Enviro Girl has been snowed in quite a lot this winter, but she’s found entertaining her children to be cheap and easy on the environment. Instead of plugging into the TV or game system, instead of driving to Chuck E. Cheese or buying new toys, she spent pennies and made their snow days memorable. Here are some no/low impact ways to have fun unplugged when the kids get bored:
1) Cardboard boxes, paint, scissors and markers. Enviro Girl’s sons scavenged some large boxes destined for recycling and created an army tank. All three boys can fit inside this tank, they repurposed empty juice containers as “missile launchers” and painted the entire works a glorious camouflage. This project cost pennies (the paint was the primary expense) and kept them busy for hours. Enviro Girl imagines if she’d had daughters, they’d make a phenomenal doll house using similar supplies.
2) Board game marathon–every family has Monopoly. checkers or Candy Land. Even a deck of cards lets you play War or Go Fish. Games collect dust unless the designated adult brings them out and tells the kids to bring on their game. Enviro Girl’s kids play for bragging rights, though you could make it interesting by playing for other things, like free passes on chores.
3. Head out–outside, that is. Bundle up and roll a snowman or build a snow fort. Have a snowball fight. Tromp through the nearest woods. Make snow angels. Sled.
4. Story hour. No child gets tired of good books read aloud by their favorite grown up. Enviro Girl had each kid pick a favorite and she added her own to the stack. They hunkered down on the couch with Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle and an hour passed without any whining or fighting.
5. Journal it. Enviro Girl used part of their most recent snow day to update the boys’ school memory albums. They had such fun answering interview questions that Enviro Girl wrote extra questions on sheets of paper and recorded their answers for posterity.
6. Picture pages. Speaking of those memory books, pulling out the family photo albums always generates great discussions and keeps the kids brushed up on their family’s history. “That was the Christmas you pulled down our Christmas tree.” “Remember when B was such a pudgy baby and he’d cry and cry every time we tried to lay him down for a nap?”
7. Turn it up and dance. This does involve a radio or stereo, but Enviro Girl’s kids love to get their groove on. She gives treats for the most inventive dance moves.
8. Recycled art. Using the contents of your recycle bin and a few art supplies, your kids can make mobiles, sculptures or dioramas. Enviro Girl doesn’t believe in buying her kids art kits. With supplies and scraps of fabric or paper or old buttons they generate enough imagination to create their own fun. Have kids disinclined to use their imaginations? Family Fun Magazine has tons of patterns and craft ideas for kids needing a bit more direction.
9. Ramp it up. Using flattened boxes, furniture, blocks, boards, an ironing board, books, even your ironing board, build a speedway for matchbox cars. Naturally you follow this experiment in physics with car races.
10. Make camp. Using bed sheets and blankets and furniture, create a tent city. Kids of all ages love to play in hide outs–and if your house has enough space, you can use your tent city to make a game of hide & seek more challenging and fun.
With daylight, your recycle bin, a few art supplies and the furnishings you probably have on hand, snow days (and other free days) can be a blast. You don’t need to “plug in” or spend a lot to have fun. You don’t need to consume additional resources or expose your kids to commercials urging them to buy more stuff. Create family memories on your next free day by unplugging and connecting with one another–and your imagination!