Stuck inside? Might as well extract some fun out of all that togetherness. Try something you’ve never done to make cabin fever recovery more memorable.
1. Set up an obstacle course. Release some 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. The adult in charge might want to put safety rules in place before the frenzy begins.
2. Make Flarp. It’s said to have the same properties as Silly Putty, except it also farts. (You know this will be a hit.)
3. Paint without using your hands. Try taping the brush to a remote control toy, dangling it by a string, or rolling it across the paper. Or you might paint as this talented young artist does, by holding a paint brush in your mouth.
4. Learn to play a free instrument you already have. Really, it’s in your kitchen.
5. Build 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 if they’d like.
6. Target shoot with the leftover marshmallows after first making marshmallow shooters.
7. Make the easiest homemade cheese. You need only one ingredient other than milk.
8. Turn your family’s life into a guessing game. Take turns issuing a challenge and writing down everyone’s guesses, then prove each other right or wrong. The proof part is particularly fun as everyone hurries to count, measure, and calculate. Kids 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 measurement of each other’s heads. How many inches it is from the front door to the TV, the computer, 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 Lego toys.
9. Yarnbomb a piece of furniture.
10. Make a batch or two of Make Ahead Pizza with this recipe from Attainable Sustainable. And just think, you’re teaching some delayed gratification skills because after all that time the end result is fantastic.
11. Save memories by slapping the label “memory jar” on any large container and encourage your family to toss in slips of paper describing an ordinary day, funny family sayings, silly happenings, and other things you don’t want to forget. This memory jar can become an important family tradition.
12. Make a movie. Remember Spielberg started making movies as a kid so be sure to save your child’s film for posterity. Fame may hit.
13. Draw on the windows. Use washable window markers to play tic tac toe or hangman, or draw some sunshine.
14. Perform good deeds. Make some soup or bake some goodies to share with a neighbor, local firefighters, or your librarians. For more family volunteering ideas, check 40 Ways to Volunteer, Toddler to Teen.
15. Slide on the steps. Flatten cardboard from a large box and place over stairs so kids can race cars (up and down), roll balls, or pretend to be mountain-climbers.
16. Communicate via banana. Write a message or draw a picture on the skin of a banana using a toothpick or pencil. It’ll darken within an hour.
17. Get your kids to predict the future. Better yet, write to your future selves. The kids may want to write to themselves as they’ll be in ten years or at your age. Don’t make this a child-only activity. Sit down and write to your future self too. You’ll want to include a description of an average day, list some favorite foods and activities, and imagine what you’ll be doing at that future date. Now seal those envelopes, write “Do Not Open Until ______” on the outside, and keep them somewhere you’ll remember.
18. Make Cosmic Suncatchers using glue, food coloring, and plastic lids.
19. Learn science with junk. Save cardboard boxes and cardboard tubes of all sizes, along with string, rubber bands, lids, paper clips, yogurt cups, and so on. Distribute equal amounts of this “junk” so kids can build whatever they choose. Or issue a specific challenge, similar to the old TV series Junkyard Wars. The kids can make sorters that send pennies down one chute and dimes down another, bridges that hold weight, catapults that toss ping pong balls, and much more.
20. Create a broadcast. Listen to a recording of an old radio show, like the original 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds, then make your own audio story complete with narration and sound effects. Toss in some campy advertisements for extra fun.
21. Make snow cones. Simply crush ice in a blender, then top with a syrup made from frozen fruit juice concentrate that’s thawed and undiluted.
22. Start throwing things. Juggling boosts brain development and reinforces a growth mindset. It’s also fun once you get the hang of it. Here’s more about juggling including how-tos.
24. Make secret hideaways by throwing sheets over tables and chairs. Or construct forts using couch cushions and blankets. Let the make believe begin!
26. Play with tape. Rolls of painter’s tape or masking tape can spur new play ideas. Toy vehicles and action figures can travel along roadways made of tape stretched along on the floor. Overpasses, buildings, and other roadside features can be made from shoeboxes and other cardboard discards. Tape a giant tic tac toe board on the carpet, then use two sets of matching items for Xs and Os. Stretch tape across a hard surfaced floor to mark out hopscotch or skellzies.
27. Create sock puppets. Add features like ping pong ball eyes, yarn hair, and a cardboard mouth. For more ideas grab a copy of How to Make Puppets With Children or 10-Minute Puppets. Once your puppets are ready, create a theater out of a large cardboard box, practice a few scenes, then put on a performance.
28. Play vocabulary-boosting dictionary games. Really, these are much more fun than they sound.
29. Write to a business requesting information. My son once wrote to a pen company to settle a bet he had with me. He said my habit of leaving pens uncapped would dry them out. He not only got a response confirming that he was correct, but the pen company’s PR person sent eight different pens for him to enjoy as well as an admonition to keep after his pen-wrecking mother. Here are 37 other ways to do something unexpected via snail mail.
30. Make your own family board game. Keep it simple for small ones, add twists and more complex questions for older kids. Together you can incorporate inside jokes, everyone’s names, favorite places around town, whatever your family decides.
31. Learn magic tricks using books such as Knack Magic Tricks: A Step-by-Step Guide to Illusions, Sleight of Hand, and Amazing Feats and Kids’ Magic Secrets: Simple Magic Tricks & Why They Work. Also check out KidZone magic tricks, About.com’s easy card tricks for kids, and video tutorials on Mighty Tricks.
33. Put together adorable meals like those shown in Bean Appetit, Cute Yummy Time, Funny Food, and Funky Lunch. Use books like these as a starting point for inspiration. And don’t forget to make monster noises as you bite the nose off a clown-shaped sandwich.
34. Stage an indoor snowball battle. Save some paper from your recycling pile, crumple into balls, and throw.
37. Mix up homemade granola, customized with the seeds, nuts, and dried fruit your family prefers.
38. Make paper dolls (or paper dinosaurs, robots, elves, whatever) from stiff paper, connecting limbs with brads. Then cut out accessories. Use large sheets of paper to draw backgrounds. These paper characters can act out stories with endless variations. For more durable creations, do the same thing with leftover felt.
39. Stage a treasure hunt. First, hide a prize. The prize doesn’t have to be a toy (it could be a cool drink or a packed lunch!). Next, hide clues. For non-readers the clues can be rebus pictures, digital photos, or magazine cut-outs. For readers try riddles, short rhymes, or question-based clues. Each one 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. To get you to play they may turn off your cell, hide it, and chortle gleefully while you track it down.
40. 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 in the kitchen 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.