Plenty of parents do the happy dance when they whisk their children back to school after the holidays. Moms whose children stay with them all the time may be wringing their hands at this point, though, trying to creatively keep their kids occupied and not begging to play games on electronic devices.
Depending on the age of your children, inside activities may be the order of the day when it's cold outside. To help you stay sane and create some really fun memories, here are some ideas from other moms you might want to try.
-Jell-O eruptions: One mom presented her kids with a challenge. She gave them Jell-O packets with sweetened, colored gelatin and let them add anything else they needed to make sparkly, fizzing explosions. They knew the Jell-O powder wouldn't react explosively with anything, so they added baking soda and sparkles. They also knew that vinegar or lemon juice reacts with baking soda, making their concoction bubble to the top, getting the eruption/explosion they wanted. As a result, they decided to mix all their dry ingredients together first and then add the vinegar or lemon juice for a better effect.
-Homemade ice cream: Sometimes when it's cold outside, it's fun to pretend it's not. Crank up the heat a little, put on some shorts and let your kids make homemade no-churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream. Here's what you'll need: 20 Oreos or similar cookies, 15 chocolate chip cookies, 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon blue food coloring, 1 tablespoon vanilla and 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk. Put 15 Oreos and 10 chocolate chip cookies in a plastic bag, and break them into chunks. Set aside. Whip heavy cream, food coloring and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Beat in condensed milk until color is uniform. Add additional food coloring if needed. Fold in broken cookies, and transfer to loaf pan. Break up all remaining cookies, and use to decorate top of pan. Place in freezer for at least 5 hours and then enjoy! This is a great activity to practice counting, naming colors, measuring specific amounts and talking about the difference in the way we measure liquid and dry ingredients — all in the midst of doing something fun.
-Household miscellany challenge: Present your children with some random things you have around the house such as a box (shoebox, shipping box, shirt boxes, etc), unused paint stir sticks, newspaper, tape, popsicle sticks, paper plates, paper cups, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and whatever else you can find. Then challenge them to create something.
-Everyday fun: Need more ideas? Break out the play dough or board/card games. Build a fort inside the house, or have a contest doing something fun like dancing, singing or cooking. Think of some things you enjoyed or wanted to do as a kid and recreate the experience for your kids. Ask other parents what they do, or plan a craft you've been wanting to try but haven't yet. You might even do a quick online search for fresh ideas or inside activities using items you already have in your home.
-Start with a box: If you've ever seen a child spend hours playing with a box, you know just how creative they can be. Imagine what kids can do with just a little direction here and there. Some kids will jump right in to a new activity while others balk at leaving electronics behind. But chances are, whatever you plan for them will satisfy and stimulate them way more than staring at a screen ever will. Plus, they'll remember it longer, too.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.