About four years back we found ourselves sitting together on New Years and having this conversation about how we wanted to raise our family.
What things did we want to do with our three small kids?
What things did we want to teach them?
What kind of character did we want to nurture in them?
We had never had this conversation in the first three years of our parenting.
As we made these lists we learned new things about how the other wanted to parent. It was eye-opening.
It was also something that helped us get on this new track of doing things ‘on purpose’ instead of being in a constant state of reacting to life. Especially with children, we can be a constant state of responding to the day as it unfolds instead of planning out something cool for the family, something that is on purpose and in line with all those lists we made.
One of the hard parts for me was thinking of what do with the kids. I looked to Pinterest and Instagram often for ideas on things to do.
In my most recent Reader Feedback Survey, many of you have told me that you appreciate me sharing what things I have found to do with the kids, so I thought I would make an uber list to help you with ideas on what do with the kids,
This list is stuff that my kids have liked to do. THESE ARE NOT ALL MY IDEAS, I have looked to other moms, Pinterest and Instagram for much inspiration. I am not sharing this to portray that I have cornered the market on fun with kids, but rather as a landing place if you are hunting for some ideas. This list is mainly limited to things that are cheap and/or easy. Great if you are in a small town like we are.
Make sure to get the free download that goes along with this blog post…
This list is full of ideas that should be free, or low cost.
They are simple enough that you don’t need a degree in Pinterest to do them.
They can be done all while staying at home.
They are fun and engaging, they are learning opportunities disguised as play and games.
CABIN FEVER – HAVING FUN IN THE HOME
Blind Taste Test – we did chips here and they had to guess which flavour the chips were. I think you could do this with anything in your kitchen. Or have a blind feel test where they have to guess what is in their hands. .
Table Topics – they actually generate some real conversation during dinner time (instead of how was your day? good. anything cool happen? not really…..)
A fan and some balloons = done and done!
Thank you to Kyle for teaching us what we missing from our lives….the t-shirt ninja
Decorate the house. Kids are pretty resourceful with some streamers and masking tape. You don’t need a reason to decorate! Do it to make up something to celebrate
Pictionary. All you need is a whiteboard/chalkboard/paper and the kids can think of their own things to draw
Coin Hockey. Put some tape on the sides of the table so the coins don’t fall off.
Memories. Look at old photos/videos or the bin of paper keepsakes you have for your kid. They love this, there is something special about knowing your history and hearing stories about things you did when you were little.
Card Games. Our family favourite is UNO, even the three-year-old can play it. Go Fish is also great.
Play Dough. If we bring out playdough and plastic dishes and rolling pins, they will play for at least an hour. I like this recipe to make my own.
Face Paint. We just used regular ole paint and then picked up some face paint pens from the dollar store.
Guess Who. I loved Guess Who growing up. I found this cheap knock off and we loved playing it.
Sorting something. I remember sorting jelly beans as a kid. Kids love sorting stuff. Coins are easy enough to have them sort, plus maybe they will learn a little more about math and money.
Obstacle course. This is not always my favourite, but when they decide to make it as a team and run it together I go with it.
Puppet Show. We bought some puppets from IKEA and keep them in a bag to bring out sometimes. There usually is a craft involved in the puppet show though.
Laundry Baskets. On the rare occasion that there is an empty basket, they become trains and cars and homes.
Legos. When we lego, we lego hard!
Board Games. With younger kids it can be a bit tricky to successfully play and complete a board game. We often take what we have an make adjustments #houserules. We do like pictureaka, you can adjust it for all ages.
Baking. I mean, it’s not my personal favourite and I need to remove myself from the situation and countdown from 10 at least three times in the process – but if you like it then do it!
Other cabin fever busters:
give them a roll of painters tape,
make a race track with tape,
let them listen to music in headphones,
read together, listen to an audio book or podcast,
have a dance party,
have a movie day with blankets and pillows on the floor,
play family hide and seek,
watch old family videos/photos,
create a movie trailer using iMovie,
have a fancy dress up/costume dinner with candles and music.
CRAFTS AT HOME
Glue gun and wood scraps! This is my personal favourite. A friend gave us boxes of wood scraps and the kids and their friends will spend hours glueing wood together and decorating it.
