We are in the depths of winter here in New England. This week on particular has been bone chilling. We are stuck inside for the most part. The kids are going stir crazy. So am I.
On these days, my creativity (and sanity) as a parent is tested. I don't want to give in to the computer, watching the television, or even a movie, but there are only so many books to read or board games to play. We don't have video games (though on days like this, my heart softens towards Wiis and the like), and leaving them to degenerate into conflict isn't an option, either. What to do?
The kitchen is a popular place on snow days. Boredom often leads to the desire to eat, and while that is an approach I try to combat in general, I can use it my advantage. Rather than just hand over the snacks, why not have the kids make something? From cookies to a full course meal, kids can help in the kitchen from choosing recipes to mixing to just about anything. Specifically, we like to bake bread.
Because I like to bake, I keep bread baking supplies on hand. The longer process of making and baking bread has been a good indoor activity for us - especially when each kid gets their own blob of dough to knead, and thus work out pent up energy. And fresh bread with dinner feeds not just the belly, but the desire for comfort food on these cold days.
For days when we are breaded-out, we make cookies, of course. And cakes, and gelatins, and all sorts of other things. Once we made an entire meal of appetizers. Almost any kind or type of recipe is fair game.
Arts and crafts activities
While I often cringe at the mess left behind when the kids get out the crafts supplies, this is the kind of day to let that go. But it's also the kind of day to focus the kids' craft efforts in one direction or another. There always seems to a holiday on the horizon, and searching the Internet for specific crafts related to an upcoming holiday can get you a head start. Why not get the kids moving on making Valentines for the grandparents? Or bats to decorate the house for Halloween? Is a birthday coming up? Perhaps you could start making cards or invitations for that?
Occasionally I have more advanced craft supplies at the ready. Lately we've had fun experimenting with something called discharge paste. It's a thick liquid you essentially paint on colored fabric and, after it dries, you steam iron the fabric and the dye is removed (discharged) from the area where it penetrated the fabric. While it requires a fair bit of supervision, we've had fun coming up with designs for tshirts and the like. Yes, this is the kind of thing that requires some advance preparation, but it does occupy the kids for longer stretches of that indoor day.
Yes, I said cleaning activities. Sure, the kids don't want to, but how about offering them incentive? Clean out old toys, identifying items that could be part of a yard sale in the spring...and offer the kids a cut of the proceeds for their efforts? Sure the kids may balk at some favorite old toys, but the opportunity to clean out is so appealing to me, and the idea of some extra pocket money so appealing to the kids that we manage to push through that.
Whatever you do to get through the day when you are stuck inside, the real message is to mix it up. The same activities each day aren't so exciting anymore. With a few deep breaths and letting go of the mess factor, you can get through these days - if not happily, then at least without total loss of sanity.