We’ve got ice here in Nashville, and the local forecasts say the freezing temperatures won’t be going away anytime soon. So, we’re facing a few days of no school, maybe no driving, and limited outdoor time.
After you’ve bundled up and gone on an icicle hunt, excavated the toys in the backyard that got covered with a sheet of ice, tried to ‘sled’ down the hill closest to your house, and stomped in a few ice puddles, here are some ideas for indoor play while we wait for the ice to melt!
Bring the Elements Indoors
Supplies needed: bucket or bin, stuff you find outside, a bathtub or large sink
When the icy drizzle prevents prolonged outdoor play, let your kids explore the wintry effects in your bath tub. All you need is a few minutes outdoors collecting whatever you think is interesting. Then pop the bucket of stuff in the tub and let the kids check it out. I put the plug in the drain so no sticks went down it, told the boys that everything had to stay in the tub, and told them that icicles were ok to eat (but to refrain from tasting the sticks).
Our first bucket was full of ice-covered branches, twigs, and icicles of all sizes. We checked out a bowl of slushy ice earlier at breakfast. Ideally, you could get some ‘sheets’ of ice off the ground or tubs full of snow.
Mama’s role: Collector of outdoor artifacts then sip that coffee, read a book, and let them explore.
Go on a Toy Hunt
Supplies needed: basket or bin. Add flashlight(s) if you want to go all out
This is one of my favorite things to do with the kids when I’ve run out of ideas—probably because it combines a useful task with fun. Tell your kids you’re going on a toy hunt. Grab a bucket or bin and a flashlight or two if you feel fancy and pick the room you want to tackle first. Today, I slid out the boys’ heavy wardrobe from the corner of the room, and they were delighted to find the rich bounty of toys long forgotten back there. You can search under chairs and couches, behind big furniture, under seat cushions, inside drawers. It’s a win-win: you get the satisfaction of cleaning out clutter, and your kids get to play with reclaimed items.
Today we found duplos, a jet, a train, and a bunch of other random toys behind the wardrobe. The boys were most excited about the three size 4 diapers they found. We’re getting ready to welcome a third baby into our family this summer, and the boys were super excited to learn how to diaper their bear and dolls. The toy hunt basically led to an hour of activities and play—and a corner free of dust collectors!
Mama’s role: Furniture mover and supervisor of returning found items to their homes.
Supplies needed: ‘treasure,’ paper, markers
My friend, Cat, sent pictures for this fantastic idea. Stash a ‘treasure’ somewhere—a toy or plant or ‘prisoner’ (like a doll your kid needs to ‘rescue’). Make a map of your house, and mark the hidden treasure with an X. So easy, but it can be scaled up or down in so many ways. You can start with just a map of a room and then gradually add rooms. You can add several treasures to find. Think of all the map reading skills you can practice! Older kids can draw maps and hide things for each other or you. You could draw one good map of your house and then make copies or put the map in a plastic sheet protector and use a marker on the plastic to reuse the same map.
Mama’s role: Treasure hider and map maker for younger folks, less involved once kids get the idea.
Supplies needed: pillows, blankets
If indoor forts aren’t enough to get the wiggles out, make a pile of padding, remove any hard objects, and let the kids jump. At first I told them to take turns so they didn’t knock heads, but they quickly discovered that they could jump parallel to each other without injury. Great. Jump away. I thought about bringing a stool in to let them really get some air but decided against it for fear of a swan-dive neck injury.
Mama’s role: Help collect pillows. Jump if you want. Stay nearby to make sure things don’t go south too quickly.
Supplies needed: internet connection
My friend, Brooke, shared this awesome online resource with me. Go Noodle is a site full of indoor brain breaks. After you create a profile as a parent (takes about 2 minutes), you can find short videos of all kinds of active play. The one I stumbled on first was a little man teaching how to walk on a tightrope. Awesome!
Mama’s role: You might consider doing the activities with your child the first few times. Eventually, your kid will follow along on his/her own, and you can sip on that steamy beverage.
