Have fun indoors with kids despite rain or snow!
It’s winter again, and north of the Mason Dixon line (and in some places south of it), that means the kids are stuck indoors for a majority of the time. It also means bigger messes, bigger temper tantrums, bigger fights, kids who are never sleepy, and a generally increased grumpiness that usually facilitates more screen time and parental yelling. All of this leads to moms with more guilt than normal hanging over their heads. Grumpy kids and grumpy, guilty parents isn’t a great combination. Parenting is hard no matter how you slice it, but somehow, the outdoors makes it all so much easier to bear. There is all this free space for kids to run, the grass offers padding for all the falling and rough-housing, and they can yell as loudly as they want without the sound being amplified by bouncing off your four walls. The outdoors requires no planning and no creativity of any sort from the parentals. If the kids are starting to fight, send them outside. If they’re getting into your hair, send them outside. If they’re making a mess, send them outside. If you’re hearing “I’m bored” on repeat, send them outside. And you don’t even have to have toys out there for Mother Nature to work her magic. We have a swings and a whole bunch of outdoor toys now, but we didn’t always have those and my kids were just as pleased by some rocks, leaves, and bushes as they are with the toys. Then the months of November through February march through and suddenly all that energy is regularly cooped up underneath the boundary of ceilings and square footage and everyone gets a little wonky. There is no real substitute for the great outdoors, but there are some tricks that can help your kids use up their energy constructively rather than destructively undoing your not quite clean house and tearing down each other.
Bring on the wheels!
If you have any rooms without carpeting, then allowing some wheeled toys into the house might be a great idea. Bring inside all of those outdoor toys with wheels like little tricycles, toddler scooters, roller skates, and skateboards and let the kids roll up and down your hall, in your basement, or in any other largish space you have. If you can’t stand the idea of wheels all over your house every day, then make this a once a week thing saved for the crankiest days. If you have to move any furniture aside to make space, go for it. I mean, who cares about Feng Shui if you have grumpy, quarrelsome kids with too much energy?
Toys that MOVE them
Toys with wheels aren’t the only toys that get kids moving. We pull in our little plastic sit-n-spin, and our plastic slide when the kids need to get some extra energy out. Those aren’t toys that I keep in the house all the time (especially since we have a small house), but the novelty of them once in awhile is enough to really get the kids excited and focused on the “new” toys for at least an hour while I get some peace and quiet for locked in my room watching Netflix catching up on my to do list. There are lots of other options for getting kids moving, too. We have these monster feet stilts on strings that my kids enjoy walking around on (and can be an easy DIY craft with two identical tin cans and some twine), and I’ve spied lots of awesome kids gym type toys on Amazon: things like giant foam cubes, cones, and cylinders; plastic tops large enough for kids to fit inside, rubber river stones, a “teeter popper” that can be used in all sorts of body moving ways and has suction cups on the bottom that make fantastic popping noises, and a funny little plastic half-sphere called “Moluk Bilibo that can be used as a top, a chair, a mountain, a container, and anything else you kid can conjure up with that budding imagination of theirs. Of course, you don’t have to spend money. Check out some of my other ideas…
I know, I’m bringing a lot of the outdoors indoors with this list, but go with me here. Grab all the sidewalk chalk and tape a giant swath of butcher paper to the floor or the table and let the kids draw inside the way they love drawing outside. Yes, this may end up being a bit messy, but chalk washes up easily and it’s non-toxic. Besides, if they do use it to color on the floors and the walls, just give them some buckets of water and some washcloths or dry paintbrushes and let them “paint” the mess away.
