Eliza Dill (2) and her family love spending time playing under sheet forts.
Whether you have one toddler or a house full, the cold winter months can be a challenge as cooped up youngsters explode with unspent energy. Try these boredom-busting ideas to keep creativity and exercise going until spring arrives.
Create with homemade dough. Help your toddler create her own custom-made playdough. Mix 1/2 cup salt, 2 cups flour, 2 tbsp. cream of tartar, 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, and glitter (optional) in a large bowl. Add food coloring (optional) to 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Slowly add water to dry ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Cool. Knead dough for a few minutes until it reaches the desired consistency. If too wet, add more flour. If too dry, add water, a teaspoon at a time. Once cooled, it’s ready for little hands to create. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another day.
Feed the birds. When it’s too cold to venture out, keep kids connected to nature by feeding birds a peanut butter and seed sandwich. Take a piece of toast and tear a small hole in one end. Thread twine through the hole to make a hanger. Help your toddler smear a thick layer of peanut butter onto one side. Pour a cup of bird seed into the center of a plate. Place the toast peanut-butter side down onto the seed, patting firmly to ensure the peanut butter is covered. Place the bread on a wire rack and let it dry overnight. In the morning, go outdoors and let your little one pick the perfect place to hang his birdfeeder. Then go back inside, sip hot cocoa, and watch the birds enjoy their special treat.
Make your own snow. You don’t have to wait for a snow day to play in the snow. Grab a can of dad’s shaving cream and a bottle of white Elmer’s-style glue. Mix together equal parts to create a creamy snow paint that dries to a puffy texture. Fingerpaint a snowman on construction paper, then add embellishments like pom-poms, sequins, felt, or yarn to make the painting extra special.
Hold a scavenger hunt. Hide small objects (consider Easter eggs or building blocks) around the house and then give verbal cues to help your tot find the hiding place of each object.
Have a dance party. Sometimes toddlers just can’t sit still long enough for playdough or gooey peanut butter. The best energy burner is music and dancing. Dress in silly costumes, then put on your favorite music and host a dance contest. Have your child dance as different people — grandpa, his best friend, his favorite teacher. Use your imagination to twirl like fairies, hop like rabbits, wiggle puppy tails, and laugh like hyenas.
Play leapfrog. Gather small pillows, rugs, or towels, and place them in a line through the house, leaving a foot or two of space between each one, depending on the child’s age. Let children (and grown ups, too) leap like a frog from lily pad to lily pad and see who can go the farthest before missing a pad and ‘falling’ into the water.
build a fort. Gather several sheets and light blanket to make a roof, walls, and even separate rooms for kids to hide under and have picnics and tea parties in all day long.
Get outdoors. Sometimes little ones just have to get outside in spite of the frigid temperatures. Bundle them up and trek through the neighborhood in search of pinecones, acorns, leaves, and twigs to take home. Then, sip another cup of cocoa and chat about the treasures you found on your hike.
Has Your imagination fizzled?
I like to reach out to other moms and borrow their kid-approved activities for my energetic tots. Here are a few of my favorite links:
Our Favorite Destinations for Tots!
Memphis Zoo - memphiszoo.org
Children’s Museum of Memphis - cmom.com
The Art Project at Overton Square - artprojectmemphis.com