Q: [All Ages] How do I keep my 5- and 10-year-old entertained indoors when they can’t play outside, like on rainy days?
A: Keeping young ones entertained indoors can be easier than it sounds. Don’t feel overwhelmed when the weather gets bad, there are a lot of simple indoor activities that will keep little ones entertained and learning at the same time!
Keep it hands-on: I always encourage my parents to facilitate tasks that are hands-on as it helps promote many different types of learning, like fine motor skills and problem-solving skills, while keeping children entertained. I’ve found that kids of all ages love cooking, and it’s a task that can easily be modified for kids of all ages. For a younger child smoothies are a no-fail recipe—all you need is a blender, fruit, yogurt and a liquid. Let your child measure the ingredients and talk them through what they are doing. For example, explain that a half-cup is larger than a quarter-cup (building math skills!) and that liquid is needed to change the consistency (and science!). If your child is older, English muffin pizzas are a great recipe as they probably already know the basics of cooking and can be more self-sufficient—putting on sauce, measuring cheese and letting the parent put it in the oven—plus, you can never go wrong with pizza! We use both of these recipes as part of our Cooking Academy all the time, and kids love them. This is also a great way to address picky eaters and get your child to try a new food. When kids are part of the process and touching their food, it’s amazing how much more likely they will be to try it at the dinner table.
Encourage the unexpected: Facilitate an art project in an unexpected place in the house. Taping a piece of paper under the table and coloring upside-down changes the perspective and makes the project more interesting. You can also cover an entire table or wall with paper. Both take a regular activity—like coloring—that children may do all the time and make it new and interesting.
Get involved: There’s nothing a kid loves more than when their parents engage with them and have meaningful conversations and interactions. Find a task that is meaningful to your child and let them tell you how they want to play. If you want to make the activity educational, ask open-ended questions about the task or project they are working on. Open-ended questions are integral to early learning as it helps kids think and develop their own answers, improves critical-thinking skills and helps them become problem-solvers. For example, your child might love dinosaurs … ask them, “What is the dinosaur doing today?” “How old is the dinosaur?” “What does the dinosaur like to do for fun?” Even if you don’t know anything about dinosaurs, these questions are still beneficial to their learning—there is no wrong question or wrong answer!
Jill Buzzell is a kindergarten teacher at KinderCare in Aliso Viejo. She has worked in childcare for four-and-a-half years after completing a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education.