The long, hot days of summer leave us with many hours – virtually most of the day – when being outside is uncomfortable and even dangerous. During those hours, children will get bored, and the lure of computers, TV, and any screen imaginable calls out to them like a siren song.
I admit it calls out to me as well. It’s so, so easy to sit kids in front of a movie or a computer game and have some blissful peace and quiet. And so much of the content out there is educational and cute and does have its place.
Yet overindulgence in passive entertainment comes with a heavy price – restless, cranky, dissatisfied kids who are always bored; have lost their taste for the outdoors, books, and simple games; can never get enough screen time and are always whining and negotiating for more, becoming insufferable, insolent and aggressive if their parents won’t allow it.
So how would you entertain children on a hot (or rainy) day when being out of doors isn’t an option? Board games and Legos are fantastic, but all kids inevitably get bored with their toys and games, no matter how many they have. This doesn’t mean you have to buy more stuff! Here are some tips on getting through a long day of being cooped up indoors:
1. Try to go out anyway. If your kids are bouncing off walls, check the option of a short trip to the library or a play center, or get together with a friend. I don’t recommend malls, because the lure of buy, buy, buy is just too strong.
2. Crafts. I stock up on craft supplies whenever I can! Paper, paint, scissors, glue, modeling clay, glitter, beads, fabric and yarn, as well as natural materials you might want to collect beforehand, can provide the whole family with several happy hours. I’m teaching the girls to crochet, and all the kids love to draw and paint.
3. Science. If you have the option of keeping an aquarium, it can be great for kids who love to observe (and maybe even take notes!). You can set up a worm farm, sprout seeds, or transform your kitchen into a lab with some fun and simple experiments.
4. Reading. It’s kind of an obvious choice… For those who read! That’s why it’s only number 4 on my list, though I could read all day. Younger children will enjoy being read to, but you will need to commit your full attention and have reasonable expectations as to attention span.
5. Cooking. Though sometimes it’s too hot for cooking or baking, there are always many fun things to do in the kitchen. Salads, vegetable or fruit platters with dips, no-bake cookies and bars, smoothies, lemonade, iced tea and popsicles can all make a kitchen-centered activity.
6. Water play. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a full-blown swimming pool, either. A cool or tepid bath or a wading pool are refreshing and fun for younger children. A baby bath with toys placed on the front porch, balcony, or even in the bathtub can entertain toddlers for hours. ALWAYS supervise water play of any kind!
7. Dress-up. In our house, we have a dress-up container that only comes out when all else has failed. The children love it, which is why I insist on keeping it a special treat, and they are responsible for putting all the things back in when they’re done.
Ultimately, each family has their own strategies on dealing with a time of being housebound. I’d love to know what works for you.
6 thoughts on “Wholesome entertainment for toddlers and tots”
I don’t have any suggestions for you or fellow readers. But I do have some questions: You wrote: “3. Science. If you have the option of keeping an aquarium…” Or a terrarium? In our country (yours and mine), wouldn’t it be easier to keep wildlife without having to monitor and keep filling a whole tankful of water? Besides worms (do you use yours to fertilize the soil outside afterwards?), I imagine one could keep lizards, geckos, and others that do better with less water. Perhaps keep a small bowl of water for whatever they need it for?
If this is impractical for any reason (do these creatures escape from the terrarium too easily, for example), please let us know. I’ve never done it myself or had it done for me; it’s just a thought.
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Hi Hava! We love our aquarium and it isn’t a lot of work – a cleaner fish will do most of the maintenance work. Some of our friends keep iguanas and harmless snakes in terrariums, which is great fun for kids as well. But of course we wouldn’t keep an aquarium if my husband wasn’t an aficionado 🙂
Wow these are brilliant and simple ideas! Want to “pin” it for later😉
Thanks for the aquarium idea, I’ve forgotten how cool and peaceful that is. Also looking into worms watching and reading how to do it
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Eldest daughter bought a packet of nylon sponges, cut them into thirds lengthwise and then gathered nine strips – three each of three different colors – twisted them in the center and secured them with a zip tie. A sturdy piece of string would do as well, I think. This makes a soft ball that can be tossed inside the house without damage, and dipped into a pail of water, makes great fun on a hot day.
Nylon sponges are softer and come in brighter colors. The packets she bought at the dollar store had four colors, I think, so you could vary the mixture to make one for each child. “S-h-e-e-e has my ball!”
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Great idea! Thank you!