Monday 19 March 2018

10 tips on how to keep the kids happy (and you sane) this weekend

Stuck inside this weekend? Ruth O'Connor is on hand with tips on how to keep the kids happy (and you sane) during Storm Emma

Sweet treat: Baking is a great way to keep the little ones occupied
Sweet treat: Baking is a great way to keep the little ones occupied

Ruth O'Connor

Status Red warnings from Met Eireann induced panic earlier this week as people dashed to the supermarkets for supplies of bread and milk. Yet the anxiety on parents' faces and the terror ricocheting around class WhatsApp groups wasn't merely due to the impending Beast from the East or #breadageddon, but the fear that we'd have to keep our little darlings occupied whilst cooped up for days. But don't press the panic button yet.

We've got plenty of ideas for how to keep everyone entertained as Storm Emma rages on.

1. Use technology to your advantage

Kids love their tech - there's no getting away from it - but if you can leverage their enthusiasm in a way that is actually educational too, then it's a bonus. Stop motion animation is great fun, encourages creativity and all you need is some Play-Doh, a camera, iPad or phone and a stop-motion app. Storyboard your ideas, create a dedicated set from a cardboard box, make chunky characters out of Play-Doh, use household objects or existing figurines. Around 12 frames equals one second of footage so that should keep everyone occupied for a while. Try the Animatic or Stop Motion Studio apps.

2. Make your own video games

Scratch was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It's a free program which allows kids to program their own interactive stories, games and animations. You'll need a computer and Adobe Flash Player. There are lots of samples and tutorials to get you started on:

Stick on a movie
Stick on a movie

3. Break out the board games

Christmas is often a time that kids love best, not just because of the excitement of Santa, but also because it's one of the few occasions when parents actually have time to spend with their kids in an unhurried way. To many children it doesn't seem to matter what you are doing as long as you're doing it together.

This is where old fashioned board games come into their own. So while you're all snowed in together, why not puzzle over Scrabble, bring out your inner property tycoon with Monopoly or come over all Miss Marple with Cluedo? Or - even better - make your own board game. It's a great way to practise basic arithmetic or spelling with the younger members of the family and also helps to build on turn-taking skills (or lack thereof!), negotiation and logic.

4. Get crafty

Artistic endeavours are some of the cheapest ways to keep kids engrossed when cooped up indoors. Go old-school with some tracing or greaseproof paper and markers - kids will love making expert-looking drawings that can be then put up on the window stained-glass-style afterwards. Gather up all your old magazines and newspapers and go wild with a scissors and some glue. Encourage the kids to make collages of funny characters or silly sentences, fantastical landscapes or shopping lists. It'll bring out their love of chaos and humour and it's practically free.

5. Turn your junk into art

Who doesn't love it when their kid comes home from school with someone else's empty milk cartons and toilet roll tubes stuck together to form a rocket? It might be made of rubbish, but that art is more priceless than any Van Gogh...

This time why not take the junk art out of the classroom and bring it to life at home instead? Grab your empty recyclables, some sticky tape, glue and any other bits and bobs of scrap fabric or buttons and let their imaginations run wild. Sometimes it's the simple things in life.

Having recently received delivery of some chairs, my kids and their pals had great fun playing with the box they came in - turning it into a castle, a spaceship and a boat.

They became life-sized Jacks in the Box. It was just like the 1980s all over again: good, simple fun.

6. Design jewellery for fun or to give as gifts

For younger kids, making simple pasta necklaces will aid dexterity and fine motor skills, while older kids will enjoy taking apart bits and pieces of old costume jewellery from Mum's jewellery box (with permission of course and not Granny's best pearls please!) to create new designs.

7. Ready, set, bake

Children love to bake and cook. They like measuring out ingredients, mixing and tasting, spooning the mixture from one container into another and eating the finished article. Baking and cooking helps children develop their reading skills, their ability to follow written instructions and understand measurements, and develops hand-eye coordination. Plus you get to eat something yummy at the end (even if it does look a bit wonky when it comes out of the oven). See for easy recipes to cook with kids and

8. Make a mess

Water play and messy play is a great way to keep kids engrossed. If you've a bored, whingy toddler at home, stick them in a bubble bath with their toys and watch their mood change.

Make gloop with cornflour, water and food colouring, slime (with 34 million video results on Google, you'll be able to decide whether to go down the shaving foam route or the glue route).

Homemade Play-Doh made with flour, salt, oil and water with food colouring is better than the shop-bought variety and very economical to make. There are two different methods - one cooked, one raw - and you'll find lots of recipes online. Homemade cloud dough similarly requires very few ingredients: just flour, oil and food colouring. It's soft and fluffy so it's great for toddlers. Many recipes mention baby oil but using cooking oil makes it non-toxic.

9. Camp indoors

Set up a small tent in the living room or bedroom or make your own makeshift version with a sheet and some kitchen chairs. Put in some cushions, sleeping bags and books and have a picnic lunch on the floor. There's something delightfully cosy about camping indoors with your teddy bears while the wind is howling outside.

10. Take a break with a home cinema

If your kids have been running around outside for the morning building snow people and sledging on fancy sledges/trays/oven dishes, it's actually okay to stick on a movie , especially if you are trying to work from home because you can't get to the office. Make some hot chocolate, bring the duvets down and choose an oldie but goodie. Snuggle up together. What's seldom is wonderful - give yourself a break.

Irish Independent

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