Wherever you happen to live, there are tons of jolly kid-friendly things happening. You just don’t know about them. Libraries always have stuff planned; rec centers, museums, and even community colleges have kid-friendly activities. Lucky for you, most cities have an online “kids calendar” where all this stuff is compiled for FREE. Simply Google your city followed by “kids calendar” and it’ll pop right up. For example, do you live near Minneapolis for some reason? Type in Minneapolis Kids Calendar. It’ll lead you to a site called Family Fun Twin Cities. Lots of fun stuff for children to do around there, evidently. Find your town’s kid calendar right now and schedule out your kids’ whole winter break.
1967 Candy Land. Buy it.
Vintage board games are always the way to go. I hate the new ones. Despite being the same exact game from my childhood, the new Candy Land is all sickly sweet lookin’ with neon colors and bug-eyed characters. It looks like a video game advertisement on a slab of cardboard. I get roller coaster ill just thinking about it. Instead, harken back to yesteryear when Candy Land was a simple & wholesome diabetes advertisement. It is one of those rare games that’s fun for 3-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and really old people too. I bought it for my kids and they often play it peacefully for upwards of two hours. And that’s ample time to cry over my life mistakes in the bathroom! Buy the retro version here.
Go to the Children’s Museum!
Take your kids to nearest children’s museum. Go early, like right when they open at like 9:00 or 10:00. This will give you a couple hours run of the place in relative peace. Bring your own snacks, because most kid-friendly museums have overpriced and not-so-tasty snack bars. Often your local library will have discount day passes available, so call them. At your in-laws for the holidays, or just uncertain where the children’s museum is in your town because you’re a bad person? Hop on your phone and click your way to Find a Children’s Museum. This site provides a comprehensive list of the best ones near you.
Get Your kids Drawing
Art For Kids on YouTube offers free drawing lessons. Lessons are about 5 to 8 minutes long and are hosted by this ball cap wearing guy and usually one or two of his kids. The line drawings are fairly easy to do and there are tons to choose from. I just watched “how to draw a poinsettia” and it was remarkably engaging! I drew a pretty good poinsettia. Get your kids a ream of cheap copy paper and a pack of pens. Pop this on for active creating and learning for kids 5 and up.
Make Play Dough
Play Dough may seem boring or pedestrian to your kids, especially your older kids. But homemade play dough is different! It’s warm and inviting. Add a couple drops of vanilla and it’ll make the whole house smell delightful. As I’m lazy, I use THIS RECIPE. It honestly takes no longer than 3 minutes to make with your kids! Toss out a bunch of kitchen utensils, like potato mashers, spatulas, forks, and stuff. Throw some tooth picks and action figures in there and your kids will be busy creating for hours.
Candy Cane Hunt
This one will keep your kids going for an hour or more, either inside or out. Get a bunch of candy canes and hide them easter-egg-style. That’s it. Works for any age. For older kids, hang the canes up high so they need to climb and exert a little energy. Hide them around the neighborhood so that it forces your kids out on a walk. Tell them that there are 24 candy canes hidden around block; when they collect them all they can come home and watch a movie and guzzle hot chocolate. Not a bad deal.
Story Pirates & Circle Round
Long before screens, kids would listen to radio shows! These programs exist today in the form of Podcasts. They cast movie screens in the mind and are free! Audio shows like Circle Round and Story Pirates are truly amazing. Start with these and you won’t be sorry. Give your kids some popcorn, some crayons, and some paper and leave them to these storytellers for the afternoon. Imaginations will plumpen as they sketch images of what they hear.
Make fishing poles by tying string to the end of some old broomsticks. Tie clothespins or big paperclips (or whatever) to the string as hooks. One kid hunkers behind the couch with a bunch of stuff collected from the house (old stuff from the attic, pictures, a potato masher, a king-sized Snickers bar from the 80s, and other such stuff). Fishers cast their lines over the couch, the kid (or adult) behind couch clips on a “fish” and yanks the line two times. That’s all. Kids will love fishing for stuff they already own for hours. Best of all, once you have these poles geared-up, they’ll go back to this activity time and time again.
Easy Home-made Slime
Slime is easy to make. Just a bit of glue, Borax, water, and food coloring. Takes about 3 minutes to make. Use THIS RECIPE for best results. Once it’s made, bring out old plastic animals, a bucket of civil war soldiers, or bath toys, and cover them in slime. It’s really fun! Get funnels from the garage and let the kids pour slime through ‘em. Jolly times! If you’re reckless like me, give your kids some knives and let them dice it up and then reintegrate it all Terminator 2 style.
Remember those disposable cameras that people used in the 90s? Well, they still exist and are tons of fun for kids. Buy 2 of them RIGHT HERE for like 12 bucks. Send your kids out in the neighborhood with a list of things to snap, such as 1. Cool Christmas decorations 2. Someone making a crazy face 3. A frothy-mouthed raccoon 4. A playground slide 5. The librarian 6. Old Man Fookwire 7. A bunch of blue things 8.A pork-based product (and so on). Do this when you’re stuck running errands with them. They will be having too much fun to beg for treats or whine about life in general! After all used up, take it to a Rite Aid, Walmart, Walgreens, or wherever film is still developed for $4. Your kids will love getting back their pictures in print the next day!
Let Them Dig
Kids REALLY like digging. So unless the ground is frozen solid, give them all the shovels in the shed and tell them they can dig the mightiest hole ever in the backyard (in a spot you specify, that is). I realize this sounds a bit simplistic and maybe crazy, but it works. If it’s rainy, even better. Snow is super fun to dig in! Your garden is probably not being used right now anyway, so let them go at it. Let them bury a jar of pennies like poor pirates and then make a map to it. Whatever motivates. Best of all, a kid who’s been digging for hours falls asleep by 7pm after eating all their dinner. Try it.
Take Apart Stuff
Most likely you have a garage or closet full of old or busted electronics that you haven’t gotten rid of. You don’t? The thrift store near your house has tons of unusable TVs, stereos, and easy bake ovens on sale for cheap. Give your kids all this old stuff and a bag of screwdrivers and wrenches, then let them dismantle everything. They’ll stick with it for hours. I used to teach preschool and would set up a special area of the classroom for this. Kids would spend a whole week taking apart a VCR or set of defunct speakers.