Here in the North East, the weather is telling us winter is coming soon. It got cold fast. Not so cold that we still can’t be outside…but cold enough to know the day is coming when we’ll all be trapped inside. I’m a huge fan of limiting TV. My daughter watches DVD in the morning while she eats her breakfast and I check email. Then she gets the DVR in the early evening while I’m cooking dinner. Normally, we’re out and about in those hours in between. But with winter coming, what can we do when we are stuck inside? And I’m sure you’re wondering the same thing too.
“Mom, can I watch a movie?”
This is how I woke up this morning. A cute little four-year-old face, inches away from mine, asking to be entertained by major Hollywood corporations.
I don’t have a problem with TV or movies — we watch them occasionally. But I believe that they are FAR too often used as the default choice of leisure time for children.They can easily suck away imagination, energy, and the innocence of our kids, and a few hours of distraction just isn’t worth that, in my opinion.
But during these dog days of summer, it’s also hard to shoo your kids outside — at least if you live in a climate like ours, where the norm is 100+ degrees fahrenheit daily. Unfortunately, it’s just not safe to let kids sweat in this brutal heat for hours at a time.
So what’s a parent to do? Not much. But there’s plenty that children can do indoors on their own — without touching a remote. Here are a few ideas.
1. Read a book.
This is a go-to favorite in our family. Our library is right in our living room, available for access any time of day. Our kids know they can pull a book off the shelves at any time and enjoy, even though they can’t read on their own yet. And don’t forget about your public library.
2. Write a book.
Photo by nd.strupler
Even if your kids aren’t writing fluently yet, they can still compose literature on their own. Create a collection of blank books, and let your kids illustrate a story. Later, you can write the words for them as they dictate them to you, or they can sound out the words phonetically and write the story on their own. These books will make great keepsakes later.
3. Act out a book.
Does your child have a perennial favorite book? Have her act it out — the plot may take a unique turn, all her own. While I was making breakfast, my daughter said, “Mom, right now I’m going on a walk at half past nine.”
4. Listen to a book.
Audible Kids has a great selection of quality literature for children. Download a few to your mp3 player, and either give your child some headphones, or play the book over speakers while they play quietly.
5. Make an indoor clubhouse.
Corey wrote a great column on how to build a blanket fort. Get your child started, and see how else they architect a little place of their own.
6. Perform a puppet show or play.
Photo from Make and Takes
Hopefully you have a collection of hand-me-down clothes and thrift store finds in a dress-up box for your kids. They can use these to create costumes for a play, with you as the audience. Or they can let their stuffed animals star as puppets, and hide behind the couch for a dramatic reenactment starring their pretend friends.
You can also make a simple puppet show theater with a spring-loaded curtain rod and a piece of fabric in a doorway.
7. Have an indoor picnic or tea party.
Lay out an outdoor tablecloth on the floor, and enjoy lunch together down there. Kids think it’s a big treat to do the everyday in a special place, and the floor is one of those places. Or brew up some warm tea (my daughter’s favorite is blackberry), and have a little tea time in cups with saucers, alongside crackers or sweet bread for an afternoon treat. This is best done during baby’s naptime.
8. Make homemade play-doh.
Play-doh made from scratch is incredibly easy, and you can make an endless array of colors with basic food dye. Plus, it doesn’t have that awful commercial-brand smell. Spread the outdoor tablecloth on the floor, and give them dull knives, a rolling pin, and some cookie cutters.
9. Help with chores.
Many younger kids think it’s a blast to help Mom with the chores — but even if they don’t think it’s fun, it’s good for them to do chores anyway. It teaches kids that running the house is a family effort, and that life involves work (and things we don’t always enjoy doing). I’ve recently updated our family’s preschool chore chart on the downloads page.
10. Save up those TP rolls and wad up your socks.
Arrange TP rolls like bowling pins on one end of the hall. Stock up a few balled-up socks on the other. Bowl or throw at the “pins,” and you’ve got an indoor bowling alley. There’s tons of other crafts you can do with toilet paper rolls, too.
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