For most families, the winter months are a challenge. The children are sick all the time, and it's often too cold – and in the Cape also too wet – to play outside.
You often find yourself trapped indoors with your kids. But don't despair; in a cinch, you can transform your home into a play area.
Here we show you how, and flag up some fun activities you can take on together, with ideas for every room.
A kitchen is a nice place where the kids can make a good old mess. (Don't fear, we also have advice for tidying up – check the end of the article!)
Make a child-friendly cupboard in which your kids are welcome to scratch around. Use it for plastic plates and cups and Tupperware containers. You can even dedicate a drawer to your little one's toy cups and plates.
If you're feeling brave (or perhaps desperate) and feel up to the mess, fill a big bowl with rice. Give your child measuring cups and spoons to work with.
Hours of fun!
A wonderful kitchen activity is baking cookies. Put your child on a step or stool if she can't reach, and allow her to help you. She can perhaps put the ingredients together or do the stirring.
Older children can dish batter or dough into the cookie pan. You can also give them cutters to cut the dough, or even better: they come up with their own shapes, and these can then be baked.
Encourage your little one to make shapes like animals, dinosaurs and fairies. Remember these activities are supposed to be fun – it doesn't matter how the cookies turn out at the end!
After the biscuits have been baked and have cooled down, you can decorate them. Put out as many decorations as possible. Have different colours icing sugar in bowls, silver balls, Smarties and jelly tots.
When you're done, clean up, and then save the cookies that haven't been eaten for a tea party (see under "Dining room" for our tea party ideas).
Cover the dining room table with blankets, and help your little one to make a cosy tent. Invite a friend, and bring them some picnic eats they can have in the tent.
Children love tea parties. You can use toy cups and saucers, or real ones if you feel up to it. The secret of a successful tea party lies in the prep. Get them excited.
Begin with helping your child make party invitations. Then make the snacks together. You can also decorate a disposable tablecloth for the party.
Allow them to dress up in Mom and Dad's clothes – and give them some nail varnish and make-up too if they want it. It's a party after all…
Tell them it's a real tea party, and since they're grown-ups, they have to be on their best behaviour. Keep it light and do it through play:
Make exaggerated courtesy gestures, and show them how to drink tea with their little fingers in the air. Usually, you have wonderfully behaved children – for a while at least!
Have a dedicated play nook in your lounge. During winter you might even consider moving the coffee table to a corner so that there's enough floor space for comfortable play.
Pack toys like blocks and cars in boxes in the lounge, and allow them to play there. Another nice activity is to have a picnic in the lounge.
Put some of your child's books on the bottom shelf in the study. Scatter comfy cushions in the area, and encourage them to page through their books in the reading nook.
Make bath time fun. Buy bath crayons – children are mad about them, and they can make a mess without becoming dirty themselves. You should find bath crayons at most toy shops.
Bed- or playroom
Put up a tent in your sprog's room. Allow her to camp one night and sleep in her tent. Sort out her toys and make sure she knows where everything is and that she can get to them easily, so she doesn't need to bug you every time she wants to play with a specific toy.
Put a box of toys in your bedroom. Allow your child to play there. It creates variety and is very exciting if it's usually out of bounds for games.
Outside the house
There are wonderful places you can visit during winter. Libraries usually have story hours some mornings of the week. It's nice and warm in the library, and children always enjoy the books a lot. When it's not so cold, take a walk.
It's a fabulous opportunity to teach your child about winter. Point out how winter looks different from summer, and listen to the wintry sounds together.
If you feel up to the freeze, the zoo is a super place where children forget about the cold in no time. Invite friends over for a play date. Hopefully, your little one will be invited to their place also, so you can have a break.
Tidy up ideas!
Hide sweets or small toys in the spots your child has to tidy up. In this way, you ensure her clothes get picked up off the floor and the cushions are returned to the couch.
Encourage your little one to keep going with the tidying up until all five sweeties have been found, for instance.
Make tidying and cleaning fun. Give your children rubber gloves, a bottle with water they can squirt and a cloth with which to wipe.
Have them wear gumboots. They'll look forward to the cleaning up, and most kids will enjoy it, for a little while at least.
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