Fun Activities for Your Kids When It's Too Cold to Go Outside
So it’s getting too cold outside to play for too long. Sure playing in the snow or in the freezing weather can be great for a little while, but especially if you have to be out there watching them, it can get old REALLY fast. So what do you do with them when they are stuck inside?
Too many children are told to sit on the couch and watch TV, or are simply told to go to their rooms to entertain themselves. Many times kids simply don’t know what to do, find they are bored, and end up finding something else to do with their time like get into things they shouldn’t, find destructive things to do, or turn to eating, talking on the phone, playing video games that require little critical thinking or skill, or something else that provides no stimulation for their brains.
Kids will find something to do with their time. If it’s not something constructive and interesting, it will likely be something that gets them into trouble. This is the position these kids are put into in households all over the world. By providing your children with fun, entertaining, sometimes active, stimulating, and even educational activities when they have down time, or can’t go outside, you are actually giving them a leg up for the future and helping to keep them out of trouble.
Not to mention that you are giving yourself a break by providing them tons of wonderful opportunities to entertain themselves without you. And that’s always a bonus!! Let’s look at some of the engaging activities your kids could be doing.
What do you normally do on cold days with your kids?
For the More Active Child
Turn on some music and let them dance. Kids love to move and will usually do so to any upbeat music if you get them started.
If you need to put on a kids' music video, a Sing-Along, or just their favorite music CD, go for it! Dancing with them might help as well.
If getting moving every time music is put on is something you regularly encourage, they will delightfully jump into action when the tunes get started.
There are even video games on the market that challenge kids to dance in such a way to reach different goals. Not only does a game like this get your child moving, exercising, and burning calories, but it teaches perseverance, the value of hard work, and discipline.
Whatever will get them moving, put it on!
The same goes for singing. I don't know a single kid that doesn't like to sing, but it helps to have props and motivation. There are some very simple voice recorders for kids with a microphone and radio attached to encourage them to be a rockstar.
Those same sing-alongs, kids’ music videos, and music CDs, with a microphone in hand, can become their favorite game or activity.
You can encourage this as well by singing in the shower, singing while you’re driving the car, and singing simply tunes to get them to clean their rooms and take a bath.
Singing is not only a healthy practice, but it’s a good way for them to express their feelings, whether those be of excitement, happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, or anything else.
Build a Fort
Encouraging your children to use their imaginations can be not only a creative activity, but an active one, engaging all of their muscles and sense, and also one requiring critical thinking as they figure out what pieces of furniture, what pillows, and what blankets will make the best fort.
This is definitely a fun activity that can last an entire afternoon, especially if they have a friend to play with, and/or an active imagination. What’s the harm in allowing them to use all of the blankets and pillows in the house? They’re not dragging them through the dirt, not drawing on them, and not damaging them in any way.
Make it even more fun and supply them with couch cushions, cubby holes, tie straps, clips, and other great items that they can use to secure their blankets in place. This might end up being their favorite place to read, work on the computer, do their homework, take a nap, or any other activity.
Play a Video Game
There are some truly great video games that are specifically designed to get kids off of the couch and get moving. Many of the Wii games require you to swing a (pretend) baseball bat, golf club, or tennis racket. They have to paddle their canoes, shoot arrows, and move their arms to pump their bicycles.
There is also a game out there that monitors your children’s body movements, and allows them to use more of their bodies to run, skip, jump, and even dance, using their entire bodies as the remote control. And your kids will BEG you to play!
Especially when it’s cold outside, this is a great way to keep your kids involved in sports, working hard to practice their favorite games, and keep the calories (and energy levels) down. This is especially perfect for those children that have an overload of energy and need some way to get rid of it. If only I could teach my dogs to play some of these games and we’d be good!
For the More Creative Child
For those with a little less energy, but a strong need to create and/or use their imaginations in a quieter, calmer way, this is perfect! Whether you have girls, boys, or both, this can be a fun–filled, all day activity. You don’t even have to spend a great deal of money.
Every so often visit a local thrift store, or even Wal-Mart after Halloween, and you can get some great things. Scarves make great ropes, headwear, shirts, skirts, capes, etc. Shoes are great in adult sizes as kids want to be big, and therefore love trying on bigger shoes to pretend to be adults. Hats can stand-in for a variety of roles, occupations, or outfits to delight any child.
Even blankets make great dresses, capes, cloaks, etc. Just because you can’t fathom how your children will use something, that’s the great thing about imaginations. Kids can take an item as simple as a sock and suddenly have an item to fill a thousand different roles.
Provide the props, and make sure to throw in eye patches, pillow cases, microphones, costume jewelry, plastic swords, and any other items you can think of, and you’ve got an activity better than any movie ever created. Be prepared for a few plays in your future as your children will want to show you all they created.
At least plays won’t need to go on the refrigerator, but these creations probably will. I highly recommend, when choosing paints for your household, that you specifically choose water colors, or some other medium that is washable. Crayons won’t likely damage anything, washable markers are great, Crayola washable finger paints are wonderful, and even chalk and pencils are safe.
The biggest mistake you can make here is not paying attention to this simple warning because the likelihood that something will become an art project that shouldn’t (like the wall, the carpet, or the couch) is very great. But with the right tools, your kids can be artists, and express themselves in any way they want, to their hearts’ content.
