The little ones are cranky or fighting or getting under your feet, and you’re limiting their screen time. It’s time to get creative with items found around the house.
Have a hobby? Share it with a DYI “starter kit.” Toss a pair of your knitting needles and leftover yarn into a gift bag along with downloaded instructions for some basic stitches. Don’t forget how-to videos are easy to find for all ages when they get stuck, including a stuffed cat project by an eight-year-old beginning knitter.
FYI, old tights and stockings can be cut up to make great stuffing if they want to make a small stuffed animal. Bonus points? Knitting engages both sides of the brain and helps develop patience, concentration, and fine motor skills. No needles? String, yarn and embroidery floss can be used to make one-of-a -kind friendship bracelets. Old clothes or sweaters can be cut down into squares to create a sewing project such as a doll quilt, a simple hat or a cat toy. Add a sewing kit – a few needles and a spool of thread or a hotel bathroom freebie, and download some easy stitches.
If you paint or draw, gather some brushes or charcoal pencils with a few sheets of paper and a tube of paint. Include a photo or an image you’ve created as an inspiration. No art supplies? Paper and scissors can create silhouettes and any square of paper can become origami. A little online research into the history of the silhouette or a set of simple folding projects can be the inspiration for their crafts.
Getting back to string, tie 40 inches of string together to make a loop and introduce your kids to Cat’s Cradle. Generations of children grew up learning the many cradle games, and there are solo versions, too.
Inspire a creative writer! Paper, pen and a few old photographs – yes, you still have them lying around, can be the impetus for a wonderful story. Suggest they concoct a tale that connects the people and places in the photos into one story or let them pick one person to write about. Encourage them to look at the clothes and the background for clues about the person to give them inspiration.
You can make a game out of anything! Author Sharla Feldshur has lots of ideas for beating the winter doldrums or a day stuck inside in her latest activity book, KIDFUN:401 Easy Ideas for Play. Her easiest suggestion, “Keep a bag of balloons handy, they’re good for all sorts of diversions.” Tie a string “net” between two chairs and play volleyball with a small balloon. Use paper plates for rackets and make the balloon the birdie for indoor badminton.
Kitchen pool is another easy game. Tape paper cups or open envelopes to the corners of a table and use drinking straws as cue sticks to sink drink caps or beans into the “pockets.”
Another suggestion from Sharla, fun with flashlights! A flashlight and paper plates or cardboard can become shadow creatures on a dark room’s ceiling. Cut out shapes to recreate a favorite story, mount them on pencils, chopsticks or straws, and launch your own theater company. No scissors? Challenge the kids to see who can make the best hand shadow animals, from the easiest bird or bunny to a spider or dog. You can find simple examples online to get you started. Drama4Kids.com has an easy chart to follow, along with other creative play ideas.
Every kid likes to play dress up. Gather up old hats and scarves, shoes and accessories with notes of where and when they were first worn and who wore them. Add safety pins to let older kids try their hand at designing outfits with draped and pinned scarves and clothes.
Finally, an easy activity “gift” you can all do? Create redeemable coupon gift certificates for fun or household jobs. Offer kids one extra hour of gaming or a trip to the park, an extra story, or an extra hour before bedtime. Your kids could offer an extra turn at dishwashing, a computer or TV remote tutorial, or an hour of babysitting. Make enough and you can treat them as ‘trading cards’ to swap or to use as prizes in card or board game competitions.