Indoor Kids' Activities | our favorite ways to fight winter boredom

Winter can be a drag. The freezing weather, short days, and often wet ground that keep us indoors are reason enough for cabin fever. There are times it seems as if we haven't been outside in days--times when winter boredom sets in and dreams of beach days leave us aching for fresh air and sunshine.

These indoor days are when just a teensy amount of effort and creativity go a long way in entertaining and lightening the mood. We made a list of our favorite things to do indoors (I see "we" because Brylee, my 5-year-old, helped). Whenever the kids are bored and I'm not feeling very creative, this list helps us beat winter boredom and keep the TV off for at least little bit longer.

1 | Build a fort.

Turning our living room or dining table into some form of tent or house or fort or even slumber party pile of pillows and blankets is so simple. Once Brylee saw what can be done with a large blanket and a couple props, the creativity hasn't stopped. Sometimes she starts moving objects around and building a fort herself, while others she needs a little help. It creates a fun place to read, play pretend, or even pile up pillows and stuffed animals for a mid-day slumber party or a place to land when they jump from the bed. The first time or two I stressed a bit because this messed up our entire living room, but it's actually pretty easy to clean up and entertains them for quite a while. Need inspiration? See pics in these >> Fort Friday posts. Oh, and this >> simple fort kit is fun.

2 | Put on a puppet show.

A large blanket draped over a couple dining room chairs is all it takes to create a quick and easy puppet stage. We take turns telling stories with the finger puppets. This might sound like it takes a lot of creativity and story-telling talent, but it really doesn't. Preschoolers generally don't think anything is "lame" yet, so any goofy thing you can come up with is likely to be a hit. Make your "story" interactive by asking about the animal finger puppets (what noises they make, what colors they are, what they have in common with each other), sing songs and have her sing along, use favorite books to read and have the puppets act it out, or tell knock-knock jokes. Puppets add a fun dimension to the things you normally do with your child.

3 | Play with recycling.

It is amazing how long my kids are entertained with items from recycling (plastic containers, card board boxes, etc.). Brylee's imagination goes wild when she has apparently random objects to play with. Even Ian likes walking around with these "new" items. They turn them into instruments, pretend to cook things in them, use them to pack up toys, or turn them into art. If they look at you funny, give it a few minutes. They'll come up with new uses for old things in no time.

4 | Read.

We visit the library weekly to enjoy a (free) fun indoor activity away from home, and replenish the kids' book supply. All it takes for my kids to become interested in reading is for me to sit down and read my own book. They quickly go to their bin of books, pull some out and start flipping pages. I love this quiet time, because I get to catch up on my own book while they look at pictures in their's. To mix it up, it can be fun to turn the books into a conversation, talking about the pictures, identifying colors, counting objects or learning letters (depending on the stage of development they're in). Also, Brylee has always liked "reading" the book after us. So we'll read through it to her, then she'll take the book and tell us the story how she remembers it.

5 | Throw a ball.

Both Brylee and Ian have fun when we pull out the handful of balls we have hiding around the house. We roll the heavier one and they are allowed to throw the stuffed ones. Throwing or rolling back and forth, learning to take turns and throw and catch, and laughing when the balls seem to get a mind of their own and go other directions than intended.

6 | Play, listen, and dance to music.

They have a piano they both like playing with, Brylee has a harmonica and they both love using oatmeal containers or items from recycling to play the drums. Playing a kids CD is another way to entertain for 30+ minutes. Brylee (and now even Ian) loves dancing around. She'll often put on her dress up clothes to pretend she's a ballerina, or we'll copy each others dances. And often even a classical music or lullaby CD sets the perfect mood to encourage their imaginative play and delay the requests for TV.

7 | Send mail.

Brylee loves sending mail. I have a container of her markers, paper, and stickers that she can create "mail" to send to people. Often she'll draw a picture or pretend to write a letter, fold it up and "send it" to Daniel or me. This is a great way to reuse envelopes we've received in the mail before dropping them in recycling. Other times, she'll ask if she can send mail to specific friends, and she'll create something that we can actually put a stamp on and drop in the mailbox. Checkout these >> awesome 13 oz. or less mail ideas, then checkout the first class mail guidelines >> here for sending your own. (We sent fall leaves with 3D Hello Kitty stickers to Brylee's friend in Florida that doesn't get fall.) Also look at these >> these adorably simple snow globe cards. So cute!

9 | Create art.

Having never been much of an artist myself, we keep it simple at our house. A coloring book and some crayons. If I'm ready to supervise something a little messy, we'll pull out real paints. Otherwise, I love Color Wonders products--paints and markers. Other fun art supplies include play dough, fancy scissors, and colored pens.

10 | Exercise.

Both kids love exercising. Whether I'm doing yoga or the 4-minute workout, they love moving around and copying what I do. We joined a local gym which gets us out of the house to workout everyday, and the kids have a great nursery and junior gym to play in. But our at-home exercise times are in many ways our favorite.

11 | Play pretend.

Brylee has always loved being a princess, or fairy, or ballerina, or fancy Parisian mom. Now Ian joins her as cowboy or explorer (with backpack and flashlight). Pretend play just got stepped up a notch when my sister-in-law made the kids super hero masks for Christmas. They love wearing them with handkerchief capes and jumping into a pile of pillows to "save the day." They also have a cash register to play store with, and kitchen items to "cook" or have a tea party. For more great and easy ideas on pretend play go >> here.

What's on your indoor activities list?