Fork pom poms made into puppets (check out how to make them here)
Still life. Once I explained still life to my daughter, she started taking apart my kitchen and setting up scenes to draw. Portraits are also a good one, we all take turns drawing each other. Maybe silly versions of one another (eg minecraft mom telling the world “it’s 9:30, I am 35!”)
Fabric Markers. My kids love the idea of drawing on their clothes, so we picked some old clothes for them to fill with drawings.
Drawing Tutorial. So in our day, we had Bob Ross (he is still awesome!), now our kids have a modern youtube experience with channels like Art for Kids Hub
Tinfoil sculptures. Tear off some sheets of tinfoil and you will find all sorts of treasures in your kitchen for days!
Science experiments. I usually stick to baking soda and vinegar but saw a friend do this one with milk, dish soap and food colouring. It was mesmerizing. It eventually turned into the kids making concoctions of random things in the kitchen and calling them ‘potions’.
Crafts. I had a bunch of TP rolls and the kids went on Pinterest to find ideas. They made TP cars, TP houses and TP owls. We’ve also done paper plate crafts and made many (many) ninja turtle plates. Our crafts are self-led through Pinterest tutorials or whatever they think up to make. I just provide the supplies and the internet connection.
Embroidery. I won’t sugar coat it, this one takes a lot of patience. I had to fix their threading every other minute. But as we did it I learned to see that they are very capable and very interested in learning and doing something new.
Giant paper world. Layout a big roll of paper (use the back of wrapping paper) and start drawing an outline of a world with them. They pick what goes where and colour it in. Then it can be used for cars, lego men, half-eaten produce – you know.
FUN THINGS TO WATCH ON TV/YOUTUBE
The Spangler Effect – this scientist shows really fun experiments and tricks that usually leave us laughing or with our jaws dropped.
How It’s Made – this classic TV show is on youtube. It is fascinating to watch how different products in our world are made at the factory level.
Art for Kids Hub – the drawing tutorials that kids love because the characters are their faves and the host is engaging and low-stress.
5-minute crafts – different hacks and crafts that your kids might not ever do but watching it is really relaxing because they aren’t tutorials, they just run through the craft and onto the next.
CBC Kids – there is a lot of variety to watch on here and the Studio K hosts are funny enough that I don’t mind watching either.
BBC Talking Animals – they took wildlife footage and dubbed over voices. It is one of the funniest things ever.
Whiz Kid Science – though I feel like this kid has typecast himself for life, watching a kid do science projects led my kids down a rabbit hole of mom-led science project to fully blown kitchen sink concoctions that they sinisterly referred to as ‘their potions’. They were getting weird, I made them take them outside.
People are Awesome – this is the opposite of ‘fails’ – this is people nailing truly amazing feats.
Dude Perfect – my middle schooler is a big of this channel, and so the other two have joined right in. Four dudes doing trick shots and strange challenges. The whole family enjoys it
Zach King – mix up magic tricks, optical illusions and videography and you have a very entertaining show. And if your kids are into nerf, he has some fun videos on that too.
Family and kid podcasts we have liked
Smash Boom Best – Two comedians debate what is better. The subjects are fun like unicorns vs dinosaurs, chocolate vs cheese, venus vs jupiter. If you ever listened to The Debater on CBC (where my Canadian mamas at?) it is like that, but with kid-friendly topics and kid-appropriate jokes.
Earth Rangers – This is a podcast focussed on animal conservation. Each episode covers one animal and they share interesting facts about it and bring on a specialist as well. Kids also submit their own stories of animal encounters, it is well done.
> There is also a gaming app associated with the podcast if your kids are very into nature and conservation.
Big Life Kids – A friend told me about this podcast and one rainy day I turned it on for the kids and they got into it. If you heard me talk about the Growth Mindset (on the podcast or in the Making Change Challenge) then you might remember that the growth mindset. A growth mindset assumes that we are capable of learning/doing most anything with time and effort. It is a term coined by Carol Dweck, while doing research on how kids learn, saw that kids had either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. This podcast shares fun stories with big lessons pointing back to the different aspects of having a growth mindset. It’s very inspiring.
