Depending on where you live, the winter months can be brutal, with temperatures so low that taking the kids outside isn’t an option unless absolutely necessary. Even if you live near an indoor amusement park or an indoor swimming pool, those can get crowded during the winter months—which is also the height of flu season!—and the entry fees and/or costs to play can add up.
On days when you’re all stuck at home, what can you do to keep the kids—and yourself—from getting cabin-fever? While letting your children watch TV or play video games for a reasonable amount of time is fun for them and gives you some time to yourself, plopping your kids in front of screens all day isn’t good for them, can trigger waves of guilt in you, and does nothing to promote your family’s bond.
The benefits of family bonding are well-established and far-reaching. Making time to communicate positively with your children can boost their self-esteem and lower the incidences of childhood depression and anxiety. Moreover, making time to establish a close bond with your children can improve their school performance, problem-solving skills, and relationships with teachers and peers.
There are many ways to spend quality time at home with our children that include bond-building communication and fun, and exclude reliance on screen time. Here are 5 fun (and cheap!) activities to do at home with your kids when it’s too cold to go outside.
At the end of the games, be sure to hand out prizes to each child whether the prizes be homemade medals or, if you can plan ahead, inexpensive pre-ordered gold medals.
- Set up an indoor campground. Bring the sleeping bags and tents up from the basement or down from the attic and turn your family room into an indoor campground. No sleeping bags or tents? No problem. Create a campground by arranging chairs in rows of two in the family room, draping a bedsheet over the chairs to create the tent, and piling pillows and blankets underneath to create a sleep area.
You can make your indoor campground as elaborate as you’d like with items you already have in your home. String Christmas lights across the top of the tent to create a starry night scene. Enjoy the glow of a campground “fire” made with paper towel tubes, tissue paper, and LED candles. Set up lawn chairs outside the tent and serve hot dogs, chips, and trail mix; play cards and board games; or do an easy craft like making beaded necklaces or braided bracelets.
Add to the camping aura by having the kids help you make indoor s’mores in the microwave, oven, skillet, or, for a more “outdoorsy” experience, over a well-ventilated sterno flame.
- Host indoor Olympic games. If you look in toy boxes and closets, you’ll probably find that you have enough games and activities at home to arrange back-to-back and create a challenging obstacle course for your kids to compete in, tantamount to a kiddie indoor Olympic course!
You can kick off the indoor “Olympic games” with an opening ceremony in which each child gets to parade onto the course to a theme song of his or her choosing. Depending on your child’s age, he or she may want to grab a favorite teddy bear to serve as his or her Olympic mascot. At the close of the opening ceremonies, get your stopwatch and scorecard ready and time your little Olympians as they compete in consecutive games of skill and physical fitness such as: a ring or beanbag toss, a mini golf course competition (a broom, a Ping Pong® ball, and a plastic cup can be used in place of a golf club, golf ball, and hole), or a ball throwing competition into boxes of decreasing sizes, with a point given per successful shot for each of these activities:
- a sack race or a boiled egg and spoon race with a demarcated finish line and points given to the first person over the finish line;
- a hula hoop competition with a point given for each second the competitors can hold up their hula hoop
- a pyramid cup-stacking race with points given to the first person to successfully stack his or her cups into a stable pyramid;
- a physical endurance competition where points are given for the number of jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups the child can do in three 30-second intervals; and
- a mad dash crabwalk to the final finish line of the indoor Olympic games.
- Send the kids off on a scavenger hunt. Staying indoors can be a blast when the kids are set off on a scavenger hunt to seek and collect common household items. The scavenger hunt can be subject to a time-limit where each child competes alone or are organized by teams to see which team collects the most items first. Print out a free indoor scavenger hunt checklist listing 40 everyday household items for seekers to find here.
- Throw a costume party. Let your kids raid Mom and Dad’s room for hats, scarves, and costume jewelry to put on a costume party. Add snacks and a tea set to make it a tea party-themed costume party. For a quick and easy costume, take out several rolls of toilet paper and wrap your kids up like mummies (without covering the nose and mouth area). For a fun competition with several family members, split the group up into teams where one person volunteers to be the mummy while the other does the wrapping. The team that can wrap up their mummy the fastest and the neatest wins.
- Hold an art show. Grab smocks for your kids and spread out watercolors and brushes, crayons, markers, and colored pencils on a table along with poster board and construction paper. Provide glue sticks and safety scissors to allow for added artistic touches. Once your little artists have created their masterpieces, hang up the artwork and host an art show complete with glasses of apple juice “champagne” and hor d’oeuvres.
Make spending a cold day at home fun and educational for you and your child with these activities and remember that carving out quality time for your child is important at any time of year, in any weather!
Dolores Smyth writes about parenting and faith. A perfect day for her includes running, reading, and spending time with her husband and three kids. Follow her on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth.This article appears in the January 2020 issue of ParentLife. For more information or to order, visit www.lifeway.com/parentlife.