When the weather prevents the children from playing outside, don’t despair. Here are some great ideas for indoor fun and games.
Don’t let the gloomy weather stop the fun and games. Put the smiles back on your children’s faces with our selection of rainy day entertainment suggestions.
Jam Like Jamie Oliver
You’re never too young to learn to cook. Alison Chambers, an English teacher and owner of Child’s Play craft-party venue in Gauteng, suggests baking and icing teddy-bear biscuits or cupcakes that you can cover with all kinds of sweets and sprinkles. “Create your own recipes for delicious hot drinks or edible treats with toasted marshmallows as the key ingredient. If you are lucky enough to have a fire, toast the marshmallows there. But it is also fun to toast them over a candle,” she says.
Make it, play with it, then eat it
This is a great activity for younger children. Chambers recommends letting them make their own edible play dough using honey and peanut butter. “It’s a huge hit … they can make and eat their own sculptures.” Find our edible play dough recipe at the end of this article.
Record it and store it
Older children can commemorate their cooking and baking experience by creating their own recipe books. “Let them each write out and decorate a recipe (some scrapbooking techniques come into play here). Then let them compile their own little recipe books,” advises Chambers.
Release the star in you
Dressing up and fantasy play is one of the most enjoyable and versatile indoor fun and games. “Use capes, scarves, hats and other accessories. Act out your favourite story or nursery rhyme. Make masks using brown bags or paper plates, or put on a puppet show,” suggests Chambers.
“Older children may enjoy turning a big box into a puppet theatre, or making any number of miniature worlds in boxes using sand, plants, fabric, clay or play dough, as well as all the miniature toys your home accumulates, such as cars, dolls, army men, or McDonald’s toys,” she says.
You could also get out that favourite compilation CD, make a pretend microphone (a torch or hairbrush will do), and let the children sing or lip-sync to their best-loved tunes.
Pirates of the Caribbean
An old favourite is Treasure Hunt, which you can also play indoors. Isabel Swart, who has two teenage boys, used to come up with clues for the hunt that led from one hiding place to the next (in the fridge, behind the mirror, in Daddy’s shoe, etc.) until her boys finally found a prize.
“If the children are older, they can take turns to think of clues and hiding places. This will provide hours of indoor fun and games. It works well when they have cousins or friends over,” she says.
Educational psychologist Melanie Hartgill suggests that toddlers can follow a ribbon through the house to the treasure, while older children can follow hand- and foot-prints. You can also give clues by drawing household objects indicating where the next clue is hidden.
If your children are a little older, have them stage a talent show for which they write and recite their own poems, scenes from plays, or short stories. As with the recipes, poetry or short-story books can be created and decorated as keepsakes.
If your children don’t enjoy writing, challenge them to a nursery-rhyme contest to see who knows the most nursery rhymes. Each child takes a turn to recite a rhyme. If a child can’t think of a different rhyme – it has to be one that hasn’t been done before – they’re out of the game, and so on until you have a winner. This is a great party game too.
Boredom-buster board games
There’s nothing more fun for children than beating their parents at their favourite board games. Don’t always opt for the traditional games such as Monopoly or Pictionary; try something new like Prima’s Cranium Cadoo, a board game that challenges you to play a “funky fusion of tic-tac-toe, general knowledge, sculpting skill, and scavenger hunt”.
The players are asked to sculpt a taco, act out a hula dancer, or answer questions such as, “Which is stronger for its size: an ant, a human or a chimp?”. The game helps children use both the left and right sides of their brains and provides hours of fun for the whole family.
Preschoolers can be entertained with interactive games like No Fleas on Fred. Fred is, of course, a dog, and the task is to put fleas on him and watch him frantically try to shake them off.
The real joy of games for most children is not the game itself, but the valuable time spent having fun with Mom or Dad. Karin Schimke, a mom and journalist, says bought games are not the only options.
“We also enjoy playing quiz games, which we make up as we go along. One of our favourites is ‘family quiz’, which goes something like this: ‘What’s the first thing Julia always does when she gets home after school?’, ‘Which is Mom’s favourite umbrella?’, ‘In what city did Dad grow up?’, or ‘Would Oliver rather do monkey bars or dig a hole?’,” she says. “It’s great bonding time.” Find even more boredom-busting indoor entertainment ideas here.
Cold weather doesn’t mean gardening is out of the question. Children love to help things grow, and it’s a good way to foster a love of nature in your child.
Choose a non-poisonous, hardy plant that can stand up to some rough treatment. Together with your child, plant a small seed in a container and have him/her water it daily. Encourage your child to keep a plant journal by writing about or drawing the growth of the plant each day or each week.
You can also research the plant and its growth process online as a mother-and-child project, and let your child paste any relevant information into a journal. Choose a name for the plant, and, provided it is a plant that’s safe for children, put it in a place where it can be seen during daily activities.
Get into the theme of things
Theme days can stimulate a child’s imagination. “This is a personal favourite and seems to be enjoyed by children of all ages,” says Hartgill.
At the start of each day, pick a theme (colour, shape, size, number, letter, etc.) then spend the day looking for things that fit in with the chosen concept. “This activity can take place anywhere – in the car, the shop, the home, the garden, and so on – and is great fun, especially when the children spot something you missed!”
You can take the theme day a step further by having a theme night based on a favourite character. Swart suggests letting the children use the furniture, old linen and clothes pegs to build their own dens. “This is absolute chaos from Mom’s point of view, but the children love that!” she says.
Pack them a picnic to enjoy in their den, invent a little game for the occasion, featuring a favourite story or character – Pocahontas hiding out in her tepee or Pooh Bear and friends having a picnic in the forest, for example – and you’ll keep them happy for hours!
“Best of all, let them (plus a friend) sleep over in their dens with a torch and snacks for a midnight feast. It’s a big mess to clean up in the morning, but that’s a small price to pay for happiness,” she says with a smile.
Hartgill also suggests stimulating your children’s imagination by asking them questions to get them thinking of unusual and creative answers. Ask questions such as, “What would it be like to be a seagull/homeless person/spider/rich person/chair/world champion/miniature person/giant/the opposite sex, etc?”
“You’ll be amazed at the answers you hear and the explanations behind them. Encourage this – it can be an opportunity to dispel stereotypes,” she says.
With all these fun and games to be had indoors, you might just find yourself wishing away the sunny season so you can have your brood back inside when it’s winter. Come on, admit it. You secretly love their somewhat loud, somewhat messy, but always heartwarming “there-ness”. Here’s to next winter!
Edible play dough (4+)
You will need:
½ cup of smooth peanut butter
¼ cup of honey
½ cup of instant no-fat (skimmed) dry milk powder
How to make it:
Combine the smooth peanut butter with the honey and the instant no-fat (skimmed) dry milk powder. Mix until it reaches a dough-like consistency, then, if you like, decorate your creations with edible goodies such as nuts, coconut, raisins or chocolate chips. Children need to be old enough to understand what’s edible and what isn’t. Age four and up is a good time to introduce this recipe.