The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Indoor play
Easy ways to keep kids entertained and unplugged

By Ryan Lessard

 What do you do when your kid begs you for mental stimulation when it’s cold and snowy outside and they’re so bored?

There’s actually plenty to do around the house. With a little ingenuity, you can turn something boring into something worth hours of fun, all without iPads or Netflix.
Patti Penick, the head of youth services at Goffstown library, said the common threads woven into every analog option for keeping kids entertained while cooped up in the house are creativity, narrative and collaboration.
Story time
Kids love a good story. It doesn’t take a lot of energy or money, and it forces children to flex their imagination muscles. Here are a few ways you can captivate kids.
Create your own story: This is sort of self-explanatory but perhaps easier said than done. A good starting point might be taking a lesson from the news of the day and making a simplified allegory. The fairy tale model tends to work well, Penick said. So make sure your story has a protagonist, an evil lord, a person in distress and maybe a silly sidekick to make kids laugh occasionally. She said kids like fantasy, but they also like stories based on real life. So you can start with a true story and then build fantastical things to the story from there.“I think parents more typically wing it,” Penick said. 
One idea is to make something out of Legos and then make a story based on that.
Read round robin-style: If you have a simple picture book with only a sentence or two per page, a good way to keep kids engaged and learning is to take turns reading a page. Penick said if you have more than one child, you can rotate through so everyone has a turn.
Reader’s theater: This takes a little more planning on the caregiver’s part but can be done with older kids and somewhat denser material than picture books. “Everybody gets a role or a couple of them, and when the story gets to your part, you read it,” Penick said.
Make props: When you read a story together, there’s often an opportunity to create something either through crafts or cooking that is pulled from the pages of that story. “So if you’re reading a book … let’s say Little House on the Prairie, maybe finding a recipe that was [related] like making some cornbread or some johnnycakes or something from back in the day,” Penick said.   
Build things
Of course, you can get your kids involved in creative and hands-on activities without needing a story. Just grab some glue, markers, crayons and as much paper and cardboard as you can find.
Crafts: While the possibilities are nearly endless, Penick favors the ever-easy paper bag puppets. “Making puppets out of paper bags, that’s a good easy one. Almost everyone has little brown [bags],” Penick said. It doesn’t require a lot of supplies and you can get elaborate with it if you want. When you’ve made your puppets, you can then do a version of the reader’s theater as a puppet show. 
Building blocks: Penick said kids love to build stuff with anything from bricks to plastic cups. “Any kind of building; Legos, Magna-Tiles, blocks. … Kids can use Solo cups to build pyramids, if you have a ton of those red Solo cups,” Penick said. And after they’ve build the tallest tower or pyramid, kids can do their next favorite thing and destroy their skyscrapers Godzilla-style.
Blanket forts: Penick still remembers the joy of making blanket forts when she was young. “I used to do that all the time with blankets and use books to hold things in place,” Penick said. She suggests starting your fort by using the kitchen table. Drape a sheet over that and extend it by pulling the chairs out and hanging the blanket over the backs of the chairs. From there, you can build outward. Clip more blankets to the beginning blanket, consider the varying weights of sheets, blankets and comforters, use couch cushions or other pieces of furniture as pillars for your ever-widening blanket kingdom. Penick said fort-building is a great opportunity for fostering teamwork between siblings.
“I think sometimes when they’re cooped up inside, they will play with a younger sibling that normally they wouldn’t if they had other options,” Penick said. 
Once the fort is complete, it can be a fun place to do story time or a puppet show. 
Video games are often isolating experiences. Penick recommends some classic games.
Board games: Dust off the old Chutes and Ladders or Candyland and get your kids accustomed to playing with others, taking turns and adhering to rules that may hurt you one round and help you the next.
Paper games: Don’t have any board games laying around? That’s fine. Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Penick suggests a classic round of tic-tac-toe or hangman to pass the time.
Make your own board game: This is a combination of arts and crafts and board game play. Penick suggests asking the local pizza place for an empty pizza box to use as your game board. You can draw mazes on it, glue in obstacles made from empty toilet paper cores and other cardboard pieces, and draw up some simple rules. Let the kids come up with rules of their own and see where they take it.
Word searches: If you have any word searches from checkout aisles or dollar stores, kids can brush up on their spelling skills while sifting through a jumble of letters to find hidden words. “My kids love word searches,” Penick said. 

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