Make a cubby
Do you remember making cubbies as a kid? This is such an obvious rainy day activity but it never fails to keep kids happy. Throw a sheet over a few chairs or a table and then make it comfy inside with cushions. Gather the dolls and soft toys and have a picnic. Yes, it’s messy but it’s a ‘clean’ mess and it will keep little ones busy for a good length of time, they will be using their imaginations and with some luck and a few helpful suggestions (would you like to have a tea party in your cubby?) this will extend the play and fill in another hour or so.
A colouring-in box
Do you have a toddler or preschooler? Need to feed the baby or get a few things done? If you have a big cardboard box, pop your littlie and a bunch of crayons in the box and let him colour in the box. He will love the freedom of drawing on such a big surface and you will be able to relax a bit while he is busy Best of all, the mess will be confined to the box. Tip: if crayon gets on furniture or walls, simply rub it off with a cloth and some cooking oil or baby oil.
Bring on the play dough
Squeezing and pounding play dough can calm the most restless child and help their focus.
It’s great too for strengthening little fingers ready for gripping pencils and writing. Whether you make your own playdough or keep a handy stash of the ready made stuff, it can be disheartening to set up the dough and find your kids play for a few minutes then walk away. The secret to extending play with dough (and buying a bit more ‘me’ time) , is to encourage creativity through props: pipe cleaners, feathers and ‘googly eyes’ can be used to make play dough monsters; little kids can decorate play dough ‘cakes’ with dried pasta, coloured icy pole sticks and shells; bring in the ‘little people’ to live in a play dough village of hills and houses or add some pretties – sparkly baubles, beads and buttons to decorate dough creations.
Pour a big bag of rice into a baby bath or a large plastic storage container – the kind that fits under a bed is ideal because it’s long and low so easy to reach into and you can put the lid on when your child has finished playing and store it for another rainy day! Throw in some scoops and funnels from the kitchen drawer and let your kid pour and mix to their heart’s content. You can hide small plastic toys in the tub and let your little one find them or add some farm animals, a few rocks, sticks or trees and let him create landscapes. All that lovely sensory play, squishing around in a tub of rice will keep little hands busy and help relax your child, you will be fostering fine motor skills and encouraging language as you talk with your little one about what he is doing. Warning: rice will be spilt but a quick run with the vacuum will clean up easily.
Melted crayon rocks
It can be difficult to engage kids of mixed ages with an activity that suits them all. Everyone from toddlers to teens will love this – including you!
Gather some small rocks in a colander and rinse them. Then lay them on a foil lined baking tray.
Pop them in the oven for around 15 minutes at 175 degrees to heat up.
Once the rocks are hot, transfer a couple at a time onto a protected surface – a large chopping board or a towel on the table covered with a layer of baking paper or aluminum foil (the foil is important to catch the crayon drips). Leave the rest in the oven to keep warm until you are ready to colour them.
Now, draw on the rocks with crayon. Crayon will melt against the warm rocks so it feels like painting with crayons. Children can make all sorts of wonderful patterns – swirls, dots, faces – and the colours will harden into a waxy shell as the rock cools. The best thing about this is,
whatever your child’s age or artistic ability, his rocks will look beautiful.
Bake cheese and vegemite scrolls
Kids love cooking but who wants kids revved up on sugar when they are cooped up inside? These cheese and vegemite pinwheels are fun to make and great for lunch or afternoon tea.
3 cups self raising flour
50 g butter
375 ml milk
1 -2 tablespoon vegemite
200 g grated tasty cheese
Sift flour into a bowl and rub the butter through flour so it looks like bread-crumbs. Stir in enough milk to make a soft dough. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface, and then roll out into a rectangle.
Spread the Vegemite over the dough then sprinkle over 3/4 of the cheese. Roll up along the long side to enclose the cheese. Cut 10 x 4cm pieces from the roll and place close together, cut side up on a greased baking tray.
Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake in a hot oven 220ºC for 15-20 minutes or until cooked and golden. YUMMY!
Make an obstacle course
If you have a busy bee who likes to be on the move, an obstacle course will help direct energy that will otherwise turn into mischief! Make your course with cushion mountains, tunnels made out of large cardboard boxes or chairs to crawl under, an extension cord on the floor to balance along – curl it into a spiral for extra concentration as your little circus trickster tiptoes around the circles. Depending on the age of your child, you can make the course as big or as challenging as your child can manage or, if they are old enough, let them make their own obstacle course.
Do a rain dance
If cabin fever strikes and cooped up kids are just too much to handle, get everyone into gumboots and raincoats and go out in the rain – jump and splash in puddles and use all that pent-up energy! It’s only water after all. If the kids get cold or muddy, bring them inside and pop them in a warm bath with some shaving cream to ‘paint’ with. It will wash down the plughole when they have finished – you will have a clean bath, clean kids, jarmies on and some fun memories to boot!