creative parenting

Getting Creative on a Budget

Winter can be a tricky time of year.  The weather often dictates how we spend our time.  I often find myself searching for new, inexpensive ideas to entertain my kids and keep my sanity.  Trying to do this without television can be exponentially harder.  We try to save those special movies or cartoons for extreme scenarios, like sick days.  I also don't have an endless budget, so I have to be creative when trying to find new activities for my VERY ACTIVE boys.  

Maybe you have a child that is very content to stay with an activity for hours at a time.  Count yourself blessed.  I, on the other hand, have a toddler whose first word every single morning is "outside"!  He gets out of bed and runs to the door; while I'm left rubbing my eyes and searching for caffeine.

The internet has a multitude of sites for you to get ideas.  Unfortunately, I have very little time to spend searching through Pinterest for new ideas because of the previous child that I mentioned.  I have to think on the fly most days.  So, to you moms who have little time, here are some ideas that we use:

  1. Water play – We fill the bathtub up, and the kids play in the water at all hours of the day.  My toddler loves his bath crayons and my 9 month old loves to splash in the water.  Put food coloring in some shaving cream, give them a brush, and let them paint away.
  2. Cooking – My toddler loves to help me cook.  Simple sandwich making or cooking dinner from scratch, he enjoys it all.
  3. Bring outside inside – We bring items like acorns, pine cones, leaves and twigs inside to make “outside” sensory bins.  Lay out a big tarp or sheet, and dump all of those things out for them to explore.  Caution: This will be messy, but kids are messy and you can always clean.
  4. Painting – We paint all sorts of creations.  The key is to not do it all the time so it never gets old.  Paint your family on rocks, and then tell stories with them.
  5. Pillow pile – We pile every pillow in the house in a giant heap on the floor.  I let my toddler jump from the sofa into the pile of pillows.  He gets his energy out safely, my infant thinks he is hilarious, and I just have to monitor and laugh at him.  (Shhh, don’t tell my dad we are doing this!)
  6. Go outside – We have clothes for all sorts of weather.  Who says a snowsuit has to be worn in the snow?  Also, don’t project your temperature sensations onto your child.  They may not be as cold as you think.  Also, it helps to get rid of those germs that hang out during the winter when we get no fresh air.
  7. Read a book – Something so simple that you probably already do on a regular basis can be turned into something magical.  Build a fort, dress up and read a story about living in a castle.  Let your kids be the storyteller if they are old enough.  Role play.
  8. Sensory bins – Create new and exciting sensory bins.  Send your kids on a treasure hunt in an extra large sensory bin.  Give them all sorts of new containers to pour and scoop.
  9. Dance party – Crank up some tunes and dance until everyone falls down.  Get the babies involved by babywearing while you are dancing.  Everyone will tire, and you can burn those extra winter calories.
  10. Crafting – Pick out specific crafts that go along with holidays, birthdays, seasons or stories that you have been reading/telling.  Make sure the craft is something that is age appropriate so that your kids can really be the one crafting.
  11. Blocks – Wooden blocks are fun for kids of all ages.  Get creative.  Use those blocks to see how many blocks a room is wide.  Build a new road for their cars to drive on.
  12. Music – See what you can find in your house that makes music.  If the kids have an instrument, then have a symphony in your own living room.
  13. Cleaning – Younger kids will especially enjoy getting to “help” you clean.  A squirt bottle of water, an old toothbrush, a cleaning rag and the bathroom floor can be hours of fun.
  14. Games – Invent new games or play board games.  If your kids are too young for board games, then use things like beanbags, ropes and wooden rings to create games for them to enjoy.
  15. Playdough – Playdough is fun for kids of all ages.  This is a safe and easy thing for younger kids to learn how to use scissors on.  It is fun for the older kids because they can use their endless imagination to create all sorts of objects.

What are some ways that you guys stay entertained through the winter?