Winter has a way of causing kids (and adults) to “bounce off the walls” from time to time. Whether it’s a snow day, a sick day, an inside recess day, a bad air day, or just the “we’re-so-excited-for-the-holidays-we-can’t-stand-it” day, there are plenty of times when you need a new, simple activity to shake things up and redirect some energy into a new, positive direction.
Today’s post is sponsored by a new app called Knoala. If you’ve noticed, I’m very picky about taking on sponsors, and probably even more picky about taking on apps. What I love about Knoala (besides the fact that it’s FREE) is that this app is a tool, not a babysitter. Parents can pull up ideas, organized by age, for simple hands-on activities to do with their kids, usually with supplies you already have on hand. It’s perfect for those moments when you just need a playful nudge or a fresh idea. You can find the app at the Apple Store here.
In that same vein, here are 10+ quick activities that can help kids beat cabin fever:
1- Letter/Number Doodles: I remember one of my elementary school teachers using a book like this one by Syd Hoff (affiliate link) to guide us through turning a letter or number into a fun drawing. I loved the activity as a child, and as an adult I see the value of creative thinking as well as writing/drawing practice that came from it. So I devised this simple game as a throw-back to that experience and my school-aged kids love it! Fold a piece of paper into sections. The first person writes a single letter or number and passes it to his partner. That partner turns the letter or number into a picture, then writes a letter or number in the next box and passes it back. Truth be told, this has saved my sanity during church many times. (I know, not the perfect church activity, but you can imagine the raucous rumble we’re containing on our bench
with four boys!) It’s also perfect for waiting rooms, car rides, and kitchen tables!
2- Homemade Caramel Popcorn: Our family has a favorite recipe for caramel corn and in addition to being absolutely delicious, it’s a fun, hands-on recipe for kids! Just the act of popping corn in an air popper is an activity I take for granted as an adult, but the kids are fascinated by it! Once it’s popped, the popcorn goes in a paper sack with the caramel sauce, and the kids get to take turns shaking it around between stints in the microwave! (*Be sure to use your best judgement with popcorn and young children as it can be a choking hazard.)
3- Playdough!: Playdough is always my go-to for getting kids of all ages engrossed in an activity, and homemade playdough is by far my favorite to use. Try my classic playdough recipe as a starting point. Then you can add in glitter, scents (like Kool-Aid or Cinnamon Spice), or try a supersmooth version like this one. Pull out the playdough, some rollers and cookie cutters, some small plastic figures, or just an assortment of odds and ends like toothpicks, beads, pipe cleaners, or googly eyes and you kids will stay busy for quite a while! 4- Snow Ice Cream: If a snow day is your culprit this is the perfect way to turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak! Set bowls out to catch the snow and follow the instructions here to make a memorable bowl of fresh snowy ice cream. When I see a big snow storm in our forecast, I usually try to add a carton of cream or half and half to my stock-up grocery run, but milk will do in a pinch too!
5- Story Time: Whether it’s my own kids or a whole classroom, one of the best activities I know of to engage a rowdy crew is to read a really good story. For home-bound folks, you can scan your personal library for a favorite, or try an audio version (I use Audible – not an affiliate, just a fan) or an ebook or Kindle format. Some of my latest favorite chapter books for read alouds (affiliate links): Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and Fake Mustache (- Probably best for school-age kids, but I think my husband and I enjoyed it as much as our boys did!).
6- Move to the Music: Turn on some music and have a dance party! You can play dance and freeze games by pausing the music intermittently or add scarves or stuffed animals to give it some variety. It’s amazing how a little dancing can get the wiggles out and change everyone’s mood. (You should join in too!) The blog, Swing, Whistle, Zing is a great resource for kids’ music everyone can appreciate. 7- Soda Science Fun: I can give my boys baking soda and vinegar and they’ll stay busy for hours! Their favorite set-up is a volcano (just clay around a baby food jar) surrounded by plastic dinosaurs on a cookie sheet. They’ve also loved this colorful version where the whole cookie sheet is covered in baking soda, ready for fizzing! This magic color-changing potion was a HUGE hit, as was this balloon blowing trick, and I’ve still been meaning to try out these awesome Ice Volcanoes from Reading Confetti. How’s that for versatility with only two main ingredients?
8- Build Something: Find some loose parts and start building something —ANYTHING— together. Build Lego structures, pillow forts, popsicle stick creations, or simply grab a box and build a puzzle!
9- Game Time: Open up that game closet and have a rowdy round of Go Fish or Memory. If you’re looking to stock that game closet, some of our favorites are Don’t Break the Ice, Spot It , Suspend, and Jenga(affiliate links). Of course, there are plenty of games you can play without the packaging, classics like Charades, Hang Man, Tic Tac Toe, Pictionary, and 20 Questions (which is particularly entertaining when proctored by preschoolers!).
10- Move Those Muscles: Plan some activities that use big movements to use up big energy! Grab a bundle of yarn for a Hot Lava Hop, or throw down the couch cushions and pillows to play the classic version of the lava game! Blow up some balloons and play a little indoor game of catch, or create a fun activity course.
What’s your favorite activity for beating cabin fever?