Combating Cabin Fever: 3 Indoor Activities for Children
by Carmie Sanchez
After days spent outside in the warm summer sunshine, the cold days of winter make it a challenge to keep our little kiddos entertained indoors. These are the days when energy is overflowing and if your kids are anything like mine, that means that things can get crazy really fast! Here are a few ideas that I hope will help cure those winter blues!
Oobleck (ages 3-5)
Oobleck comes from the Dr. Seuss book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. While I have never read the book, I have made oobleck for my kids and it's always a hit! It is super easy to make and super easy to clean up. Simply mix together 1 cup of water with 1 1/2-2 cups of cornstarch. Mix it together with your hands until you have a consistency that is firm when you touch it at the bottom of the bowl, but runny when you squeeze it in your hand. Add food coloring if you like, or some cocoa powder to make "mud". Pour the oobleck into a cake pan or shallow plastic container and give your child small cars, animals, or large buttons to play with. To clean up, soak the toys in a bowl of water for a few minutes and then let them air dry. Pour the leftover oobleck into the trash can or alternatively, you can let it dry in the pan overnight and then scoop it into the trash. Oobleck dries as a soft powder, so any that gets on the playing surface easily wipes up with a damp cloth.
Sensory Bins (18 months -5 years)
Sensory bins are a fun activity for very small children as well as older toddlers. Fill a shallow plastic tote box with a filler such as water beads, popcorn, sand, or cotton balls. Hide small items in the filler and let your child find each item. For younger children, use large buttons, counting bears, or other similar objects for a sorting activity. Provide plastic cups and let the child sort by color, size, shape etc., or just let them have fun pouring the filler from one cup to the other. If doing this with a very young child, choose a filler that will not be a choking hazard and always provide supervision. For older children, set up a themed bin such as a farm scene with a toy barn, animals, tractors, etc., and using popcorn as a filler or an airplane theme using cotton balls and small toy airplanes. No matter how you do it, the idea is to spark imaginative play while also engaging the child’s senses.
Homemade Play Dough (2+ years)
No need to run to the store for play dough. Make it a fun experience by making some at home with your kiddos.
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups salt
6 tablespoons oil
3 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups water
Few drops of food coloring
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat slowly until mixture “lumps” together. Stir with spoon or hands until mixture is consistency of play dough. Knead a few times. Keep in tightly closed container and refrigerate when not in use. This makes a fairly large batch, so you can divide the dough if you like. I waited to add the food coloring until just before I kneaded the dough.
For more sensory play, add a few teaspoons of cinnamon or a few drops of peppermint extract to the play dough. Of course, provide cookie cutters or child-sized kitchen utensils for them to use with their play dough. For smaller children, give them brightly colored objects to match with their colored play dough or to poke into their mounds of dough.
Above all, let your child use their imagination as they play. Don’t let it be too structured, simply provide them with a few items to use in their play and let them take it where they will.