Saturday, September 13, 2008


(This month's Marvellous Mums theme)

How many times were your preschoolers sick this winter? I thought those reoccurring coughs and colds would never end! Well some of you may still be at the tail end of getting rid of those nasty germs and, at the risk of sounding cynical, I think that unfortunately the outlook for next winter and the one after will probably be much the same.
Take heart though, I am here to share some ideas on entertaining young children when faced with, what can seem like, an eternity of being housebound…

I’ve had weeks where the highlight for me has been going out in the cold and dark to do my grocery shopping. Sad I know, but when your children get sick and they just can’t seem to get their immunity levels up, there are times when you can be stuck indoors for a very long time.

Here are a few suggestions for some in-house activities that could be the difference between going mad and staying sane through the dull and dreary months of winter with sick kids- file it away next to the Dimetapp or just save it for a rainy day!

Obtain a big roll of lining/ butcher’s paper and keep it in the shed or somewhere to bring out from time to time and create a mural. One indoor day this kept my kids and I amused for ages as we traced around our feet, hands and body plus drew daddy’s work, our car and house and then coloured them all in. We then hung it up on the biggest wall we could find to admire and show Dad when he arrived home. You can use crayons, pencils and stickers as well as some stencils to get shapes that young children may otherwise not be able to draw themselves. You can also make birthday wrapping paper using this same technique, which is especially good for large presents and can be more economic.

I find colouring-in is always a nice therapeutic activity if children don’t have an abundance of energy. I often do a quick ‘Google’ search for Elmo, Barney, Wiggles etc (whoever my kids are into that week) and print off some new colouring pages for them to scribble on. A homemade colouring book can be printed on the back of your used computer paper. On different occasions we have then decorated envelopes and made stamps before walking to our letterbox and posting our mail for daddy to find when he gets home… this part is usually VERY exciting!

You can never go wrong with play dough. I have the easiest recipe that my mum gave me that allows me to whip up a fresh batch regularly. I keep a big box of cookie cutters, plastic knives, rolling pins, candles, straws etc and my children love making animals, birthday cakes, worms and eggs. It is especially enjoyable when the play dough is still warm.

Making music can liven up just about any case of the blues. We keep all our musical instruments in a big tub. I find this makes it easier to keep all the items that are meant to be together in the one place as well as making them less likely to break, get misused and drive me crazy.
When we want to have a ‘jam’ session and be noisy rock stars on the keyboard, drums and recorder; we just go and find our tub and there they all are. We don’t have to search around for a missing maraca and the drumsticks are less likely to be used as weapons when in a controlled environment. When the music activity has stopped or it’s getting too boisterous, we simply pack up the instruments so they are not damaged and save that activity for another time. You can spend time adding to your music box too by making your own shakers and drums. Video taping the kids and then watching it back once you’ve packed up is also a lot of fun.

NB I’ve mentioned before, I have many activities stored in separate tubs to bring out at particular times and then pack away again. For more info on some of the things I keep in my tubs go to look under Toddler Activities/Birth of a second child.

I have a real soft spot for puppets. I find it hard not to buy them when I see them and have enjoyed performing many amateur puppet shows on kid’s camps over the years as well as incorporating puppetry and scriptwriting into my classroom teaching. Years ago my husband and I made a puppet theatre and it has been a hit already with my toddlers, who love to go through all the various sized puppets and make up little shows of their own or just use their imaginations to play with the characters behind the curtains without an audience. For those who don’t own a puppet theatre and puppets, it is really easy to create a temporary one using a sheet and some chairs and to make some finger puppets about a familiar story. I can guarantee that your kids will love it if you put on a little show for them (modelling what to do) and it is very amusing to watch them as they make up their own too.

There are so many activities that involve pretending. Making cubbies, dressing up, playing houses with plastic food and recycled food boxes, setting up a shop, playing doctors and nurses, hairdressers, postman etc.

Most children I know love to help in the kitchen but making things with food doesn’t always have to involve using real food (especially if they’ve been sick). Besides icing cakes and biscuits, making jellies, desserts and bread why not try using some paper plates and your junk mail to create a plate of food that is just for looking at? Older toddlers can go through and cut out food pictures from catalogues themselves while younger ones will still enjoy just choosing and pasting pictures onto their plate. You can use these in your pretend games of ‘home’ as well.

Sometimes when children are sick all they can seem to manage is sitting on the couch with a good dvd. But besides dvds and TV, there’s also many easy games, puzzles and activities on various children’s websites such as Sesame Street that can help keep kids entertained for a period of time on a long day. By opening up a Word document, you can help supervise them making shapes etc and then print them out to colour in.
Play back some old family videos or set up an easy play station game (depending on their age of course).

Spend some time looking through photos albums and talking about who is in each photo and reminiscing about past birthday parties etc. My children love looking through some of the scrapbooked pages of Disneyland and other holiday destinations- even though they weren’t even born then!

Read through the toy catalogues saying what your favourite things are on each page. Get out some books that haven’t been looked at in a while or make a book box of all a particular theme or character. Play a story on CD and have your child listen to the story and turn the pages.

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