These tips are versatile. That’s what makes them great! This fun will fit almost any situation that keeps you stranded in your own home for an insane amount of time. Whether it be a hurricane, extreme heat or being snowed in during a Winter Wallop. (You must know I’m addicted to The Weather Channel and totally dig the names they give to weather monstrosities). When they don’t want to play with their basketball or race their Matchbox cars anymore. When even Go, Diego, Go is getting old, when they’ve started eating their play-doh and have bored of coloring or painting. With nowhere to go. No park to let them run free. No Target to explore in effort to pass the time. When you’re stuck, you are forced to get creative with what you have on hand.
Disclaimer: The following activities entertained two wildly energetic toddler boys (age 19 mos and almost 3 yrs) during these last couple of months as we retreated from the record heat of this Charleston summer. Though I reference “boy” or “him” as I illustrate the activities, I’m sure many girls would delight from this fun!
1. The Tunnel
a. Supplies: a crib/toddler bed mattress, 2 couches (or 1 couch and a love seat; 2 love seats may work, as well), blanket (see extra credit)
b. How it works: Strategically rearrange your living room so that the 2 couches are facing each other (seating area to seating area) with about a 2’ space. Ever so gently-as to not crush your dog who refuses to get off the couch-balance the mattress over the 2’ space so that equal part of the mattress are touching each couch.
c. Call the kiddos in and voila, the can crawl under the mattress (i.e. through the tunnel) as well as climb on the couches and walk across the make-shift bridge of a mattress.
d. Extra credit: Throw a blanket over the two openings of the tunnel and they’ve got a cool little fort.
2. Iron Chef
a. Supplies: 5-6 small child-safe (plastic) bowls. Measuring spoons and cups. A spoon. A fork. A whisk. A potato masher. Water. Random ingredients from your cupboard…do we even use the word cupboard anymore?… that won’t harm your child. Please no hot sauce, airway obstructing chocolate Whopper’s, or anything that tastes horrible because ultimately they will put it all in their mouths at some point. I used the following: flour, sugar, rice, marshmallows, a cup of water, pasta spirals, bread crumbs and a banana.
b. How it works: Have your child sit at the table. Sure, naked is fine…especially if you plan on following this activity with the next on this list. Fill each bowl with an individual ingredient. Place the measuring cups and utensils within his reach, including the cup of water in the measuring cup. I know you’re freaking out about your carpet or floors, right now. And yes, it will get messy so while your kiddo is having all sorts of fun mixing, stirring, mashing, tasting….spilling; grab your vacuum and carpet cleaner/mop and standby.
c. Why this is educational: Take a break and sit down with your precious one and talk to him about what each ingredient is, what happens when you combine certain elements (science), what the different numbers are on the spoons and cups (math! And if your child is a bit older and already knows his numbers, figure out a way to teach him how to add or subtract or do fractions…I don’t know, you know how advanced your child is.) If you want to get really educational, bring out the packages each ingredient was in and you can talk about the alphabet or teach him how to read.
3. Tropical Oasis
a. Supplies: a bathtub, bubble bath, some bath toys, a coconut mango candle, lighter, a couple of tropical plants (if you already have some in your home…we do because my husband loves him some plants) and Jimmy Buffet or some reggae on your playlist. Pineapple, strawberries, cream cheese, marshmallow cream (see extra credit).
b. How it works: Light your Tommy Bahama coconut mango candle (no, I’m not getting paid for that mention). Set your iPod or iPhone up high so your child won’t grab it and throw it in the toilet and thus change the tone for the rest of the day in confinement. Prop it up high and crank it up. Pour a nice warm bath filled with bubbles. Make it different than boring old bathtime by having your kiddo wear his trunks. Have him hop in the tub (not recommended literally, you should help him climb in) and toss in the toys.
c. Extra credit: Slice up some fresh pineapple, strawberries and whip up some of that yummy fruit dip-a delectable blend of cream cheese and marshmallow cream. Deliver on a tray to your little cabana boy.
4. Bear Hunt
a. Supplies: a floor, imagination
b. How it works: I was just taught this by a friend of mine and it blew my mind that I hadn’t either (a.) thought of it before and (b.) read or heard about it in my son’s almost 3 years of life. So you sit on the floor with your child and you tell him you are going on a bear hunt. You can use this time to explain in detail that you’re going to use your imagination and then describe the setting. Are you at a campsite? Adventurous hikers in the middle of the mountains? The Bronx Zoo where there has been a bear escape? Once that’s decided, you’re ready to act out the hunt.
c. “Dress” for the occasion: Explain step-by-step how you are going to get ready for your hunt. Are you going to put your hat on first? Then act that out. A jacket, boots, and sunglasses are usually our accessories of choice. I’m not really sure why we always go on this hunt without pants. Curious. I’ll have to remember that one next time.
d. Go hunt that bear!: Okay, so then you finally open the door. This is when it gets fun. You look both ways and tell him you’re walking now. You begin to slap your each thigh with your hands, alternating slaps. Clip, clop. Clip, clop. Clip, clop. “Oh no!” You exclaim, “there’s the bear!” Then your slaps get faster as if you are running, still alternating, but doing it so fast. This is always when my boys get really excited and into the game. Now it’s up to you, mom or dad. Do you want to climb up a tree? Swim across a lake? Outrun the bear and have s’mores by a campfire? The sky’s the limit. And you’re an adult, so you know how to mime and act things out according to your life experiences. We always end our hunt by returning home and taking off the items we had put on in the beginning. Then a “high-five” concludes the game.
e. Why this is so great: This game can go on as long or short as you need it to.
5. 80s Carpet Picnic
a. Supplies: A picnic basket, a blanket, paper plates, sun hat, sunglasses. The food is sort of subjective, but I like to make peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares (cut into bite size pieces, no crust – that’s how I roll!), cheese and crackers, zucchini sticks (literally just peel the zucchini and cut into sticks), sliced apples and strawberries, Capri Suns, and a handful M&Ms to make it even more special. Pack it all in your basket. Cards or a game (see extra credit).
b. How it works: Basically, for me, if you throw the term 80s into any sentence, it makes it super rad! So turn on your 80s music for this type of fun in the “sun.” Talk it up all morning. Have everyone wear their sun hats/sunglasses. Lay the blanket out on the living room floor and have everyone chill. Unpack your picnic basket so it’s a nice spread all across the blanket. Let everyone take as much as they want, when they want. No typical table rules apply. Just have fun eating yummy morsels in between singing, dancing and enjoying one another’s company.
c. Extra credit: Pack a game or some cards and have fun playing after you’re done munching. Delightful!
I hope being stuck inside during this hurricane weekend is now more enjoyable and depending on how long Irene hovers, more tolerable.
Our prayers go out to everyone seriously in the path of Hurricane Irene.