So, we’re fast approaching the time of year where trips to the park with the kids becomes a cold, wet and muddy affair. I find myself spending a lot of money on trips to our local soft play as a warm latte and a seat is much more appealing that shivering in the park with a towel in tow to wipe the swings and slides dry! We still love our family walks at the weekends and we still do picnics in the winter. But instead of sitting on a lovely blanket on the grass with sausage rolls and juicy strawberries, we find a bench, get out the furry hot water bottles and crack open a hot flask of tomato soup. We love it!
However, there are so many days, especially in Scotland during Winter, when the weather is simply so bad that venturing outdoors would be insanity if you really don’t need to! But when you become a parent, those days indoors can be far from enjoyable. My children get bored quickly and a day spent indoors usually leads to bickering, or worse, extreme hyperactivity! Keeping the children amused can be difficult, especially if there’s an age gap. Sofia is 6 and Leo is 3 and I find that I have a few fail-safe activities that always keeps them amused and appeals to them both equally. Here are my top ten ideas!
Sands alive (LINK)
If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve already heard of this stuff. It’s great. There are lots of brands who make this foamy, super soft, mouldable sand such as Kinetic, but the sands alive is by far the best. You can easily build sand castles, make shapes and animals from their little moulds and they last. Other types just collapse straight away as the sand is too fine. This one comes with a tray to minimise mess and unlike play doh, the sand is easy to clean up, doesn’t stain and never dries out. It only sticks to itself and can easily be rolled back up into a neat ball. I seal mine in clickable sandwich bags and store away for next time. Recently I bought a bag of treasure for my son. He loves pirates. You can buy these very cheaply from The Range (LINK) in the party bag aisle! He sat for ages burying his treasure in the sand and then digging it up again with a little spoon. My daughter likes to play with her mini barbies like these and pretend they’re at the beach. A tray each keeps them happy. I recommend placing a plastic sheet underneath your child’s chair to catch any mess like this (LINK) it comes in a pack of three. Hours of fun!
My children love nothing more than a treasure hunt! We recently bought Sofia a copy of her favourite book and instead of wrapping it up, we left clues to its whereabouts, waiting for her after school. We printed a map from google (LINK) for her to follow and she loved it! She has recently learned to read very well and was proud to be able to read the clues herself. On Leo’s map we draw pictures instead and the treasure at the end could be something small like a little biscuit. It’s the thrill of being able to hold a magical map and follow the clues themselves that they love. Sofia also makes hunts for us with post its, its adorable as the treasure is always a note saying I love you mum and dad!
Make your own play-doh
Play-doh is cheap and easily available. But did you know that making your own is easy and you probably have all the ingredients in your cupboards already? The kids will love getting involved in mixing and rolling and will have a sense of pride being able to play, cut and mould their very own home-made version! Save your money with this thrifty, fun recipe:
- Mix 8 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the 60 mls cold water, a few drops of food colouring of your choice and the 1tbsp vegetable oil.
- Pour the coloured water into the flour mix and bring together with a spoon.
- Dust a work surface with a little flour and turn out the dough. Knead together for a few minutes to form a smooth, pliable dough. If you want a more intense colour you can work in a few extra drops of food colouring.
- Store in a plastic sandwich bag (squeeze out the air) in the fridge to keep it fresh.
Picnic on the floor
Make lunch time more exciting by bringing your picnic indoors. Lay a cosy blanket on the floor and arrange lots of little plastic plates with snacks. I like to cut the children’s fruits and arrange them into funny faces. Get some cookie cutters and make their sandwiches into little stars or maybe some Halloween shapes. I bought a bag of Halloween cookie cutters for £1 in Asda! We often pop on a Disney film too. The children will really enjoy this special treat and it encourages them try different foods.
Have a disco
We always do this on a Saturday night! I bought a fabulous double disco ball like this one here (LINK) If you don’t want to splurge on that then you could opt for these bulbs from The Range (LINK) and pop them in your light when the kids fancy a boogie! We do dancing competitions; musical statues and we have a list of our favourite YouTube videos such as (LINK) where the kids must copy the moves. That song is their all time favourite, they know it by heart! If it’s daylight, close your curtains/blinds and turn the lights off for a better effect with your new lights. What an adventure!
