Draw, color, and paint. Make origami. See whose paper airplane can fly the farthest. Fold paper hats or paper dolls. Spread out an old newspaper and trace around your child, then let him color in the life-size version of himself.
Many towns have indoor play places, whether they’re free ones at fast food joints or elaborate trampoline and bouncy-house-filled heavens that you can access for a fee. Yes, they are germ havens, but if you’re desperate, do a lot of hand washing and go out to explore. If your town doesn’t have one, consider hitting the local gym and spending some time running around the basketball court.
Sand and water tables are billed as a summertime activity, but you can still engage all five senses in the winter. Experiment with crunching tin foil or squishing Jell-O. Have your child close his eyes and touch something with an interesting texture – corduroy, shaving cream, faux fur – and guess what he’s feeling. Fill up a muffin tin with dried oatmeal. Get out an old box and dump in dried beans or pasta, then add a scooper. Just a panful of water on top of a few towels can be fun for little ones, and older children can fill up containers with food coloring-tinted water by using an old medicine dropper or a funnel.
Nurture Your Budding Picasso
Mix up some instant pudding or pull out a Snack Pack, and you’ve got everything you need for pudding finger painting, an especially good sort of painting for those under two who are inclined to taste the art supplies. Older kids can sponge paint with sponges cut into shapes or letters and can make prints by dipping a cookie cutter or kitchen gadget into paint and pressing it on paper. Let your child compare the paint blots from a whisk and a slotted spoon.
Or, dig out some old, clean socks and a few markers, and make sock puppets. Rig up a sheet between two chairs, and take turns being the puppet master. For those who are more Pink Floyd than The Sound of Music, take out a few flashlights, affix colored plastic or tissue paper over the lights with rubber bands and, voila, you’ve got all you need to create a homemade light show.
And if all else fails . . . Go Outside!
Bundle up and get a little cold or wet. Unless it’s twenty below with thirty mph winds and going outside is truly dangerous, heading out for even for ten minutes can hit a toddler’s reset button. Pile on double or triple layers, get one of those plastic covers to toss over the stroller. Go sledding, build a snowman, cover the yard with snow angels, and experience the winter wonderland.