Winter is hard on parents. Every time you want to go outside, there are so many layers of clothing to put on (seriously, so many), and you end up standing by the door, sweating, as you wait for everyone to get ready. And then, someone has to pee.
Parents strive to treat their families to amazing experiences. Catapult, in partnership with Intel, is the field guide for the modern mom, offering tech-based at-home activities that will build lasting memories.
Plus, even if you’re scrupulous about getting fresh air, there are just those times when everyone is sick and cranky, it’s pouring or snowing outside, the snowsuits are in the dryer and you’re stuck inside with kids who have a serious case of the the wiggles.
So, before your toddler decides to play the immortal “throw all of Mom and Dad’s books on the ground!” game, or your older kids decide to “turn Mom’s closet into a fashion show!” you may want to go online and find a few activities that will cheer up the grumpy kids, soothe the hyper ones, and be fun for the whole family.
It’s easy to find online games that are addictive, but harder to find ones that are compulsively fun without being mindless. I have been a fan of Text Twist since I was a teen. It’s basic, entertaining, and works that part of your brain that is reserved for Scrabble and crossword puzzles. You get a small handful of letters each round. Then you are timed to see how many words you can form, and how fast. The longer words get you more points. Even younger elementary school kids can enjoy this one if they play alongside someone else. See you in a million hours.
Puzzles are another awesome option. USA Today has free crossword and Sudoku games. And National Geographic Kids has a series of awesome zoological memory games that has your kids do things like match up animals with their tails.
Jibjab.com, the site that brought us weird dancing videos during presidential elections of yore, has its own “sendables” site that allows you to superimpose family faces onto dancing, rapping, silly bodies to make holiday and birthday greeting cards. Some of the cards cost a little bit of money to make, but some are free. Either way, you and your kids can spend a good hour or so crafting and sending out hilarious cards featuring Grandma disco-dancing.
For something simpler, but still personalized, try OpenMe.com, which has kids’ card options that allows you to add photos and text to adorable e-cards.
Maybe the dancing card has inspired you to have a dance party on your own. There are lots of awesome tutorials online. At the aptly-named Learntodance.com, you can check out some extremely basic and fun videos that teach hip-hop dance moves just for kids, including the “arm wave” and “happy feet.” This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of hip hop tutorials that are available, taught by lots of extremely loud and enthusiastic YouTube stars, who know all about popping, locking, stocking, and flocking. (Okay, I made those last two up.)
Maybe ballet is more your thing. Petite Feet ballet adventures with Liz are kid-friendly ballet videos featuring furry friends, lots and lots of songs, and kid-friendly moves like the “rainbow stretch”. You can rent some of the basic videos online for $5 a pop. It’s well worth a few hours of peace and getting the ya-yas out on a rainy day.
On a similar vein, there’s Cosmic Kids Yoga — a series of videos, activities, and lesson plans for teaching kids yoga, with videos that range from the super short to the more involved. Kids are natural yogis — my baby went through a serious downward dog phase — and introducing them to yoga moves in an age-appropriate, joyful way is a great way to get their bodies moving and their minds calm at the same time.
Maybe your kid will never be calm until he jumps the sillies out. So can your kids do the 7-minute workout? Challenge them using the website for this popular aerobic routine, which condenses the benefit of hours of training into a brief seven minutes of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and general exertion.
Even a half-serious group will have your entire family collapsed in a heap by the end, and ready to do some quiet activities.
Drawing something beautiful online is always a great option for antsy kids, and popular kids’ sites like PBS Kids’s “Nature Sketchpad” and Nick Jr.’s “Free Draw” offer really cool and simple drawing tools that can help kids make artistic creations with virtual paint, stamps, and pencils of differing colors, textures and styles. And on programs like Microsoft Paint 3D, your kid can turn their IRL drawings into digital creations.
If the weather outside is what’s keeping you inside, a great idea is to use these tools to draw an image of what’s happening outside the window — snow, rain, leaves fluttering to the ground, and so forth. Or practice self-portraits and abstract paintings with your little Kandinskys, and then save the final products to your desktop for printing.
The beauty of this activity is that if they’re drawing on the screen, they’re not drawing on (or climbing up) the walls of your home. It’s a win for everyone.
Sarah Seltzer is a writer and editor in NYC.
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