The first thing I do is root through our cabinets, where I have their toys organized. I survey things and make a mental note of things they haven’t played with in a while. I pull one of those out and get them situated. Every time I hear fussing, I swoop in, encourage them to clean that up and then pull out another. This tactic may or may not last long, depending on how engrossed they become in a toy they haven’t seen in a while! So then I have to move on to other things…
When their regular toys begin to fail, it may be time for a snack or meal break. This is the kind of day where we might do something more involved and messy—I mean, hey, I’ve got time to clean up, where am I going? So for snack, maybe it’s peanut butter on celery sticks with raisins or craisins on top instead of pretzels or goldfish. Building their own food, participation and choices are good! Make your own mini pizza: bagel, muffin or pita. Trail mix is another good one. Today is also a great day to bake. My youngest son, Gabe, is four and he loves to help anytime I start pulling out a lot ingredients. If they can decorate or somehow add to the finished product, all the better; it gives all of you something to look forward to.
Next we might try some arts and crafts which my kids love but so rarely pull out—the pull of the Wii force is too strong. We have a whole art cart full of stickers, markers, different kinds of paper, colored pencils, a million coloring books, etc. Cutting out snowflakes and hanging them on the windows is good fun and great practice for little ones—did you know scissor use is a skill that is monitored, taught and promoted in schools? Yup. My six year-old’s hand-writing is atrocious so now is a good time to practice that as well; we have a wipe-off board for printing that he can practice on, first grade paper with the dotted lines for lower case letters and letter stamps he can stamp and then trace with a pencil. They also have clear traceable letter sets you can buy, guides for their little pencils and hands. (I am not a freak, I was trained to be a teacher and worked at a teaching resource store! In York County, there’s The Learning Source and the Education Station, neither of which is especially close to my house!)
Now Gabe was asking the other day if he could play with the sand table outside, which was a no-go for a number of reasons (the least of which being it was 32 degrees out!!). Instead find a tub in a size you are comfortable with (shoe-box sized up to a large tub you might keep seasonal decorations in. This under bed one is a good price at Target.) and fill with as much rice as you have and let them put cars or measuring cups in there to play with. (just a thought: next time at the grocery store, stock up on rice, maybe 5 pounds of it, to keep handy for wintery or rainy days) Another option is to fill your kitchen sink with water and fill with little plastic floatable items. This also becomes a teachable moment, as they say: line up a variety of items and ask them which will float or sink and why. Then let them drop each item in—bang-o prest-o you’ve got a science lesson!
DANCE! Great for getting extra energy out. I got Just Dance 2 for the Wii for Christmas and even though easier leveled dances are still a little too frustrating for Ian, they do make Just Dance for Kids now. Ian especially loves to dance and it’s so entertaining you could tape it and watch it later for loads of laughs. As a matter of fact, that’s something else you could do: use your video camera (or laptop camera or cell phone) to video tape your kids doing their own play or recreation of their favorite books or movies.
And if all else fails and you’re really desperate AND you have an unfinished (or heck, finished with smooth floors) basement or garage, you can let the kids bike-ride or throw a ball indoors. I know. Completely goes against my maternal grain like nails on a chalkboard but sometimes, kids need an outlet! When I was a kid, we had a partially finished basement—walls were finished but the floors were concrete—and while we had a hodge podge of hand me down furniture in our play area, we still played what we liked to call “indoor soccer” down there (I wonder how many fluorescent lights my dad went through in year….). Other days, we closed the garage door against frigid winds and threw super bouncy balls into the sweet spot where the garage door met the floor to send them zinging crazily about the garage (much to our glee). When we moved into this house from a small townhouse, we had a huge unfinished basement. So when Ian got his first big wheels, we let him ride laps in our basement.
So you gotta ask yourself: what can your kids (safely) do inside that will get rid of some of that energy and let them sleep at their regular time tonight? And how important is it for you not to have an indent in your forehead from banging it against the wall? You decide.