Six things to do with your children when the weather is bad
Keeping children entertained inside when the weather is bad doesn't have to be a challenge. Dearbhala Cox Giffin has some fun and frugal suggestions
Batten down the hatches! When temperatures fall below freezing and the storms are raging outside during the cold winter months, no one wants to stay too long outdoors, let alone take small children out to play for hours. But how can parents keep their sanity when all the family is inside, possibly facing tears, tantrums, arguments or random acts of household destruction? Simply open your eyes to what's right there in front of you and get creative to find things that work well for your children in the home. Keeping your energetic toddler or young child busy indoors is no easy task, especially if your child has a short attention span and quickly becomes disinterested in toys.
Capture their curiosity
Children are naturally curious, inquisitive and keen to learn so try to enhance these natural lines of enquiry and create lots of play opportunities at home. Avoid screens and devices if possible and encourage screen-free play instead, using all the everyday resources that are accessible in the home, which can be fascinating for children to explore.
Plan a mix of physical and creative activities, story time, messy play and learning games. It helps to plan your activities around the time your child is most energetic, for example, after an afternoon nap or before lunch.
Hide and seek, peek-a-boo, tag, catch, or a simple obstacle course are fun ways to get your toddler running around the house. Try playing in different rooms around your home to keep the game interesting. Building castles or transforming cardboard boxes into an obstacle course is always great fun. It's truly amazing the things you can create with a box, Sellotape and a pair of scissors. Not only does it provide hours of entertainment but children also enjoy jumping on the box and squashing it once the game is over. Make your own race track with a long sheet of paper taped to the kitchen floor and draw a long race track with markers and get out some cars. You go on one end, your child goes on the other, and roll the cars back forth to each other on the track. This is all about repetition and is especially fun for younger children - it usually only takes a few minutes to help them understand to stay at one end.
Why not build on your child's preference for natural objects and create treasure baskets for them to explore? Treasure baskets are low-sided baskets or boxes filled with natural and everyday items which babies and young children can explore by themselves. They can have lots of fun investigating and exploring all the exciting treasures inside. They are a great learning and development activity that will appeal to your child's senses in a fun way, as they are visually, texturally and audibly appealing and can even help your toddler with a variety of skills from fine motor to counting or matching. You can pretty much use anything as long as it's child-friendly. Try things like blocks, metal teapots, wooden spoons, uncooked pasta or keep them seasonal (feathers, pretend snow, cones, sea shells). The possibilities are endless.
Paint anything you can find
Children as young as 18 months love to paint and explore colour and texture. Give your child just paper or an egg carton and show them how to make a caterpillar. Or even try a paper towel tube and cut slits in the bottom to make an octopus, or it can become a wonderful rocket. Try all kinds of painting methods to keep your child involved - finger or hand painting, potato shapes dipped in paint and stamped on paper, sponges and rollers all create masterpieces.
Helping with household chores
You'd be surprised at how much young children love to help out at home. Make housework fun and encourage your child to count and pass the clothes pegs while you hang your laundry, set the tablemats for dinner, carry the cutlery or dust the table. Praise your child every time he does a good job as this will encourage your child to keep doing it and you'll get your chores done faster. The kitchen is also a fascinating place for young children who love to help out with small tasks like stirring, pouring flour in to a bowl or measuring ingredients. Children can get hands-on in the kitchen and don't forget to allow for some extra time, and of course extra mess, and try to be patient. Even if everything doesn't go perfectly, try to keep the mood light and you'll enjoy the experience more as a family. Last, but not least, be sure to compliment your assistant chef on a job well done and offer your child the first taste of whatever you have cooked together.
The important thing is to not let all of these activities overwhelm you as it can be challenging to come up with new and interesting things to do together when it's wet and cold outside. These activities are intended to be a fun way to spend time with your child and you don't need to worry about the finished product. It's the fact that you are challenging them, spending time together having fun and helping them use their minds that really matters.
Dearbhala Cox Giffin is Director of Childcare with
Giraffe Childcare; giraffe.ie
Four to try
- Set up dinosaurs in mud using a plastic tray/ shallow container with a high edge to minimise spillage. Use coloured gloop (cornflour and water with colouring) so that the mud is fun and sticky! l
- Playdough — create different doughs for a range of sensory experiences such as sand dough, glitter dough or add vanilla essence or the content of fruit teabags for additional textures and an exciting olfactory experience.
- Get dancing. You can turn up the music and have a little dance party in your sitting room. Toddlers love jumping around and mimicking adults so it would be a great time to show them some moves. Just find some child-friendly songs and if you have more than one child then you can make it a competition for extra fun.
- Keep it simple with stories which you can extend and make more interactive by using puppets, or encourage children to make up their own stories and get their imaginations flowing.