Hands-on Fun with Homemade Play Materials
Looking for fun and engaging indoor activities for your kids? Children of all ages will enjoy these art materials and projects that foster creativity and are sure to bring smiles all around!
As I recently sat at my kitchen table and perused the photos I took last summer, I was reminded of carefree days playing with my children in the warm, sunny outdoors. But I was soon brought back to reality by howling cries of, “It’s mine!” coming from my toddler as she argued over a toy with a playmate. Gloomy thoughts clouded my mind of the cold winter days that lie ahead, sure to bring long hours of little kids trapped inside the house, bored from looking at the same toys hour after hour, day after day.
Not content to suffer from cabin fever with cranky kids, I have decided to look “Old Man Winter” right in the eye and be prepared with a packet of art projects, fun activities, and entertaining stuff for my kids and me to do during winter days when it’s just too cold to get out. After digging through years of lesson plans saved from when I was teaching, I found these great projects I know my kids will love—and I bet yours will, too.
Anyone can buy a set of name-brand finger paints, but why not add to the fun by having the kids help make your own set of paints? They’re so easy! Here’s what you need:
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups cold water
- Food coloring
Mix the first two ingredients and then add the water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until everything is well blended. Divide the mixture into four or five portions and add a different food coloring to each, plus a pinch of detergent to facilitate cleaning up.
Shaving Cream Paint
This is a great, clean painting activity that provides a tactile experience for little ones. It’s also easy to clean up and doesn’t leave anything to keep in the end. You’ll need the following supplies:
- Baking sheets (enough for each child and preferably with sides)
- Shaving cream—not gel! Inexpensive brands are just fine.
- Food coloring
- A smock for each child
Put a smock on each child. Place a baking sheet in front of each child’s seat. Squirt shaving cream on each baking sheet. Add food coloring for added excitement and let ‘em at it! Not only will your children enjoy spreading the foam as well as writing and drawing in it with their fingers, they’ll be clean when they’re all done. They’ll also enjoy watching the color spread throughout the foam as they play. You can even add a second color for additional amazement.
Store bought Play-Doh is nice, but this stuff is “edible” (though extremely salty), lasts forever, and makes enough for several kids to play.
- 1 cup flour
- ½ cup salt
- 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons vegetable food coloring
Thoroughly mix the flour, salt, and cream of tarter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the water and food coloring, then cook the mixture over medium heat and stir (about three to five minutes). The mixture will look like a “globby” mess and you’ll be sure it’s not turning out . . . but it will! Store the play dough in airtight container or plastic bag. My last batch lasted a whole year!
Clay for Molding or Making Ornaments
This fun clay can also be used to make your own Christmas presents or decorations for the tree—use your imagination! You’ll need the following:
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups baking soda (1 pound)
- 1 ¼ cups cold water
- Food coloring
- Tempera paint (water colors) or
- Acrylic paint
- Shellac or clear nail polish
Stir the cornstarch, baking soda, and water in a saucepan over medium heat for about four minutes or until it thickens to moist mashed potato consistency. Remove the mixture from the heat, turn out onto a plate, and cover with a damp cloth until cool. Knead as you would dough. Shape as desired, use cookie cutters, or store in airtight container or plastic bag for later use.
For color, add a few drops of food coloring to the water before it is mixed in with the cornstarch and soda. Additionally, objects may be left to dry and then painted with water (tempera) colors or acrylics. Dip them in shellac or brush with clear nail polish to seal them.
When it’s too cold to enjoy a great mud pie outside, try this activity in the house—without the mess! You’ll need the following supplies:
- Medium-sized tub or tote preferably with lid
- Roll of toilet paper
- Bar of ivory soap
- Knife or vegetable peeler
- Measuring cups, water/sand toys
Have the children shred toilet paper into the tub or tote. Next, shave the bar of ivory soap into the tub. Add enough water so that the toilet paper is well soaked but not drowning. Add just a touch of Borax (this helps keep the “mud” from molding and will allow the mixture to keep longer). Place a lid over the box and let the mixture sit over night. The mixture will turn into a slimy consistency much like real mud once the toilet paper has disintegrated.
Have the kids use their hands to manipulate the gooey mess or use measuring cups and other sand and water toys. When finished, place the lid back on the container, and your “mud” will keep for several days of clean fun.
If the short, cold days of winter have got your family feeling blue, too, try these great activities to boost your mood and keep your kids busy for hours. Old Man Winter won’t have us all scratching at the doors to get out this year—we’re prepared!
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