Days stuck indoors due to weather, illness or transportation issues can drive parents and children to climb the walls. There are only so many times you can deal with the same movies, puzzles and books. Even coloring books and other standard projects can get old quickly if you are stuck indoors for an extended period. Here are some games and activities that always do the trick with my two toddlers.
Color, Shape or Animal Match
I often will start clean up time or the start of quiet time by playing a match game. I will ask one of my children to find things that are a particular color. I will have my other child go find things of a different color or specific animal in the play area. They bring me what they find, we count and then each child is given a new type of item to hunt for, or sent to look for more of the same. Usually I send my three year old in hunt of a specific number of a certain color, while my one year old hunts for rabbits or bears. They both enjoy the scavenger hunt and the counting of their finds. They feel accomplished and we strengthen their skills in counting and recognition or colors, shapes and animals.
Use your furniture and a blanket or two to make a tent or a fort in your living room. Bring in some flashlights, pillows and treats. You can read books, tell stories, and sing songs that go along with the camping theme such as Going on a Bear Hunt, Ants Go Marching and Hole in the Bottom of the Sea. Depending of the age of your children and how much sugar you are willing to let them eat s’mores made in the microwave can add a special something to the experience. If that is too much sugar for you then try doing this at lunch time and having hot dogs or other camp food for your meal. Continuing the game through quiet or naptime can easily be done simply by including sleeping bags or extra blankets.
My house is full of musical instruments intended for children and adults, but you do not need to have real musical instruments to have musical fun. An empty oatmeal canister can make a great drum, or use a pan and wooden spoon. A shoebox with a hole cut in the lid and some elastic bands make a child friendly guitar. A bottle or box sealed with dried beans, rice or pasta inside makes a great maraca. You can march with the kids, join in the song and even record it to share with friends and family. They will be so proud to share a recording or play their instruments live for a captive audience.
A stand by activity for days when the kids are sick, bored, or just listless but not acting out I have made a set of sensory bottles. Simply shaking, turning and twisting these bottles can entertain my two toddlers for quite a while. I’ve seen these in several daycare and preschool settings, and copied them for home. They are simple and easy to make. All you need is four clean water, soda or juice bottles. For a bottle that make looks like a lava lamp when moved simply fill half the bottle with oil and the rest with water and a little bit of food coloring. Glue on the cap. For snow globe effects fill a bottle half full with corn syrup, then add glitter, paper clips and beads. Finish filling the bottle with water. Glue on the cap. For a dancing yarn cut two inch strand of different colored yarn and put them inside a bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Glue on the cap. For a colorful bubble bottle add one third cup of dish detergent, two teaspoons of tempera paint, and then water to finish filling the bottle. Glue on the cap. After the caps are completely secure let the children have them, they will be fascinated.