There is a journal the kids can do as they listen to the podcast episodes
Young Ben Franklin – this is an adventure and mystery podcast – like those old time radio shows that were once a substitute for tv. The story is interesting and the story telling is so well done. Great for a bit older kids, but the whole family was into it. The company that makes this podcast has lots of other ones my kids have liked too, like Finn Caspian, Molly of Denali, Treasure Island and Tumble Science Kids
Family shows we have liked on NETFLIX
The Inbestigators – kids solving simple mysteries in their community
The Who Was Show – teens reenacting the lives of famous people throughout history
Brain Games – making brain science relatable and fun
Brain Child – science that is taught in fun ways
Zumbo’s Just Desserts – a fantastic dessert competition from New Zealand
Family shows we have liked on Amazon Prime
Just Add Magic – I loved to watch this with my kids. Three girls who find a magical cookbook.
Lego Masters – a lego building competition. Any time we have watched it the kids pull out all the lego afterwards and spend hours creating cool things
Kim’s Rude Awakenings – She takes families from clutter and frustration to order and fun. It’s a little cheeseball but my kids love it and tell me ‘I’ll never be that messy mom!’
Some shorter length shows we liked: Kids Try, So Expensive, and Master Craft
IN THE BACKYARD – HAVING FUN OUTSIDE
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The kids have been asking me for a ‘clue hunt’. It took me 15 minutes to make and 6 minutes for them to finish. Sometimes we think the memories we make are big outings and fancy surprises. (Which I love when we can do that!) But I’m hoping their extra super memories are all held tight by things like river swims, hotdogs for dinner and a semi-annual clue hunt written on post-it notes and ending with ice cream on the porch. #thetailendofsummer #keepingitsimple #alsoicecream
A CLUE HUNT -this can be done inside and out. At the end, they get to find something like some candy, or a game to play, or a movie to watch.
A wiener roast dinner
The poor man’s slip and slide….we made this one with long sheets of poly we had from the basement reno. HOURS of fun on here.
Cloud dough. A friend taught me this one (a recipe here). It is very cool, but make a ton because this amount you see here was just enough to cause a three-way feud
Plant something with your kids. Let’s just say we have learned a lot about HOW plants die over the past couple of summers. (Also, my son isn’t single arming a cabbage in this pic, it is a balloon covered in masking tape)
Float something. This is a bonus because they will be busy making a craft and then they will be busy floating the craft. You don’t need a kiddie pool for this. Kids are happy with bins of water to play in too.
Send them on an adventure. Conor gets points for this one, he spraypainted these pans to make a ninja turtle shell for the kids. They lasted a good couple months and took on various purposes including being super heroes in the backyard.
Other Backyard ideas:
set up an outdoor obstacle course with random stuff from the yard (we called ours BeastMaster),
play ball, hula hoops, skipping, biking
kiddie pools, sprinkler,
have a picnic,
look at clouds for cloud shapes,
an outdoor scavenger hunt.
FUN IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Flying a kite. We’ve gone through a lot of kites in the past couple of years. So you know of an indestructible kite for kite-flying-dummies send me the deets!
Go for a walk. So darn easy (unless you have a three-year-old). Still worth it.
Water. Go throw rocks in the river and crush the spring ice.
Hike. I love watching Louise’s hiking adventures. We often find ourselves on these mini hikes, working up to it!
Camping. We tried tent camping and I will say that if you tent it with your kids you deserve some of that off-market over-caffeinated coffee they don’t sell in stores (I’m sure it exists!). This year we bought a used trailer and it has lots of highs and lows, but it is still a really fun experience. (My camping Pinterest board)
Fishing. It helps that my husband as an overabundance of fishing rods (let the record show that he disagrees with this statement) so we can go fishing from time to time.
Other things we love: biking on the local trails and geo-caching (all you need is the app on your phone)
I think the biggest takeaway I have from keeping the kids busy is to let them lead things. If I can be okay with the mess, and say yes, they will be driven to keep creating and playing in ways I can’t think of with my schedule-driven, organization-needed brain.
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