Another summer is here, and for parents of young kids, it means going to the pool, playing in the park, playing kickball in the backyard, and other activities that involve slathering kids with sunscreen, making sure they stay hydrated, and keeping those bandages handy for that occasional scraped knee.
Either because of the heat or because the kiddos need to decompress (or both), there is a need for extended indoor time that doesn’t involve passive screen use. Board games, play sets, toys that you can build, etc., and all the other go-tos are key, but sometimes we like to raise the bar a bit. Here are five fun-inspired ideas from Playper parents that really encourage creativity.
Water Xylophones. This is a great one that will blow your kiddo’s mind! Grab 6-10 of the same glasses. Arrange the glasses in a line, grab a measuring cup for water. Leave the first glass empty, then put increasing amounts of water in the glasses as you go down the line (an 1/8 cup in the second one, a ¼ cup in the third one, 3/8 in the next one … you get the idea). Then grab a large spoon to be the “mallet” (we recommend wooden, but metal and plastic ones work too).
Have them start tapping from one end to the other and they will notice that the one with the most water creates the highest pitch and the empty one creates the lowest pitch. Next, have them to tap on the side and the top and notice the different tones within each “note.” For extra fun, get some food coloring and make the water glasses different colors, creating a multicolored xylophone!
Illustrate a Book. Grab a short book from the library and read it to them without letting them see the illustrations. Then together set out illustrating that book. Don’t worry about trying to make it perfect, and let your child run with whatever creative idea they have. If they get stuck, spur it on with a prompt. For example, if you chose Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, you might prompt, “What would the island of the Wild Things look like? Would there be furry monsters or scaly ones? Big or small? Cute or Scary? Would it be snowy, windy, or maybe full of many different colors?” Then afterwards, it would be fun to look at the author’s illustrations together and talk about how they’re different.
Put on a Play. For a source of inspiration, go to your old Halloween costumes, that old coat in the back of the closet, grandpa’s 70’s tie or whatever hats you happen to have around. Let them dress up and make up characters based on their outfit. Ask about their characters likes, dislikes, and things they like to do.
Once they have their characters, they can make up a little improvised play! You might have to spur them on with a situation – like, there’s been a robbery, or they are trying to catch a monster. Get siblings and friends in the neighborhood involved for some group fun, then perform it for friends and family – be sure to record it!
A fun variation on this is to make puppets out of paper lunch bags, color and decorate them, then performing the play from behind the couch.
Indoor Obstacle Course. This takes the old fort idea to the next level, and it gets them to be active indoors. Pull the cushions off the couch, put that chair on its side, and give instructions for each area, as in “hop on one leg” zone and “crawl on all fours” zone. You could create it or let them come up with the entire course on their own. Time them to see how long it takes them to go through it, and then see if they can beat their time. Next? They do it backwards!
Quiet Contest. See how long they can lay still and be quiet. J/K! Yeah, that never works, but these other five ideas have been great for the parents in the Playper offices. The key is inspiring their creativity, so they can come up with their own ideas and see them come to life with some fun and games. But some guidelines from you, as needed, will make these activities much more fun and successful and let you join in the fun, too.
Happy indoor play day!