Winter Boredom Busters

bubbles.jpgPerfectly timed for yet another snow day, today, Tracy shares her favorite winter boredom busters:

Despite having been raised in Northwestern Ontario, where winter hangs around for about 8 months of the year, I dislike late winter intensely. So do my kids. I mean, really, after you’ve built your 10th snowman, gone sledding for the umpteenth time, and spent countless hours playing board games (I swear my 7-year-old thinks these are “bored” games), you need to shake it up a bit. Here are some of my favorite winter boredom busters:
Play flour. Sprinkle flour onto a cookie sheet (or use a rimmed baking sheet or large plastic tray to cut down on mess) and let your kids draw or race match box cars in it. When the kids are done, sweep up the flour and put it in a sealable container labeled “play flour.” Reuse as necessary. The possibilities are endless and different textured materials (e.g., cornmeal, oats) will offer fun fodder for sensory exploration.

Wash the dishes. If you don’t own a dishwasher, your kids may not find this as exciting as mine do. Fill the sink with water and bubbles, give them a washcloth and some plastic stuff to wash, and let them go to town. Give your kids straws to make bubbles with water and dish soap (remind them not to drink from the sink!).

Simulate summer. Have your kids hop in the bath and break out the summer pool toys. Let them wear a bathing suit to simulate summer (or you could multitask and give them a bath while they play with beach toys).

Make indoor snow people. Buy marshmallows, cake decorating gel tubes, and other little candies. Have your kids use toothpicks to assemble snow people, then decorate using the gel; you can also use the gel to stick on sprinkles or other nonpareils. Toothpicks make good arms, rope licorice makes a great scarf. Display for the day, and eat for dessert later. Or, don’t tell your kids they’re for eating at all, and display until stale.

Make pomanders. Take Mandarin or Clementine oranges that are getting slightly hard, and stud with whole cloves (use a toothpick or fork to make starter holes, otherwise the cloves will be hard for little fingers to push in). Make patterns, or just randomly insert cloves all over the orange. Display a whole bowl as a centerpiece or place a few here and there to fill your house with a lovely scent.

Make Kool-aid play dough. This is really easy and quick, and kids love to guess what color the play dough will end up when you add the water (sometimes a blue package of Kool-aid isn’t blue at all). Combine 2 ½ cups flour, ½ cup salt, 1 tbsp. cream of tartar, and a packet of Kool-aid drink mix. Add 2 cups boiling water, 3 tbsp. oil, and stir to combine. Cool the mixture slightly, and knead it with your hands to make a smooth dough. We’ve made this dough for gifts, and the kids love the kneading process. We do this on the kitchen table, but if your surface is prone to staining you may want to knead on a baking sheet or cutting board. The Kool-aid can make your hands colorful for a while, but much less so than using food coloring. The best part is that it smells good enough to eat, and won’t hurt the kids if they sample a bit while making pretend cookies.

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