We all loved to bake as children, didn’t we? I have fond memories of standing on a stool in my gran’s kitchen making fairy cakes. I felt like we were the only two people in the world. I can’t think of anything more magical than recreating that with my own children. There are thousands of easy recipes to follow online. My favourite is marshmallow krispie squares. They’re perfect for taking into school in a Tupperware box to share proudly with their friends. My daughter took her creations into school a few months back, for no particular reason, and was so proud to come home with a sticker from her teacher as a reward!
Here is our recipe which I took from Tanya Burr’s baking book. It’s fabulous! (LINK):
*Line a 30x20cm baking tin with greaseproof paper
* Melt 50g unsalted butter in a saucepan over a medium heat
* Tip in the marshmallows and stir constantly until they’re melted and smooth
*Remove from heat and stir in 150g of rice crispies until well combined
*Pour the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly. Scatter over a handful of mini marshmallows for decoration (The kid’s favourite part).
*When cool, cut into squares and get stuck in!
Print off ‘worksheets’
My daughter loves to play schools. She constantly asks me to make her some ‘homework’ even during the school holidays. I go onto Pinterest and type in what I’m looking for such as ‘sums for 6-year olds’ I set up a desk for her with pencils and rubbers and she just loves it. I usually print off a big batch of all different types of ‘worksheets’ such as spelling, drawing, sequences and reading. My son loves to join in and I usually print him off some dinosaurs to colour in so that he feels involved and grown up like his sister. I have a stash of special ‘well done’ and gold star stickers available here (LINK) and they burst with pride in me acting as their teacher and correcting their ‘work’. Recently my daughter spent the night at her Grandparents and off she went with her little pink trunki loaded with worksheets. Her poor Grandad was subjected to a whole night of sums! He loved it really.
Refresh the toys
People often ask me where I store the Children’s ‘big’ toys. They can take up so much room in their bedroom and if they’re always available, they will lose interest quickly. I try to rotate their toys every few weeks. We are lucky enough to have a large garage where we have lots of toys stored in plastic storage boxes like these (LINK) ‘Can we have a special toy from the garage?’ is a question we are asked frequently and they think of it as a real treat. It’s amazing how excited they become when they see an old favourite being brought back into the house. You may not have a garage, but you can still store some toys separately from their bedrooms or play rooms as special treat toys. I have some on the top shelf of their wardrobes out of sight too. It keeps their little minds active and they always play so much better together when we do this.
Make a campfire
My children were obsessed with doing this last year. We click this (LINK) on YouTube which plays a continuous crackling campfire. It has a lovely effect when played on the iPad. We grab some blankets, teddies and barbies and sit in a circle around the ‘campfire.’ Telling stories, roasting pretend marshmallows and pretending we’re out in the wilderness. When Leo was just a baby he would ask if we could make a ‘COMP fire’ it was so cute, he just loved it! Close the curtains, get the torches out and have a real camping adventure. Just watch out for the wolves!
Make a den
I think this must be the most popular game at the moment, although it’s the bane of my life! I’m forever coming down to the living room to find my beautiful, velvet, perfectly plumped cushions in a heap on the floor in the kid’s attempt to make their own den. They love us to pull out the dining chairs, drape blankets over them and make an under the table den. They love to pile their books in there and do some spooky story telling! A couple of years ago, we bought a new dining table which came in several huge boxes. When emptied and before the table was built, we made a gigantic long tunnel that stretched the entire way from the dining room to the living room by taping the boxes together. Oh, the fun the kids had that night! Whenever I receive a delivery I keep the box for a couple of days to allow them to make a den out of it and draw on it until their heart’s content! You can even buy cardboard houses and castles to colour in! These make a fantastic gift for children of any age! (LINK)
You don’t have to spent money to create beautiful memories. It’s the simple things in life that are often the most precious.
Share your ideas below and here’s to healthy, happy children!