Monday, January 12, 2015

9 No Cost, No Prep Ways to Beat Winter Blues

In the winter months we're always looking for things to do with our kids to keep them busy and burn a little energy. While there are a number of bounce house/museum/science center options, sometimes it's nice to have a few no cost, no prep ideas on hand too (especially with the flu season in full swing). 

So here I've complied 9 options that likely won't blow your mind, but might just be so simple that you've overlooked them. 

Yoga brothers
1) YouTube Instruction Videos: No matter your child's interest, you're bound to find some type of lesson your kids will enjoy on YouTube.

We recently discovered Cosmic Kids Yoga and our boys love it. There are a number of short yoga videos, and they're perfect for preschool aged kids. It's great to let them get a little energy out, they learn some good yoga breathing lessons, and they were super excited about using our mats. All for free.

The boys have been obsessed with Karate Kid lately (thanks to my husband & Netflix), so they asked for Gi's for Christmas. Pulling up YouTube Karate lessons has given them even more opportunities to dress up, and it's adorably entertaining. 

2) Dance Party: Kids love to dance, it must be built in to their DNA. I don't know when the joy of breaking into a dance at any point in time goes away, but it's kind of sad it doesn't stick around.

Karate Kids
For those who haven't outgrown the desire to stop, drop and shake it, finding good kid music is easy. We've downloaded a few preschool albums from iTunes that the boys love to hear over and over, but they also love the variety of Pandora kids stations (like Kidz Bop Kids and Toddler Radio).

3) Games Games Games: Never underestimate the power of basic games like hide-and-seek, Simon Says, or even iSpy.

Our kids are young enough that they like to play hide-and-seek, but it's ridiculously easy ("Mommy, come find me! I'm NOT in my closet... For the 100th time!"). It may be silly, but it entertains them for the longest time.

4) Simple, Random Crafts: With Pinterest it's easy to think crafts have to be big, fancy projects. The beauty of having little kids is that crafts can be as simple as letting them play with a tape dispenser. No seriously, my boys love playing with tape.

So pull out the Play Doh and a few plastic forks and spoons, or maybe the washable markers and some paper. Get fancy and let them use scissors, glue, glitter, paint or - gasp - stickers! Their craft expectations are seriously low so take advantage now before they too discover Pinterest. 

5) Clean Machines: Give your kid a dustpan and little broom and let him go to town on your kitchen! Have a handheld vacuum? Even better! Our kids, while absolute pros at making messes, also enjoy cleaning up. Or at least attempting to. 

They can clean(ish) windows, sponge off cabinet fronts, dust shelves, wipe up sinks... Even put away(ish) laundry. Obviously the quality may not be the best, but they enjoy helping and learn the value of cleaning up. And they stay BUSY!

6) Bath Time: When in doubt, let them play in the tub. Bonus: find something new you can throw in with them. Whether it's an actual bath toy or just something that won't get ruined in the tub, there's something exciting about playing with a new toy in the tub. My sons get super excited when I let them take a different superhero to bath time.

A different spin on bath time: You could pretend to go to the beach or pool and have them throw on swimsuits, goggles, snorkels, and toss in a few pool toys. Then let them dry off with beach towels. Maybe even crank up a beachy Pandora station (we love Family Road Trip Radio). Do the whole bit, but the best part is that you won't have to fight them to apply sunscreen.

7) Photography Lessons: Through the years we've accumulated a number of old phones, though I don't really know why we keep them. Maybe it's just in case we decide to step back a few years in technology advancements, to remember our lives "in the olden days?"

A better use of an old phone, in addition to loading it with a few games so your kids can have something to do while waiting for a doctor's appointment (just in case you have a wait, which you always do), is to let your kiddos use the phone's camera. 

It's been fun to watch our 4 year old learn to aim, hold steady, and snap a picture. Or 50. He also likes to shoot little videos, which are hilarious to watch. It's so interesting to see what they view as picture-worthy: typically a toy, the floor or body part.

8) Wrestle: In our house, wrestling is currently called "playing football", but often no football is involved.

Our boys love to get in the floor and just wrestle with us and each other. Sometimes someone gets hurt (like my split lip Christmas gift from Wesley), but most of the time it's just pure fun.

The best part is that it often ends in cuddling, which is about the only way we can get our boys to do that anymore! 

9) Chef It Up: Kids typically like simple foods, so to them cooking can be as easy as assembling a sandwiches, mixing up basic ingredients, or even spreading butter on toast. Let your kids help make their snack, dinner or even something special like cookies for their grandparents. 

Our boys love to help make breakfast, especially scrambled eggs. My husband selects one egg helper every morning, and it's a pretty big deal to earn this title. I would have never thought a 2 year old could make scrambled eggs, but he does a pretty good job.

You have to eat at least 3 times a day anyway, you might as well put your kids to work helping prepare the food.

All of these ideas are for staying in the house, but if you ever need to just get out and don't want to spend any money, you could always visit the closest store with an escalator and spend hours going up and down! Our boys also love visiting Bass Pro and pretending to be pirates in their boats. I'm sure the Bass Pro employees love that as well!

So here's to staying busy - and healthy - until spring rolls around!

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