I don’t know about you, but I hate this time of year. I have never really been a fan of winter, but this is magnified now that I have children. By February, many people are over the cold temperatures and the long nights, and are yearning for the days that we can send our kids back outside to burn off more energy without having to put on boots, hats, gloves and three layers of warm gear on. And most of the time, we don’t even have snow to play in–just freezing temperatures and dreary days! My boys clearly long for the days of summer as they constantly play around the house with no shirt on. Sometimes we feel trapped in our own homes trying to keep our little ones from destroying the house and just hoping to survive until spring.
So what do we all do? Come up with ways to entertain our kids without breaking the budget! In case you are running out of ideas, I talked with some teenagers about their favorite childhood memories of playing indoors, as well as some parents about what their own children love.
Activities to do at Home for Free!
1. Have a cooking or baking contest
Getting children involved in the kitchen is always fun (plus they might actually eat it if they were involved in making it!), but you can step it up a notch by making it a contest. For older kids, tell them they need to be creative and use whatever is in the house to come up with a yummy dish, and have everyone vote on which dish they like best. For the littles, have the kids help you bake some cookies or cupcakes and let them decorate some. Perhaps take the vote to social media and have your friends vote on which one they like the best!
2. Create a fort in your living room
Of course this is a classic, but it was one that several teenagers said they loved and one even made a “blanket city” to really take it to the next level. This allows the kids to work together to set it up, then take toys and books in there to hang out for the day. Get out the flashlights and turn out the other lights and tell spooky stories if the kids can handle it.
3. Design a “Lava Monster” obstacle course
Pretend the floor is lava and the only way to get around is to put pillows and other items down as “rocks” to avoid falling into the lava. Make it more complicated by making bigger obstacles to get around or climb over. If they fall in the lava, they need to start over! (Funny thing–while writing this post, I heard my boys yelling about the hot lava in the living room. The stuffed characters are saving them! They came up with this idea all on their own! )
4. Make an indoor drive-in movie theater
We all have those days sometimes that we just want a little quiet, so we decide it’s movie day, but one mom takes it a step further and gets some laundry baskets out to create “cars” with blankets and pillows. Get your standard movie theater treats out: popcorn, candy, juice boxes. My own boys love a bowl of popcorn with M&Ms in it. (The little one eats all the M&Ms first of course.)
5. Get some exercise
The kids need to burn off some energy and you want to get a workout in. So make it a family event! Find some fun workouts with fun music that they can try. If nothing else, they can dance to the music while you do the actual exercise moves! One mom even does yoga with her five month old (who loved it!) and says there are lots of baby and kid yoga videos on YouTube.
6. Do science experiments
Kids love to have fun learning and what better way to do than with some science at home! If you Google “at home science experiments,” you’ll find a ton of cool experiments that you can do at home with items you already have (I liked this one!). Make a volcano, some invisible ink or slime, and even a lava lamp. Blow your child’s mind by sucking an egg into a bottle–they’ll think you have magic!
Ideas to Get Out of the House, but Spend Less!
7. Find an indoor playground
We have several area restaurants with some indoor playgrounds: Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Burger King. Of course you could take the whole family out for lunch, but if you don’t want to spend much, consider just going for a snack or a coffee and let the kids play for awhile. Even better, arrange a playdate with another mom so you can sit and chat while the kids play!
8. Get good deals on activities
To find savings on activities, follow the local deal websites, such as QC Deals and QCOnline. I have gotten half-price coupons at Monkey Joe’s, QC Family Entertainment, Michael’s Fun World and Helium. It’s definitely worth buying these when you see them and hanging onto them when you just really need to get out of the house. (tip: be sure to pay attention to the fine print as some have restrictions on when you can use them)
9. Go to a movie
I know, movie theater prices can be ridiculous, so how is this budget-friendly? Save this one as a reward for good behavior or good grades, and if you go at the right time, you can definitely still go to movies and not spend a fortune. At the Davenport movie theater, all day on Tuesdays, all movies are $5.75 per ticket and every day the first movie of the day is $6. Plus you can sign up for Cinemark’s weekly email and get concessions coupons (like buy a drink, get a free popcorn). I always bring some bowls from home for the boys so we can all share one popcorn without having to keep passing it around. You can also bring some empty water bottles to fill up at the drinking fountain at the theater instead of spending $5 on each drink.
10. Have a dinner party
Talk to your mom friends and get a small group together to have family dinner parties. Take turns hosting at each other’s houses and let the kids play while the adults talk. You can have a potluck style dinner or everyone can chip in for some pizzas. Sometimes just getting together with some adults can save your sanity, even if there are kids being noisy in the other room!
What other ideas do you have for beating cabin fever without spending a fortune?