In the throes of the bitterly cold Beijing winter, it can be hard to remember how easy it was a few months ago – when the kids were entertained by running loose in parks and playgrounds. But we’d better get used to staying indoors for the next few months. Although my kids and I are housebound, I try to avoid putting the television on. Those little unblinking eyes, vacant expressions, and slightly open mouths make me a tad uncomfortable. To avoid winter weekend boredom, here are a few of my kids’ favorite activities to keep them busy when they’re stuck inside the house.
Magazines and scissors: This activity is simple, but kids can spend hours on it. Provide them with old magazines that have large pictures, glue and scissors (use safety scissors for little ones), and set them loose. They can cut up the magazines to their hearts’ content and create great collages.
Treasure Hunt: Instead of the basic “find and seek,” I hide
“treasures” around the house for them to find. It can be something simple like stickers or a small stuffed animal. If your children are older, the treasure hunt can incorporate clues written on little notes. One clue leads to another clue until they get to their final prize at the end. A word to the wise – if your kids are young, try to place the treasures in obvious places – this saves them wreaking havoc and turning the house upside down.
Tents: My kids love making forts. No large cardboard box in the house is safe – it will soon become a shelter with windows and doors. Decorating the outside is also lots of fun and is something parents and kids can spend a day working on together. If there aren’t any boxes on hand, try using a blanket or a sheet propped up by some tables and chairs. The kids will love playing in their little hideouts, and when it’s time for dinner, it can easily be taken down.
Dress-up: If your kids are like mine and their dress-up clothes regularly lose their appeal, try looking for unusual things around the house that can stimulate their imagination and step in as a substitute. How about some of your old clothes? What about winter hats, oven mitts or an apron? A sheet can become a toga, a ghost, or a dress. Be creative and think outside the box.
Flashlight: It’s pretty amazing how long kids will be entertained with a flashlight in a semi-dark room. Give each child a flashlight and ask them to shine their torch on whatever you call out. For example, if you say “lamp,” the kids should wave their torches and compete to be the first to spotlight a lamp. You can also hide something for them to find, as kids always love playing detective.
Mommy or Baba’s Helper: Kids love playing grown- ups, so why not take advantage of it and let them help out around the house? Even little ones can help sort laundry, and slightly older children can learn to fold. Helping in the kitchen is always fun, especially when they get to try their hands at baking. Once the kids are done cooking, they can have fun sampling their yummy creations. My kids have their own aprons, which make them feel special and “grown up.” Tidying up toys can be a pain, but we’ve designed a game that gets it done in no time. Put on some fast, fun music and tell them that their toys have to be picked up before the song is over. You’ll be surprised how quickly it gets done!