Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in the midst of the winter doldrums! For me, the time between New Year’s Day and the spring equinox always seems to draaaaag. Since we live in the frozen tundra, many winter days are spent indoors, with nothing to do. Nothing… except a house full of odds and ends you’d never expect could amount to a fun craft project! Maybe this winter will fly by, and in the midst of a hot summer, we’ll look back upon these days fondly, ready for the winter ahead.
After doing a little digging, I’ve discovered (and can’t wait to implement) a heap of fun indoor family projects:
Raised salt painting: Spread out the watercolors. Either you or your child can create a design on thick paper with liquid glue. Sprinkle the glue with table salt (cover it well). Dip the watercolor brush into the paint and lightly brush the salt-glue design without smearing. Watch the color become absorbed by salt! Let it dry and observe how it sparkles. (This project is not a long-lasting one, so take pictures. The salt and glue will crack and fall off, in time.)
Beanbag toss: Let the kids color on a cardboard box (you know you still have some left over from the holidays) and cut out a hole for beanbags. With scraps of fabric (or even socks), sew some squares together. Fill them with dried beans, rice, whatever you have on hand that’s been taking up residence in the back of your pantry. The more you let the kids have a hand in it (from picking and pouring out the ingredients to selecting fabric), the more interested they’ll be in the game, itself. And they just might have more fun making the game than playing it.
Salt dough: I like making handprints and comparing them from one year to the next, but after that’s done, there’s so much fun left for kids to explore with. They love rolling dough out, stamping and cutting shapes, and molding pieces together. When they make something that they’re truly proud of, take it to the oven. (Mix 4 cups flour + 1 cup salt + 1 1/2 cups water for your dough) Let it bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 300 for about 20-25 minutes, or until hardened on both sides.
Good clean fun: Slice a bar of Ivory soap into 4-6 pieces. Place one piece in the microwave on a paper towel. Set the time for two and a half minutes and watch what happens! (Ask your children what their hypothesis is beforehand, to add to their amazement.) The soap will expand, and be warm to the touch. (WARNING: do not place an entire bar in the microwave! It will fill the entire chamber!)
Sensory bags: (This is especially fun for little ones) Fill a large ziploc bag with water or baby oil, and any tiny items you may have lying around… buttons, lids, foam letters, plastic animals, marbles. Think of things that are too small for kids to explore outside of the bag. This is like having an “I-Spy” bottle! (Tape off the edges of the bag with clear packing tape, or double bag – leaks can occur.)
Button bowl: Demonstrate to your child how to glue many different colored buttons onto a balloon. Fill as much space as you can halfway up the balloon, then let it dry overnight. Mod Podge the buttons on the balloon, and let that dry thoroughly. Pop the balloon, and now you have a fun handmade bowl made of buttons.
Indoor city: With painters tape or masking tape, show your child how to make a “road,” then line up the cars to take a drive. Set out bins with blocks in them and add to the landscape by constructing buildings around the streets.
Snow ice cream: This one is fun to make if you live in a colder climate: Mix eight cups of fresh clean snow, one can of sweetened condensed milk, and one teaspoon of vanilla… Voila! Dessert, fresh from your own yard.
Homemade silly putty: For this, use equal parts Elmer’s Glue-All (multi-purpose glue) and Sta-Flo liquid starch (I haven’t tried this yet, but I understand that it’s important to use those particular brands – no substitutions). Mix glue in one container with desired amount of food coloring, then mix in the starch. The mixture will instantly turn gooey. Let it sit for about five minutes, then pour the excess liquid out and dump out the blob. Knead blob until it becomes smooth (it will be sticky initially). This looks like such a fun project for tactile kiddos!
Learning the phases of the moon: Using chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos, for instance), screw the top off of the cookies and slice away the icing to reveal different moon phases. When the “lesson” is over, dip into a mug of milk and enjoy.
Indoor scavenger hunt: Put a star beside certain items on the list and offer a “special surprise” if they’re found. This could include toys that you know are missing in the house, or could help with cleanups at the end of the day.
Puppet theatre: Take an old sheet or shower curtain and drape it over a tension rod in your hallway. Place it as high as (your) chest. Mark on the sheet where you’d like the window to be, and cut. (Be sure to account for your child sitting or kneeling down when considering the height of your window.) Use a second tension rod with a shorter scrap of fabric to hang behind the window, to act as the “curtain” behind your puppets. This could be the latest dinner theatre!
Shaving with popsicle sticks: In the tub, use shave gel to make fun shapes on your child’s face and body, then let them “shave” into other shapes, or simply shave off, with a popsicle stick.
Have an indoor picnic: Go ahead. Pretend it’s a warm day in July and you’re venturing out for a picnic! Grab a big blanket, basket with plates, silverware, napkins, fruit, cheese, sandwiches, and other finger foods. Let your child help carry the refreshment jug or blanket, and most importantly, let them “scout out” the area you’d like to dine in. Point out the “sights” along the way – a butterfly, squirrel, funny-looking tree, etc. Be as imaginative as possible, to make the moment fun!
Decorate the house with toilet paper! Suddenly when your home is transformed in this way, it becomes a WAY more fun space.
Popsicle stick puzzles: Line up a row of popsicle sticks and, with markers, let your child draw or paint a fun image to put together, themselves (once dry).
Homemade lava lamps: Fill a clear plastic bottle just over half full with vegetable oil, then fill the rest of the way with water. Leave an inch of room at the top of the bottle. Now, add ten drops of food coloring. Place bottle on a plate to catch any liquid that may spill. Next, add 1/4 of an alka-seltzer tablet. Watch water bubbles rise up through the oil. After the bubbles have all risen, add the next piece of alka-seltzer and repeat.
Ice balloon gems: Another fun one for those living in colder climates! Fill balloons with water and food coloring. Tie balloons up and let them sit outside overnight (the colder the temperature the better). Once the water inside the balloons is frozen, peel off the balloons, and behold; bright, cheery, colorful gems to set in the snow. Or kick around… (Be sure to use black gloves when removing the balloons, as the food coloring can stain lighter materials.)
Paint the snow: Your snowy yard is a blank canvas. Fill a few water spray bottles with food coloring and water and let the the decorating begin!
Bird feeders: Combine 1 cup melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup chopped nuts, and 1/4 cup birdseed. Mix and let cool to a pourable consistency. Grease cookie cutters, and slowly pour the mixture into each. About halfway full, place an 8” looped string into the cutter so that it sticks out of the top. Continue pouring the mixture until it almost reaches the top of the cutters. Let harden at room temp, then freeze for an hour. Pop out the shape and hang outside a window. Watch for feathery winter traffic!
Ice wreath: Fill a bundt cake pan 1/3 full of water. Set it in the freezer or outside overnight. Gather clippings from the outdoors and place randomly on top of the ice in the pan. Loop a thick ribbon or twine and set the edges in the pan. Cover with water 1/3 more of the way and let freeze again. Fill the rest of the pan with water and let freeze. Pop the ice mold out of the pan and hang on your window. This wreath is fun to watch (from inside) as it melts. Little critters might like to snack on what falls from it, so you may have visitors near your windowsill, too! If you can’t hang your wreath anywhere, set it outside on a plate and put a candle in the middle of the ring. Makes for a sweet winter doorstep decoration.
I hope you enjoy this list of ideas! If you can think of any more, we would love to hear from you!