There’s an alternative to television on a wintry Sunday afternoon—it’s called good old-fashioned creativity
By Julie Davis
We’ve been pretty lucky in 2012. Mother Nature has given us a winter where snow hats and fleece mittens are hardly required. In fact, for most of January, my girls (ages 3 and 6) have spent much of their spare time outside—biking, swinging, scootering and even taking nature walks.
The mild weather has been a blessing. I, like many other parents, tend to be more lenient during the cold, dark winter months, allowing my children to spend more time in front of the television, and on the iPad, iPhone or any other electronic device. And while everything they watch, swipe, touch and tap is “child appropriate,” if not “educational,” when they use them, they slip into their own little worlds, with nary a nod of the head when I announce it’s lunchtime.
According to an October 2011 study by Common Sense Media, children ages zero to eight watch almost two hours of television or videos a day. Another study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found kids over eight years of age can spend upwards of seven hours a day using entertainment media, which includes computers, tablets, smart phones and more. Such excessiveness of electronics has been linked to a lack in creativity and social skills in children, as well as an overall less active lifestyle.
When last week’s weather forecast called for cooler temperatures and the possibility of snow, I realized we’d probably spend the next few weekends indoors. But rather than fuel the statistics, I made it my mission to get creative—but beyond just the usual board games, coloring books and paper mosaics, which can only hold a child’s attention for so long.
Calling upon two local parenting experts, Sherry Lombardi of Atlantic Highlands and co-founder of hulafrog.com, an online resource for locally based, kid-friendly activities, and Jillian Swartz of Red Bank and co-founder of The Family Groove, an online parenting magazine, I discovered a host of inventive ideas. From making a robot out of a trash can to skating on hardwood floors, these fun, original activities are sure to make any kid forget the iPad and get their creative juices flowing.
Let it snow.
Robot Trash Cans
It’s time to reboot your child’s idea of fun. Head to a local linen store and buy a small domed trashcan. Hit the craft store for buttons, stickers, pipe cleaners and whatever else comes to mind, then let your child’s mind run wild. Their creations are sure to be out of this world.
Recycled Work of Art
Inspired by an art project at Creative Learning Center pre-school in Shrewsbury, this idea is no throw away. Give your child an empty shoebox to fill with junk items from around the house—bottle caps, string, paper clips, buttons, rubber bands, keys (or anything in *** itals that ***endtals drawer). Spread their findings on a table, give them a glue stick and have them create a cool collage on the top of the shoebox. You’ll be amazed at how much fun they’ll have collecting—and creating.
Design Your Own Puzzle
Give your children some poster board or a large shopping bag (cut and flatten the bag so it’s in the shape of a rectangle) and have them scribble all over it or color a picture. When they’re finished, cut it into several pieces and have them put it back together. Cereal boxes work well if poster board is not readily available.
Indoor Ice Skating
If you have hardwood floors, pull back or roll up your rugs. Wrap microfiber cloths around your child’s feet and secure them with rubber bands. Dip their feet into soapy water and let them skate away. Leave out a long cake pan or backing dish with extra suds so they can refuel as needed. “As our hulafrog.com technical director puts it, ‘it’s a win-win,’” says Lombardi. “They’ll never know they’re also doing you a favor by saving you a morning of mopping the floor.”
Paint the Shower
Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with shaving cream and dye each cup a different color using food coloring. Equip your kids with paintbrushes of all sizes and let them work their magic in the shower—and maybe even play some music for artistic inspiration. When they’re done, use your showerhead or a few cups of water to remove the beautiful mess.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Hide small stuffed animals and toys in various places around the house (note: the more challenging you make it, the longer the fun will last). Make a list of the objects you’ve hidden and have your kids go hunt for them. If your little ones aren’t reading yet, just draw a picture of what they need to find.
Publish a Newspaper
Give your kids a digital camera and a pad of paper. Ask them to take pictures and write down (as best they can) everything they do—from eating breakfast to building a tower of blocks in the playroom. After a few hours, download the photos, and then drop them into Microsoft word with a few silly headlines. Print the pages and have your kids organize them and staple it all together. The end result: their very own newspaper—hot off the press.