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.
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, have a dance party, have a movie day with blankets and pillows on the floor
IN THE BACKYARD
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), bubbles, chalk, play ball, hula hoops, skipping, sprinkler, have a picnic
IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Flying a kite. We’ve gone through a lot of kites in the past couple 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.
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.
To the bike park. Also, a great place to bring markers and let them make some graffiti
Coffee date and puzzles
THE FREE ZOO! Aka the pet store
Other around town stuff: the library, a friend’s house, the park
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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