“But I’m booooored” seems to be the underlying mantra of January and February at our home. Gray skies paired with holiday sugar withdrawal make me dread January. After an over-indulgent month where every home we enter offers a little treat or package for my children, my kids cannot believe that the calendar has the audacity to not provide toys and goodies year round.

And, I must confess, I am simply a disaster at arts and crafts and indoor activities. Paint makes me shudder and all I see are stains on the walls and table rather than memories in the making. Glue sticks have gone through the wash at our place and if anyone dares drag out the glitter I wince and consider moving once we are finished.

Many of us need a few winter ideas and what better than a few activities that accomplish necessary tasks and chores along the way. Perhaps with even a little eco-flair? Here are six ideas to keep your kids occupied indoors and a few ways to lighten your load as well.

  1. The Energy Enforcer: Make monitoring energy consumption a winter competition. Kids can create check lists with names of family members and then can monitor everything from who leaves on lights to how long a shower was. Clipboards, stickers, prizes and faux name tags or even costumes can make the competition interesting. At the end of each week dub one family member the winner and let him/her choose an activity for all.
  2.  Up-cycle your trash. Spend some time garbage picking in your own home. Consider grabbing cereal boxes to decoupage and decorate. You can use them as book covers, journal covers etc. Invite your kids to create a space ship or other vehicle with clean boxes and cans. The internet is teeming with ideas on reusing and “up-cycling” trash with kids. Pencil holders made from dull crayons or ways to melt and create new crayons in your oven. Kinderart.com is a site that offers a variety of ideas.
  3.  Laundry races. Keep them moving by finding fun ways to put clean clothing away. We set all the folded clothes out on a bed then everyone lines up and races to put everything away. First one with it all away neatly wins. This gets them moving and empties your dryer.
  4. Toy Swap. As if our children need more junk after the holidays . . . . but you can have a play date where each child brings 4-5 toys that he/she no longer wants. Parents set price range and quality standards. Kids then “shop” one another’s toys and take home new goodies to get through the dreary winter days. The catch is making sure your child is okay with seeing a once treasured toy head out the door in the hands of another child.
  5. Make homemade paper. Take scrap paper that you might recycle and if you add the right combination of water and paper you can whip up a batch of paper pulp in your own blender (it is very gentle on the appliance). With a piece of screen, rolling pin and towel your children can create their own kiddie parchment. Mom and Dad can make some as well and if you add seeds or potpourri, you suddenly have a lovely scented gift to pass along. Check out treewhispers.com for ideas and a good home paper recipe.
  6. Make napkins and towels. Seek out those old shirts, draperies and fabrics that have been sitting unused for months or years. Chop them up and consider making cloth napkins or dish towels with them. If the patterns are simple enough you can purchase fabric paint or patches to savvy up the napkins for school or even a party.

 By Tracey Bianchini.  For more ideas and tips pick up a copy of “Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet” by Tracey Bianchi (available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and wherever books are sold).