Winter with kids can be tough. Short days and colder weather can keep us inside, and being cooped up too long with small kids can lead to tantrums, messes and other general destruction and mayhem. Around the middle of January is when the sheen of new holiday toys begins to wear off, and even the most patient parents can hit their limit. To help you through the next few weeks, we’re sharing 10 smart ways to keep kids engaged – and there’s not a screen in sight. (Not that we’re against screens…we just know from experience that relying on them too much to occupy kids can have a pretty ugly rebound effect…)
- Set Up A Lemonade Stand. Toddlers can help squeeze lemons, measure water and taste test. Older kids can help draw signage, pour lemonade serve customers and make change. If the weather is cold, set it up inside and text all your neighbors to stop by.
- Play Dress Up. If you don’t have a dress up bin, now’s the time to make one. Gather Halloween costumes, old costume jewelry you’re not wearing, your party hats from New Years, old sports jerseys or party dresses. Actual dress up costumes are great but getting creative is half the fun.
- Do a Popsicle Bath. This classic Busy Toddler idea is so easy and works any time of day. Kids restless? Throw them in the bath, with a popsicle. They’ll love the novelty of a popsicle in the bath, and you’ll love the calming effects of a midday soak…and not having to clean up messy popsicle spills.
- Wash Cars Big & Small. If the weather allows, we love gathering all the supplies and letting big and little kids wash Mom or Dad’s car — definitely killing two birds with one stone. Weather too cold for that? Take the kids through the car wash. And then once you’re home, gather their Hot Wheels and other vehicles into a small tub, throw in some dish soap, warm water and a sponge, and let your toddler age kids wash those, too.
- Make Snowman Hot Chocolate. Building a snowman outside is fun and then build one inside, too. All you need are pretzel sticks, marshmallows candy corn and chocolate sauce. For directions go to Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons.
- Bake Something. The possibilities are endless, but we love the Yogurt Muffin recipe from Yummy Toddler Food. You can add any mix-ins you have, and then pack the leftovers for school lunch.
- Blow Up Some Balloons. This is one of those ideas that is so simple we can’t believe we don’t do it all the time. Whether your kids are 2 or 12, blowing up a bunch of balloons and hitting them back and forth can occupy kids are longer than you think. (Just be careful with kids who are still putting things in their mouths, that that don’t eat any broken pieces of balloon.)
- Take your Dance Party Up a Notch. We haven’t seen any scientific research on this, but we’re pretty sure that 75 percent of boredom and bad behavior can be fixed through a good old fashioned dance party. Make it extra special by letting kids be the DJ, dress up in “dance outfits” (the more sparkly the better!), play freeze dance…you get the idea.
- Keep a Kindness Count. Spend an hour (or a day!) trying to do as many nice things for each other and others as you can think of, and then tally them on a board. Make and send cards to the grandparents, bring food to a pantry, and gather clothes for a shelter. You can even sign up to work with Food Rescue US help unwanted food get to those in need in your own neighborhood.
- Go Beyond Story Time. Reading to or with your kids is great, but how about acting out screens from their favorite stories? Or writing a story together with older kids (each kid takes a page and you work as a team)? Take a trip to the library and let them choose their own books, or let them write an email or snail mail message to their favorite author.
Have a blast and enjoy the screen-free time! Originally shared by The Local Moms Network!