By Hillary Copsey, for SparkPeople
In Florida, so afternoon thunderstorms are a daily part of summer.
Some days, we need this break from all the running around in the heat. My boys stay busy with baseball and the sandbox, bikes and jump ropes. But other days, days when the clouds roll in early or we've been cooped up in a car running errands all morning, my boys need to burn off energy, not nap or sit in front of the television.
So, I let go. I let go of my need to have the house tidy. I loosen up some of the house rules, the ones about not shouting or running. And I let my boys - and myself - get a little bit crazy.
It usually starts innocently enough. I tell the boys to play fetch with the dog, but then that devolves into a game of chase through the kitchen. I could tell them no, but they're running so hard they gasp through their giggles. Everyone's happy and they're not hurting anything, just running laps around our dining room table, so it goes on until the dog and the boys collapse in a pile in the living room.
Maybe, once they catch their breath, we play a quick game of Simon Says. We take turns being Simon, and when it's my turn, I make them do jumping jacks and frog leaps. My little one is just 2, so his attention wanders, taking him into the playroom where he finds our musical instruments. We end up marching around our house.
When I bow out of the parade to handle another load of laundry, they become super heroes. They fight imaginary bad guys, capes streaming out behind them as they run into their hideout. Sometimes this is just their playroom. Other times, when I'm feeling like super mommy, it's a fort they've built of blankets and chairs.
If they can't manage to find something to entertain themselves, I enlist them in a cleaning brigade. We wipe down our kitchen cabinets and dust furniture. They really like dusting the bookshelves because it means they get to climb on the chairs, something that normally is not allowed.
On particularly long afternoons, I let them get out my big exercise ball. They bounce it into the living room and bumper-car themselves off it. Other days, I use painter's tape to mark a hopscotch court on my living room rug. When the boys were babies, I laid them here for tummy time to strengthen their little muscles. Now they hop and leap across it to do the same.
That rug also is the scene of our periodic dance parties. I turn the music up loud and we spin in circles until we collapse. The boys think a fallen momma is a perfect jungle gym. They climb up my legs and I lift them up to "fly." My legs will be sore the next day (hello, strength training!), but their dimply grins are worth it - and anyway, it's summer short season.
And at the end of all of this, I make the boys pick everything up. (I have to keep a few rules, lest we stray into anarchy.) Worn out from their indoor romping, the boys flop on me for bedtime stories.
Of course, this is an idealized version of a rainy afternoon. In reality, there's more shouting than I would like and occasional whines of "I'm bored" or "I don't wanna." Our house is tiny -1,500 square feet, including the garage - so sometimes it feels as if the boys are going to explode out of the walls. But with a little bit of patience (OK, maybe a lot) and some creativity you can keep little bodies busy and moving inside.
How do you keep your kids occupied on rainy summer afternoons?
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By Hillary Copsey, for SparkPeople