Old printer paper, newspaper, receipts, spiral paper, and even junk mail become opportunities for art. And your children will love seeing their wonderful creations all over the house. You’ll probably want to set some limits on how to use (and not waste) the paper you are giving them, and how many (and where) you will display at any given time. With a few rules, this will be something they come back to day in and day out, regardless of the weather outside.
Play with Clay
This is another magical activity that delights children of all ages (like my husband and I). The kicker here is providing children with a medium that is safe for consumption. Not that you will be encouraging them, or allowing them, to eat their clay, it’s inevitable with kids as they are exploring their environments.
The best way to prepare for this is to make your own, so that is safe if it happens to be consumed (not that it will taste good though). This way you know what’s in it, and won’t be quite so worried if your little one happens to eat a little bit.
If you get involved, especially when they’re first learning how to use it, and really show them what they can do with their clay, they will exceed your expectations, and even impress you, quickly.
For the More Thoughtful Child Needing a Challenge
Read a Book
Please don’t skip over this if you have a child that “can’t read.” Just because your little one is 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 years old doesn’t mean that they cannot and will not benefit greatly from this activity.
Have you ever heard of a program called Your Baby Can Read? I’m not suggesting that you have to purchase an expensive reading program to help your child in this area. I just want to illuminate the key to programs such as these. Obviously you want to provide appropriate leveled reading for your kids, but what do you do for toddlers? The key to the program aforementioned is just words and corresponding pictures.
Whether on flashcards, in books, on DVDs, or in matching games, the makers simply give the child a word, such as nose, and then give them a corresponding picture of a nose. Kids learn through association what those words are, and therefore can “read.”
Grab simple books such as these from thrift stores, from eBay or Amazon (for super cheap), or even off of Facebook, and you have appropriate leveled books that will excite, interest, and delight your child for hours. Every child wants to know how to read, and the success is addictive.
So books aren’t your thing. Consider providing your little ones with books on tape, where their favorite books are read to them with a corresponding tape or CD. Buy them headphones and voila! If you are super creative, you can even record your own tapes or CDs for your children, so it’s your voice they hear when they are listening to their books.
Play with Puzzles
Regardless of what age your children are, puzzles require patience, perseverance, critical thinking, and all sorts of other wonderful character traits that you want your children to develop. This is a great way for them to use extra time that needs to be filled in a strategic, but creative way.
Puzzles start with the basic pieces in specific places with knobs for small ones to place the shapes, animals, colors, etc. in the right places. They also come in traditional style in 10 pieces, 15, 20, 30, 35, 50, 75, 100, 200, 350, 500, 750, 1000, and even more pieces to fit just the right age, ability level and interest level.
And they don’t always have to be landscapes and flowers. There are puzzles with Ninja Turtles on them, anime, princesses, and even more fun backgrounds. You can even have puzzles created (or create your own) using pictures of family, friends, and loved ones.
Even the most active child can learn how to calm down and control themselves long enough to focus on completing a puzzle. It might take a few times to get all the way through one puzzle at first, but the more controlled they get, the longer they will be able to work independently. What a great thing to learn!
Work on the Computer
Finally, working on the computer can be a fun, exciting AND educational activity as well. The biggest warning here is making sure that your children’s internet access is limited. Put parental safeguards up to protect them from areas they shouldn’t be surfing.
When getting outside, being active, and being social with other children is an option, you’ll obviously want to limit their computer time or else they’ll want to be on it all the time. But when outside is not an option, this is a great way to spend this extra time.
For super little ones, there are perfectly good websites and computer programs designed specifically for them. For toddlers (ages 1-5), I have fallen absolutely in love with ABCmouse.com. True, it comes with a little bit of a cost, but definitely less than that Netflix you’re paying for so they can sit in front of the television.
ABCya.com is a leader in free educational kids computer games and activities for elementary students to learn on the web, along with www.starfall.com, www.funbrain.com, www.leapfrog.com, www.e-learningforkids.org, and www.knowledgeadventure.com.
These types of website are available for kids of all ages as well, from 1 year old through high school aged kids. In my classroom, I provided computers, headphones (3 for $1), and a list of approved websites they could visit, even for research. They had a determined amount of time throughout the day when they could be on the computer, and only at certain periods throughout the day.
They quickly got used to the schedule, and even began requesting new websites (that I would research first before adding to the list). They loved it!!
Whether you know it or not, in all of these activities, you are using brain cells they may not have used otherwise, stimulating their brains to think on their own, use critical thinking skills, and be more creative individuals. Independent play teaches children patience, problem-solving, perseverance, determination, and best of all, how to entertain themselves.
All of these skills will be invaluable in the future, and you’ll think back on these days and be thankful that you took the time to offer them these opportunities. By no means is this an exhaustive list of all of the wonderful activities your children can be doing when stuck inside, but it should at least give you plenty of ideas to interest, excite and motivate you and your kids to come up with even more fun things to do.
All of these are intended to be appropriate for kids to do independently. They may need some guidance at first to get going, get motivated and get creative, but once they get started, the sky is the limit. At any point in time, if you are able to get involved and do some of these activities with your kids, they will only be that much more beneficial and the skills and character traits they are learning will be that much more ingrained.
Your kids should be enjoying their time as kids. Why not also make this time educational?
© 2013 Victoria Van Ness