Sure, you can surprise your child with a pricey new toy or game, and they will think you are The Best Mom Ever Ever Ever. Or you could impress them even more with certain simple, cheap, even free treats and activities, ones that are are guaranteed to cure cabin fever and even the worst case of “I’m boooooored!” These are my all-time faves.
1. Sprinkles of any kind 1 of 12
Last weekend, I baked cupcakes with my kids. As a surprise, I'd bought several canisters of sprinkles (Bed, Bath & Beyond has a surprisingly good assortment). I laid them out on the countertop before the kids walked in. Oh, the squeals! It was as if they'd encountered Martha Stewart in the kitchen. (Oh, wait, that's my fantasy.) Those itty bitty sprinkles earned me major Mommy points.
Image source: Flickr/mazaletel
2. Read books in funny voices 2 of 12
Read books to the kids in slow-mo, or readveryfastlikethis. Read like you're a minion from Despicable Me. Read in a British accent. Read in a high-pitched voice, like someone has just filled you up with helium. They will think you are a laugh riot, and you will be spared the tedium of reading Curious George Rides A Bike for the seven hundredth time.
Image source: Flickr/Neeta Lind
3. Blow bubbles in the dark 3 of 12
Bubbles are another one of those things that inevitably awes kids. Try this at bedtime for even more magic: Grab some bubbles and a couple of flashlights. Turn off the lights, set the flashlights on a bureau and shelf so they point in different directions and turn them on. Then blow bubbles so they hit the light. You can also turn off the flashlights, blow bubbles and see if kids are able to spot them glistening and catch them with wands.
Image source: Flickr/Jeff Kubina
4. Relive your wedding 4 of 12
My husband and I recently invited the kids to celebrate our 12th anniversary with us. I made up invites on the computer that said, "You are cordially invited to Ellen & Dave's wedding." We flipped through our wedding photo album together. We watched the video. We ate pigs in blankets as snacks. I even broke out my veil and Dave and I recreated our first dance, and it was just as klutzy and wonderful as the first time. The only question my 8-year-old had: "Mommy, why weren't we there?"
Image source: Flickr/Andrew Morrell Photography
5. Get a super-cute umbrella 5 of 12
Really, any umbrella will do because kids think they're all sorts of incredible, but even better if it's a pattern or character your child loves be it polka dots or Lightning McQueen. Save it for a rainy or snowy day, because the second you show it to your child, she will want to use it. Or, heck, let her walk around in the sunshine with it.
Image source: Flickr/Nina Matthews photography
6. Let them raid the I’m So Not Bored Bin 6 of 12
Raid the dollar store for a bunch of toys and books. Plop them into a bin and label it "The I'm So Not Bored Bin." Next time one of your darlings whines, "There's nothing to do!" haul out the bin and let her pick one thing. In case of boredom emergency, she can pick one more thing.
Image source: Flickr/Rusty Clark
7. Knock knock. Who’s there? More silly knock-knock jokes! 7 of 12
Nothing like a knock-knock joke to keep kids amused. The favorite at our house is an oldie but goodie:
"Hey, why are you crying?"
Image source: Amazon
8. Pretend your child is a celebrity 8 of 12
OK, you probably already feel like you are your child's personal assistant/publicist/fan club, so make it official. Tell her that for today, she is [insert child's favorite celebrity]. Ask her to sing a song, microphone (carrot) in hand, or act something out. Do a photo shoot, then print out the image and paste it on the cover of a magazine. Ask for her autograph. Run if she asks for an American Express Black Card.
Image source: Flickr/InSapphoWeTrust
9. Play water games 9 of 12
Cover your kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth, then commence. Fill glass cups with different levels of water and show kids how they make different sounds when you clink them with a spoon. Drop a bunch of objects in a bowl filled with water — little plastic animals, game pieces, grandma's fake teeth — and have the kids try to fish them out with a chopsticks. Kids think water-anything is cool, and they will be even more amazed that you don't even care it's getting everywhere.
Image source: Flickr/Carly & Art
10. Do a treasure hunt … in your husband’s sock drawer. 10 of 12
File this under "super-sneaky." Bury a dollar bill or two deep in the wasteland known as your husband's sock drawer. Inform your child, and invite him to do a treasure hunt to find the money. The way to play is that first he has to take out all of the socks, then arrange them by white and black, put to the side any socks that don't have a match and replace them after the cash is found.
Image source: Flickr/Don Nunn
11. Tell them about when you were little 11 of 12
Of course, you could just hand over your iPhone and let your tech-obsessed kid play with his latest app obsession. Or you can tell him that when you grew up, there were no iPhones or iPads. Google around and show them what old phones, video games and TVs looked like. Instant wow!
Image source: Flickr/Clemson
12. Try alterna hide-and-seek 12 of 12
Kids love the classic, but they may be into these variations even more:
Make like sardines: Only one child hides. Once a child finds the hider, he squeezes in with him. Then they await the next person, who crams in as well and so on. The game ends when the last kid comes upon the sardines.
Or just play in pairs: A bunch of teams go hide; one team sets out to find everyone.
Try the escaped version: Designate a home base where the seeker does the counting in a loud voice. After he or she sets off to find everyone, kids escape their hiding spots and try to sneak back to home base. If the seeker spots an escapee, he can give chase.
Or best of all: You hide, ideally someplace with a lock and good lighting. Bring a book and a tasty drink. And hope that it takes the kids a long, long time to hunt you down.
Image source: Flickr/tanitta