I used to live in Florida. In fact I lived there for 27 years and enjoyed the warm winters (except for the random cold spells) without really having any “cooped up” feelings….maybe it’s because I didn’t have kids for most of that time. Now that we live in Iowa and our temperatures are frequently in the negatives during the winter and it has gotten a bit more difficult not to lose your sanity by being indoors all the time! Especially for our family who pretty much lives outdoors in the warm weather! We are a very adventurous family so here are 20 creative tips to stay sane during the winter!
1. Build a fort.
This has got to be one of our most common fail-proof methods to keep the kids busy indoors. Kids of all ages! Don’t skimp on your fort either! Move your chairs and table around, pull out all of your large blankets and bedsheets, and get creative! Bring out some old boxes too! Of course you can also buy a fort building set, but we like just making our own! Maybe you want to even be a little daring and pull out a few squirt guns – we dare you!
2. Suit up and go outside!
I’m cold all the time. Walking to the car, getting indoors, checking the mail. I almost get afraid of being cold again! Find the warmest day you can (even if it’s just in the 20′s!), suit up in layers and a good jacket and mittens, and GO OUTSIDE! Yes, even in the cold! It really is possible to stay warm if you’re dressed appropriately even in the frigid weather. Whether it’s a 1 hour trip to a nature park, playground, or just a walk you down the road you will be surprised at how much better you will feel if you just get up and go outside for fun!
3. Have a snowball fight….indoors!
This may seem silly if you have older kids but don’t worry – it won’t take them long to get moving! And I’m not talking about real snow either! You can make pretend snowballs out of a lot of things ranging from balled up masking tape, wads of paper, soft foam balls, etc. Turn a table sideways, move the couch around and pick a side to start throwing on! Sure it will make a mess, but all of those memories are MORE than worth the effort to clean it up!
4. Make lawn decor.
I know you’re thinking HUH? Finding a project for your kids or family to work on can quickly catch interest – regardless of the weather. My friend filled up water balloons with food coloring, left them outside overnight (in freezing temperatures) then cut the balloon off the next morning to make giant colored marbles for her lawn! If you have snow create a snow sculpture then “paint” it with a bottle of food coloring & water. We’ve made green alligators, palm trees, and even a red crab in our front yard before! Get some plastic tubs and create a “weather proof” snowman for your yard, or make a cardboard box totem pole. Get creative – the ideas here are just endless!
5. Bake a Tower.
Totally stuck indoors and need an all day project? Bake lots of cakes – then stack them together to create a tower! If you have enough cake mixes let your kids create their own towers!! (you can always cut one cake in half to make the towers smaller) Have a contest to see whose will be the tallest, or the most decorated. Choose a theme and watch your kids not only be absolutely content but also creative!
6. Become a mad scientist.
This is fun on so many levels and I can’t even begin to list all of the things you can do during the day to make this an awesome family time. Create an eyeball cake to eat. Keep your kids wondering with dry ice experiments. Make your own lava lamp! Make your own silly putty, GAK, or Floam! Become a seal and wear some blubber! Dye some celery. Just google or look on pinterest for a zillion more experiment ideas!
7. Turn your kids into robots!
This is a great hands-on creativity time. Dig in your garage for empty boxes, search for old kitchen utensils, craft supplies, and anything else that you can use to create a robot! Don’t have any boxes big enough? Instead of turning your kids into robots just find other household supplies to build robots such as hangers, colanders, christmas lights, cans, etc.
8. Plan an extravagant treasure hunt.
Spend time the night before or the morning of creating an extravagant treasure hunt! Your kids can turn into pirates if they wish, or you can come up with a grand prize such as a trip to the zoo or even just renting a $1 movie! A tip to save you some time: instead of handwriting out the tips and then keeping track of them just type them out on the computer and cut off each strip as you go to hide it!
9. Paint a wall.
Ok – I won’t lie – this is for those extra creative families!! When we first got married we had a closet in the basement that I deemed our painting room. Anytime I felt like painting something creative I would go in there and paint! (trust me, I’m not good at it, it was just fun!) If you have an old closet (or tape a large sheet of paper on the wall) that you don’t mind the kids getting creative in cover your floors and let them design the walls themselves!
10. Turn a room into an exotic destination.
Turn a room in your house into a forest, a jungle, a fairy land, a busy city, or an ocean! Build trees along the walls with brown paper or paper towel tubes. Build a city out of boxes. Sprinkle glitter on the floors for fairy dust. This works well especially if you have younger children who still like to get lost in the world of imagination. For your older kids you can still get them involved on a different level. They may think your nuts but if they are bored they will soon be thankful you’re a little nuts! Don’t be afraid to hang things from the ceiling!
11. DIG DIG DIG
There are two different activities here that we’ve done – both have been huge hits! One is to create your own DIY dinosaur dig. You don’t have to use dinosaurs – you can use little girls rings, toys, and anything else you can think of! The other is to create your own indoor sandbox! I highly suggest using something easier to clean up like rice or corn (if you know a good farmer!) for this. It brings a LOT of sensory activity into the day. Fill up the bottom of a cardboard box, the bathtub IF you can plug it very well and want to clean it up later, a plastic storage container, etc.
12. BOUNCE the Day Away!
Invest in a small inflatable bounce house, trampoline, or other bouncing / yoga ball. Most all of these can easily be stored and put away when not in use and brings a whole new level of fun indoors to get those extra wiggles and energy out! We have never regretted having a bounce house stored in our garage!
13. Shoot Marshmallows
Buy yourself or your kids good quality marshmallow guns and your day is packed with some serious fun! Trust me! Each of my boys have marshmallow guns and believe it or not no matter how long they play with them by the end of the day all of the marshmallows are off my floor.
14. Go camping – indoors!
We have frequently been known to pull out our tent and set it up for the kids! Fill it with blankets, flashlights, books, bags of popcorn….you can even pop a movie in and let them watch it from their tent! If it’s not a school night I even let my kids sleep in the tent too! Get creative and make some s’mores, let your kids help you cook soup in a pot, and gather around to create stories to tell each other!
15. Visit a museum
Although this isn’t at your house a great indoor activity is to visit a museum! Check your local area for art museums, history centers, science museums, and other odd museums like Ripley’s – then go home and recreate something you saw or make it original! Don’t forget about the library! Look for indoor mini golf places too!
16. Design your own ball run or domino line!
This is primarily an activity for your older kids but can be adapted to the younger ones as well. Pile up old PVC pipes, cardboard tubes, hollowed out pool noodles, cups with no bottoms, etc. and create your own ball run! See if you can creatively add loops to it, or extend the run to go into different rooms! Have a bunch of old dominoes? Try to line up dominoes from surface to surface or room to room!
17. Build something useful…then use it!
….like a birdhouse, a recycled storage container, telescope, animal habitat, compost bin, an indoor garden, a sewing project like a pillow, etc.
18. Occupation Day
Deem your indoor time occupation day and become something you’re not! Paleontologists can create brown paper bag vests, princesses can create their own wands and tiaras, zoologists can create animals to care for, astronauts can build their space shuttle – then research about each occupation and learn something new together! See if there are any interesting videos on youtube about your occupation!
19. Design your own Invention.
Whether it be a brand new board game, a special type of scoop, an organizer system, etc. Give flight to your kids dreams and inspire their creativity as they spend the day coming up with a working invention! You never know what they will come up with! Take a trip to the hardware store if you need supplies or if they need to a jumpstart on ideas!
20. Do nothing.
I love being creative and inspiring educational learning, but sometimes, just once in a while, it’s OK to just do nothing. Curl up with a good book, have a movie marathon, or just play games online!