Tape Up the Floor
Supplies needed: masking or painter’s tape, toys (like cars or planes, depending on what you tape)
My friend, Kathleen, suggested making roads with masking tape. She incorporated her son’s train set and let him have at it. My friend, Jonathan, added that his wife uses painter’s tape because it comes up so easily. You could make roads, train tracks, or mazes…
You could practice those tight rope walking skills you learned on Go Noodle by taping a straight line or make an all out Montessori-inspired lesson of Walking on the Line. Or, you could make an indoor hopscotch game for some quality energy burning!
Mama’s role: Set out the tape and some vehicles (just a few—I’d let the kids think about what other toys would make sense and maybe encourage them to construct a whole town). If walking the line, you’ll need to demonstrate. If playing hopscotch, you might need to join in to explain how to play the game. Add a stuffed animal to throw instead of a rock, or roll dice to figure out which squares to skip.
Supplies needed: paper, maybe tape
Paper airplanes are fantastic because they are fun at almost every developmental level. Crawlers and toddlers can chase them down, little kids can figure out how to hold and fly them (small motor muscle strengthening), and older kids can learn new techniques for folding them. Plus, you can turn it into a slew of math activities by measuring how far the planes fly and recording the models that fly the farthest. My husband loves to fold paper airplanes for the boys and gets into it a little more than they do. Here are some free folding templates if you’re looking for some new ideas.
Mama’s role: Fold a few airplanes and demonstrate how to throw. Maybe print out some new templates to compare different models.
Get the Pool or Tent Out of Storage
Supplies needed: kiddie pool or tent, balls, books, toys, etc.
If you need a break from little legs chasing down airplanes, create a little nook for your little one. Shannon wrote an awesome post about four new ways to use a kiddie pool—or you could set up your camping tent if your summer pool didn’t make it past August this year!
Mama’s role: Create the nook you want and then rotate items as needed.
Teach a New Skill (Sewing)
Supplies needed: needle and thread, button, and scrap fabric or mending project
My boys love to help me sew things back together—like the torn ear of the elephant or the hole in the teddy bear. Last week, Franklin helped me sew together his doctor costume that was splitting down the seam in the back. I usually push the needle in and then let the kids pull it out or put my thumbs close together to show them where to insert the needle after I’ve demonstrated a few times. If you have some extra buttons and scraps, put those little fingers to work! Obviously, needles are sharp, so you need to keep an eye on your little workers. I’ve found that they stay engaged with a ‘real’ task like this much longer than using plastic (‘safe’) needles and large yarn. Just make sure to teach them how to respect and use the tools properly!
Mama’s role: Active participant and vigilant eye, but you get to knock off one of those projects that was waiting to be done!
Learn a New Skill (Piano or Guitar)
Supplies needed: piano, guitar, or any other musical instrument you have
My son is learning to play piano under the tutelage of local teacher, Cristina Marie. Watching him pick up the basics of music theory has been awesome and inspiring. If you don’t know how to read music, give yourself a little tutorial, and then lead a sing a long. I can read music, but I just found this awesome “cluster chord” video for C, F, and G (with which you can play most kid songs!). If you have a guitar, you can learn the same three chords using a chord chart. Once you’ve got C and G down, pluck or strum while you sing Apples and Bananas or Five Little Monkeys with your little friends. Kids rarely get the opportunity to watch us learn, so challenge yourself, and show them where a little dedication and practice can take you!
Mama’s role: Active learner. Go get ’em, Tiger!
Prep for your Next Outdoor Excursion
Supplies needed: balloons, maple syrup, fruit juice and popsicle molds, bubbles, etc.
My friend, Brooke, suggested doing some simple science experiments and activities like freezing water balloons when the weather is below 32 degrees. Last year, we made juice popsicles and tried freezing bubbles with moderate success. Here are several cold weather experiments you can try.
Mama’s role: Supervisor and chief scientist.
Make an Air Fort
Supplies needed: sheet, packing tape, and a fan
My friend, Kathleen, suggested making an air fort. Here’s a tutorial on how to set it up (obviously, make sure you watch little fingers around the fan!). I can’t wait to hear how Kathleen’s turned out.
Mama’s role: Set-up coordinator and then vigilant eyes around the fan.