghetti, I Say! by Rita Golden Gelman for a little story time before or after they play.

  • Marshmallows and Toothpicks: See what kinds of towers or snowmen, or other sticky creations the kids can create with these items. Yum, edible tinker toys.
  • Berries: I admit that this might be too messy depending on your level of interest and patience. But if you have any raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries that are over-ripe, let the kids smash them and paint with them on paper. Of course, with this, you need to be more careful about staining, but the novelty of using berries is fun for the boys. See my old related post Jamtastic Bears. 
5. "Awesome or Weird?" Dance Party
If weather really keeps us stuck in the house, my kids (and I) need to work off some energy. My favorite way to do so is my an impromptu dance party. Without telling them ahead of time or trying to get their buy-in, I just put on some music really loudly and start dancing. They can't help but join in after a few minutes. Recently my kids came up with their own game which they call "Awesome or Weird?" in which they take turns doing a creative dance move as their siblings judge whether this new move is "awesome" or "weird". It's terrific. Surprisingly, they are generally really complimentary and supportive of each other's interesting moves. (It's mine that are often pegged as "weird".) Phrase it however you wish in your own home, but the creativity in this game brings the average dance party up to new levels of fun.

I am sure you've got your own tricks up your sleeve. And I hope you share them in the comments! With summer not too far ahead, I am already trying to take note of new things to do when days are too HOT to want to go out on adventures. 

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