I know all my talk of plastic tops, foam shapes, and rubber river stones was exciting, but what if you’re like me and you can’t afford to spend money to keep your kids occupied indoors? Enter the magic of masking tape or painters tape. Tape down numbers on the floor and practice math kinesthetically, or even better make a hopscotch out of tape and use bean bags or beanie babies to mark your numbers and jump your spaces. Tape your own “river stones” all over the house for kids to hop on, or tape down colored (possibly laminated?) pieces of paper and play your own life sized version of Candyland! The initial setup of this is a bit time consuming, but once you’ve done it, it will stay put for weeks or even months and you’ll find the kids utilizing these fun floor markers in ways you never imagined they would.
Go to your local appliance store and ask for some of their giant boxes. Move aside the furniture and let your kids do what kids do best with them for about a week or until they fall apart or the kids get sick of them. We always saves boxes from things like hot water heaters and water softeners and let the kids go wild with them. Then we put them down in the basement for awhile and bring them back up in a month or two and it’s like Christmas all over again!
Use what you have
Another free way to let your kids get excess energy out is by giving them free reign of your linen closet and lightweight furniture like chairs, stools and ottomans, or even just their bunkbeds. They will excitedly move and create and re-create so many elaborate contraptions that they’ll use up all their energy. If nothing else, they’ll just pile the pillows and blankets on the floor and bounce and roll around in them, or they’ll start dragging each other around the house on the blankets. When they’re done, there shouldn’t be much energy left for being destructive with your house or irritating to their baby sister.
You can’t go wrong with blocks for toys. They are probably one of the oldest toys known to man and they never lose their draw. Small wooden blocks, Legos, Megabloks, giant cardboard blocks—they’re all sure to illicit a positive response from your little ones. My kids’ favorite set of blocks is comprised of the leftover lumber from Daddy’s basement remodel—large, splintery, and absolutely free. We were going to use this lumber for firewood, but the kids have so much fun creating forts and obstacle courses that now we wouldn’t dare use it for anything else. Blocks are probably on the low energy end of getting your kids moving around, but they’ll often do the trick of engaging them creatively and intellectually.
Okay, so “formal” isn’t really a word that can be applied to a mom staying at home with her kids, but for our purposes, it will do. I started pulling the kids into the living room and either having a dance party, leading them in silly songs with movements, or just making them do jumping jacks, sit ups, and easy yoga. If that fails, I start making them do laps up and down the hallway—and they love it! This time needn’t be more than ten minutes or so, but it will be enough to help them move those little bodies.
Right along the lines of a more formal exercises time, you can engage the kids in active games like Leap frog, Twister, Simon Says, Red Light, Green Light, and hallway bowling (with things you have around the house like toilet paper rolls, and empty bottles). Some of these things will make messes that will have to be cleaned, and some require absolutely no equipment. Some of them can be kid directed like Red Light, Green Light, and others need Mommy’s help like Twister
If you have a hallway, or a kitchen, living room, dining room that allows the kids to run around in circles, then have races. You can do all sorts of races from foot races, laying-on-their-bellies-on-skateboards races, potato sack (pillowcase) races, matchox car races, “let’s-clean-the-bedroom” races, and pretty much any other type of race that you can think of.
Big balls, little balls, bouncy ones, ball pit ones, and squishy ones—as long as you make sure kids know that balls can be rolled and not thrown in your house, they’re great for helping kids get their energy out! They will roll them, roll in them, roll on them, bounce on them, and generally have tons of fun.
Sometimes, the kids just need good sensory input either because they’re bored, or because they’re on sensory overload, so the issue isn’t getting them moving, but getting them focused on something that tactile engages their mind and helps them focus. Things like playdough, moon sand, painting, mermaid pillows, silly putty, painting, and toys specifically geared towards kids with tactile needs are great for this.
Kids need to move. It’s good for their development and they’re driven to do it. When they can’t move, they get grumpy, combative, and mischievous. They’re also more likely to get on your nerves. The more you can move them, the better they will sleep for you later when you just need that quiet house to yourself, which means the happier and more patient you will be for them tomorrow when you discover their crayon masterpieces on the living room walls.
Are any of the above ideas things you do frequently with your little ones? Comment letting us know!
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