Stuck inside? Might as well extract some fun out of all that involuntary togetherness. Try something you’ve never done to make cabin fever recovery more memorable.
1. Stage a treasure hunt.
First, hide a prize. The prize doesn’t have to be a toy or candy. Try a “find your packed lunch” treasure hunt. The real fun is hunting for it.
Next, hide clues throughout the house. For non-readers the clues can be rebus pictures, digital photos, or magazine cut-outs. For readers create age-appropriate clues with riddles, short rhymes, or question-based hints. Each clue should lead the child to a spot where the next clue is hidden. If you have more than one child let everyone search for clues and figure them out together. Or stage treasure hunts for each child in turn using the collaborative efforts of those who are waiting.
Once kids are familiar with treasure hunts they can easily set them up on their own. But beware. They may turn off your cell, hide it, and chortle gleefully while you track it down through clues left under the bath mat and behind picture frames.
2. Make soft pretzels.
Might as well make a recipe that isn’t complicated, just time consuming. Soft pretzels fit that description. Together you can roll and shape them into initials, symbols, or yes, pretzel shapes. We use Alton Brown’s recipe although we knead it by hand and divide the dough into more pieces. The kitchen will smell great even if you’ve used every inch of counter space. And just think, you’re teaching some delayed gratification skills because after all that time the end result is fantastic.
3. Play with tape.
Rolls of painter’s tape or masking tape can spur kids to new creative heights. Especially when they’re bored. Give them the following suggestions or encourage them rely on their imaginations.
Toy vehicles and action figures can travel along roadways made of tape stretched along on the floor. Use more tape to make overpasses, buildings, and other roadside features from shoeboxes and other cardboard discards.
Tape a giant tic-tack-toe board on the carpet, then use two sets of matching items for x’s and o’s.
Collect objects like string, paper clips, cardboard tubes, boxes, and a small ball or two. Then use tape to construct ball rolling systems from one piece of furniture to another. Kids will quickly discover they need to start at the highest point.
4. Guess and check.
Make your home and family into a guessing game. Take turns making challenges. Then write down your guesses and work to prove each other right or wrong. The proof part is particularly fun as kids hurry to count, measure, and calculate.
You might choose to guess how many shoes are in the house. How many books. How many countries are represented in a drawerful of shirts (as long as they have origin tags). Guess the circumference of each other’s heads. How many inches it is from the front door to the TV, the refrigerator, the bathroom. Guess how many days or hours each person has been alive. How long each person can stand on one foot. Well, you get the idea. The kids will not think this is fun if you have them guess how neatly they can put away their Legos.
5. Set up an obstacle course.
Release some of that pent-up energy with a temporary indoor obstacle course. It might consist of a few chairs in a row to wriggle under, six plastic cups to run circles around, a squared off area to perform ten jumping jacks, then three somersaults down the hall before turning around to do it all in reverse. Older kids can set up a simple obstacle course for smaller kids. Set safety rules in place before the frenzy begins. Trying to do so during the frenzy makes you seem like another obstacle.
6. Make geometric sculptures.
This takes only toothpicks and miniature marshmallows. It’s a great way to make free form sculptures while discovering some principles of geometry.
As the marshmallows dry they’ll adhere ever more tightly to the toothpicks. They’ll also form a surface hard enough for some sculpture enhancement. After a day or two of drying the kids can decorate their sculptures with markers or paint.
7. Have a picnic.
Yes, a picnic. Fling a tablecloth or beach towel on the floor. Eating on the floor may be novel enough but make sure the meal consists of picnic-y finger foods for real authenticity. You might want to fire up the grill to cook hot dogs and roast marshmallows.
If you’re eating on a tiled floor consider amping up the fun by ending the picnic with a brief rainstorm you impose with a squirt bottle. Then again, maybe not. The kids will get you back some day.
(Activities excerpted from author’s book Free Range Learning)