Kids Safe Rainy Day Family Room Activity "Houseboats"
The pretend activity of "Houseboats" is totally free and safe inside your home. It involves using furniture, blankets, and toys to create a new world and role play. As with so many activities for preschoolers and early elementary age children, much of the time will be spent in organizing the structure and deciding rules, limits, and power hierarchy. This type of playing is safe, relatively quiet, and powered by the imagination. If you "listen in" to your children from another room, your heart will be warmed by what they create and how they do it.
You may already have one of these around the house: a sofa which is not super fancy and not "just for company." In the photo above, all eight cushions are removable. If you have a couch with some cushions permanently attached to the frame, bed pillows or cushions from a chair could be used to supplement the supply.
The idea is to use the cushions as building blocks for walls, ceilings, doors, and decks. In many ways, it is like LegosTM. Pillows can also be flagstaffs or telescopes or anything imaginable. The floor is the pretend water. So, much of the fun is figuring out how to move about without touching the floor.
A place to hide and dream and play
One the absolute charms of this activity is that the child creates a secret space of her own. it has hide-ability behind the walls and is KID-sized. A five-year-old can curl up completely behind a single cushion, whereas an adult will stick out. There is ultimate flexibility in what can be made and the cushions are light enough that no help from adults is needed. However, children may need a "kid buddy" to help hold one cushion in place while trying to put a roof piece on top. And this fosters cooperation, one of those skills we want our progeny to learn! Also, as the children are manipulating the cushions, they learn how much of one block will need to rest on another to prevent falling. They learn about gravity, mass, and domino effect. BONUS POINTS: This is called "physics" in college!
How more beautiful can it get? If a cushion falls on a child, it is soft and light enough that no one is the least bit injured. Cushions falling onto each other, the couch frame, or the floor will not cause property damage. Make sure your children clearly understand what rules you have about jumping or not jumping and where and how each is permitted. With those rules and as long as the floor is clean (enough) and nothing is being thrown, no one is being wrapped up over nose and mouth, etc., this is safe, safe, safe.
Of course, check in as frequently as you must to keep it safe!
A special and secret place
Kids need to create
Children need to create. It is so strong a need within them, that they may spend their entire playtime building and then undoing their houseboat to redesign a new one. This is as wonderful a type of play as is using the houseboat to act out a story.
Playing houseboats with my sister and brothers whiled away many an enjoyable afternoon for me in my childhood. I passed it along to my sons and it was equally great for them. Now I try to teach my nieces and any other child who lives in a relaxed enough home to handle sofa transformation. I hope it will be a special activity for your children, too.
Wouldn't it be nice to be a child again, just to play houseboats?
Photos and text copyright 2008 Maren E. Morgan
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