Ahhhh. December 28. Christmas tree. Christmas decorating. Christmas presents. Christmas cooking. Christmas travel. Christmas meals. Christmas Mass. Christmas melt-downs. Christmas clean-up. Done. Done. Done.
And the little Drama Llama still rests peacefully in bed. Now for a few days of rest and relaxation before the great stay-up-to-midnight New Year’s Eve battle of 2016 begins.
Despair not. After all, necessity is the mother ofinvention. This mother has needed to invent indoor activities—with the stress on active—to entertain and exercise her special-needs son when he is homebound. Googling turned up many sedate activities, such as puzzles, painting, and crafts. But dear son is “action-packed,” as he puts it, especially after taking several of his medications. Sitting still is just not an option. So over the last six years, I’ve invented an array of fun activities to keep him entertained and off the couch (and my nerves).
They’ve proven very successful and safe, if you don’t count my X-ray-confirmed fractured toe (jumping a couch in hide-and-seek tag) and my severe case of coccydynia (tobogganing down the stairs on his crib mattress—omitted from the list per lawyer’s recommendation).
With a few simple household items, you have at your tongue-tip a never-ending response to the “I’m bored” refrain. The suggestions work well for two or more participants, but of course that risks a different refrain: “Mom! Benedict [fill-in-the-blank].” If you only have one to entertain, join in yourself or modify the game slightly and use a stopwatch and challenge the child to “beat the clock.”
1. Cotton Ball Run
Much like the egg race of outdoor fetes, have the little ones race with a cotton ball on a spoon. The light weight of the cotton ball makes the race even more challenging than an egg does—but also cleaner. A simple back-and-forth in one room ten times works well, but creating an indoor track, including a stair challenge, adds to the adventure.
2. Cotton Ball Blow
Kids must blow a cotton ball from one end of the room to the other (and possibly around objects), while on their hands and knees. Using a straw increases the challenge, especially if it is a cocktail straw. And heck, while you’re getting out the supplies…
3. Balloon Ball
There are a lot of possibilities here. Play an indoor version of baseball using a cardboard tube from the inside of your Christmas wrapping paper as a bat and the balloon as the ball. Ad lib the rules depending on your space. Or move a couch into the center of your family room for a make-shift net and play volleyball. Play up to ten or for a ten-minute “half,’ and after 20 minutes the team scoring the most points wins. Or hold a contest to see who can keep a balloon in the air for the longest time or for the most number of hits.
4. Balloon Bombardment
For this game you’ll need a bunch of balloons—more for older players, fewer for younger ones. Have one person sit at the top of a staircase and swat the balloons to the bottom. Have a second person sit or stand at the bottom of the stairs and swat the balloons back up. To win, the person at the top of the staircase must get one of the balloons past the “guard” at the bottom.
5. Stone School
Have the kids stand at the bottom of the staircase. Show them a small stone (or a small crumbled up piece of paper) in your open hand. Then place your hands behind your back and put the stone in one hand and close both hands into fists. Bring the fists in front of your body and ask the first child to guess the hand in which the stone is concealed.
If correct, the “student” may sit down on the first step (kindergarten). Repeat, moving to your second student. Continue until one of the kids reaches the top step and “graduates.”
As a child, we played “Stone School” with my mom. A quick Google to refresh my recollection of the rules revealed nothing, leading me to believe that we also cried “We’re bored” one too many times.
6. Stairway Target
Using crayons and paper, help your little one draw a circle on a piece of paper and write a number (10, 25, 50, 75, 100) in the middle of the circle. Place the targets at the bottom of the stairs. From the top of the stairs, have them roll a small ball down the steps. Players accumulate points based on where their ball lands. Play to a certain score or for a certain amount of time. Note: Only give each child one ball so they must go up and down the stairs to retrieve it.
7. Airplane Target
Write scores on pieces of paper and then fold the paper over to make little “tents” that can stand. Place the targets throughout a family room. Then teach your kids how to make a paper airplane, such as the models from “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” The Harrier is my favorite! The pilots all stand in the same location and launch their planes, keeping track of points based on successful target strikes. Again, limit the number of airplanes each player has so he must get up often to retrieve them.
While the gym teacher has access to a large parachute, for your smaller brood, just grab a sheet from the linen closet. Holding the ends of the sheet, throw a ball or even a stuffed animal on top and then fling it in the air. See how many times you can keep it from flying off.
9. Couch Chase
Slide the family-room couch in the middle of the room to make a “track” on the outside. Put on some good 1980s Pandora music (“Ah-Ha Radio” is our favorite) and see who can catch whom. Or while running play Flossy and Dingo from Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”: one person plays Dingo and tries to escape from the always-dedicated Officer Flossy. Or, if you have a remote control car and tired legs, Officer Flossy can give “chase” in the car.
Another twist for a tired mom: grab a laundry basket of socks and relax in your favorite chair. As your little one runs, roll the socks into a ball and launch with a “boom,” while he avoids being hit. If you hit him ten times, you win and he must retrieve all of the socks. Or level-up this game by placing obstacles around the track which the racers must avoid, jump, or crawl under.
10. Tower Race
Rather than a race track, this race takes place on a straight-away. Place one table on each end of a straight path. On one table place Duplos, Megablocks, or blocks. Racers must run from the empty table to the toy table, grab one toy and return, building a tower. When the toys are gone, the child with the highest tower wins.
11. Running Hide-and-Seek Tag
There aren’t many places to hide in our house, so we invented a slightly different version. As we search for the hidden player, we say out-loud, “Next I’m going to look behind the chair.” If the person hiding is in that spot, the warning allows the hider to run to a new hiding spot, or be tagged and become “it.”
Pick up a clothes-line rope in the laundry section of the grocery store. Make a simple lasso and then place items for your grade-schooler to lasso. No, this is not impossible, as dear husband proclaimed as he laughed at me swinging the rope overhead and releasing it toward our son’s toy spring horse. Yes, it took some time—that’s the point! But it is possible. To avoid frustration, though, consider easier and closer targets and have children work up to more challenging levels.
13. Spider Web
With the clothes line, create a horizontal spider web by wrapping it around, over, and under furniture and larger toys. Then play follow the leader climbing over and under the spider web or challenge your own sweet critter to beat the clock.
While not as active as the other games, this version of “store,” helps with some of the post-holiday laundry. Help your young proprietors fold, organize, and “price” clothing items from the pile of clean laundry, and then pretend customers come in to purchase the merchandise. And of course, the store is old-school, so the owner delivers the “purchase” to the customer’s “home” drawer or closet.
15. Robbers and Relaxation
If, after the laundry is put away, you still sense an aura of boredom, tell your little merchant “This is a stick-up,” grab the rope and tie him (gently) to a chair. Then challenge him to “escape,” while you grab a nice cup of tea and a good book.
And if none of these suggestions work? Remember how much you’ll miss them when they’re in college.