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The Early Years: Inside fun on a cold day

Deb Archer

The holidays are officially over, and winter has arrived with a vengeance. Extended cold spells in northern Minnesota can be challenging for families with young children. So when kids have too much pent up energy and it’s too cold to take them outside, what are you going to do?

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With a little planning it’s possible to keep the kids busy and maintain your sanity. Here are some tips for the next time you have a day at home with the kids.

After the kids are down for the night, set up some of their toys in the living room. Moving toys from their bedrooms or play area, to the living room, sheds a whole new light on familiar toys. In the morning, the kids will see this arrangement and be excited to play.

Take all their Little People toys and dollhouses and arrange them in the living room. Kids especially enjoy playing when all the pieces are in one spot.

Add some real band-aids or other props to their doctor toys and set them near dolls and stuffed animal “patients.” Set up a doctor’s office paper with paper, pencils, and old cell phone for making appointments.

A train set or cars and trucks with some pre-made bridges or garages, can make for hours of entertainment. To help the kids get started, play with them for a little bit and provide them with some ideas for using the props.

When they get tired of playing with the toys, try bringing in a new prop, like a shoe box to make into a doll bed or a garage for their trucks. Give them some crayons or markers to decorate the box and have them come into the kitchen to make a snack for their dolls or for the train conductor.

A great way to get out some pent up energy is to have a time when it’s okay for the house to get really noisy. Turn up some fun kids’ music and let the kids jump, dance, and sing loudly. It’ll be much more fun if you join in, too! Let it be crazy for a while. Enjoy goofing around with the kids and being silly! Then, after everyone is tired out, try a quieter activity such as a puzzle or play-dough.

Indoor exercise trampolines or an old mattress on the floor can be a great way to expend some excess energy, too. I just bought two trampolines for the preschool and the kids love taking turns jumping. You can have them jump for a whole song, count to see how many times they can jump, or set a timer. My daughters wore out two of these trampolines when they were young. They were a part of my living room furniture for several years, so the kids could jump whenever they wanted to.

Letting the kids take a bath mid-afternoon can be a good, cold day activity. For added fun, allow them wear their swim suits and goggles! Give them funnels, measuring spoons and cups, a big mixing bowl, a whisk, some small plastic containers and squirt bottles such as empty dish soap, ketchup or mustard bottles. Let them just play in the tub; add more hot water when they start to get cold. They may like washing their toys, which can add an interesting element to a familiar activity. After their bath, some cozy clothes, hot chocolate and story time may be welcome.

It’s not realistic to expect young children to find something to do all the time. They need our help to direct and give them ideas. Next time you know you will have a day at home with the kids, plan ahead and determine to make it a fun day and before the kids go to bed, let them know you have something special in store for the next day. Kids love anticipation.

Finally, don’t expect to get all the laundry or cleaning done, just have a good day with the kids.

Deb Archer is a licensed teacher and parent educator. She owns Kickstart Preschool in Two Harbors.