When the Great, Big World Is Overrated: Five Fun Things to Do Around the House

by Laura Stallard Petza

Most of the time, everybody loves an outing. Whether it's a trip to the zoo on a warm, sunny morning, or a romp around the local kids' museum on a wet, gloomy afternoon, getting out, when everybody's up for it, can be an awful lot of fun. But sometimes, as enticing as the great, big world can be, nobody feels like getting out of pajamas, leaving the sofa or putting on shoes. And when nothing sounds more appealing than sticking 'round the house, it's good to have an arsenal of fun indoor activities. Because with a few bright ideas and some basic supplies, it's easy to whip up a fantastic time, without a lot of effort or tedious clean-up.

Following are five simple, quick-to-put-together activities that anyone -- even someone without advanced degrees in arts and crafts -- can prepare in just a matter of minutes. Review the activities, make sure you've got the materials, and get ready to have some stay-at-home fun.

You're Something Else

Masks, provided your child's not afraid of them (quite a few kids are frightened by masks), can offer up hours of make-believe play. But store-bought masks, in addition to being expensive and, depending on the season, not consistently available, typically represent a narrow array of characters and often leave little to the imagination. Making your own masks is so much fun, though, that you need never worry, at least for around-the-house play, about purchasing a mask at the store again. All you need to get started are some white paper plates, a bit of yarn, a hole-puncher and your choice of paint, crayons or markers (or some combination of all of those). Then, once you've decided who or what you want to be, follow these directions to make your mask:

  1. Punch a hole on either side of your paper plate.
  2. String enough yarn through the holes in your plate to fit over your (or your child's) head and tie in a knot.
  3. Draw or paint a face or other picture on your plate.
  4. Punch two more holes to serve as eyes.
  5. Don your new mask with pride!

All Roads Lead to the Dining Room Table

Any vehicle-loving kid will rev-up for this fun and simple activity that requires only toy cars, masking tape and a bit of imagination. With the masking tape, make roads, highways, alleys and avenues, over as big a space as you can handle, and don't forget the intersections. You and your kid will have a blast, cruising the busy streets of your "town," and when you're finished, clean-up couldn't be easier: Just rip up the masking tape and pick up the cars.

I'm with the Band

Every kid has tried her hand at pots and pans and coffee cans, because making music, particularly noisy music, is just a whole big bunch of fun. But why limit your child to the aforementioned kitchen classics, when, as you look around the house, you'll find so many other "instruments" to play. See what you can make with rubber bands strung tightly across a reusable plastic container. Introduce -- carefully!! -- the magic of running your wet finger over wine glasses filled with water. Try filling different-sized containers with rice, dried beans, paper clips, uncooked noodles, or whatever else you feel like shaking. Have fun, be creative, and rock out!

Box Me In

There's no end to what a kid can do with a cardboard box. Seriously. Just give a kid a cardboard box and he'll come up with something -- probably a lot of somethings, in fact. Best of all, cardboard boxes are cheap (free, usually), easily acquired and recyclable . . . provided your child will permit you to recycle them. Your little one won't need any suggestions as to what to do with cardboard boxes, but in case you do, here goes:

  1. Build a house, library, fort, etc.
  2. Construct a robot.
  3. Stack. Knock down. Stack. Knock down.
  4. Assemble a car, boat, hovercraft, etc.
  5. Cut out a square. Cover with plastic wrap. Stick head inside. It's a TV!

Picture This

Though preschoolers, generally speaking, don't read magazines, they can certainly enjoy the pictures in your or their favorite periodicals. And any magazine, whether it's intended for kids, for parents, for gardeners or for mechanics, can allow your child, much to her delight, to get into the heads of the people pictured. Encourage your child, as you snuggle up and flip through the pages, to imagine what the pictured people are saying, doing and thinking about. This activity is more than just fun; it also activates your child's prior knowledge (something your child's future teachers will try to do quite a bit), promotes empathy and gives you both a chance to settle in on the sofa.

Worried that there's nothing to do around the house? Why, that's crazy! With a little creativity and your cache of supplies, you can have all the fun that you can imagine, without ever setting foot outside your front door.

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