Lauren’s son making a marshmallow structure. (Lauren Knight)

We are outdoor people through and through. My husband, three little boys and I all feel most peaceful, happiest, and most alive when we are exploring the great outdoors. We try to get outside at least every day, even in the cold winter months.

But there comes a time every winter when no amount of bundling up can keep the frigid cold from sending us indoors. I am grateful for the slower months when we read countless books, play games by the fireside, paint and draw, and just generally slow down. Of course, there comes a time when the inevitable winter crazies set in. The boys become restless, chase each other in circles around the house screaming. They bicker and roughhouse. And that is when I break out the list of indoor ideas.

Here are 10 ideas for keeping your young rascals busy indoors when it’s just too cold to venture out.

1. Build a cardboard play house (or rocket ship or play dome)
Pick up a large refrigerator box from a local builder, furniture store, or other wholesale distribution warehouse (often they are happy to give away big boxes). Tape one end shut and reinforce the sides with duct tape, then help your child cut a door and windows. Encourage your child to add control panels using things you have around your house, such as string, bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, or other recyclables.

2. Make homemade play dough
This recipe smells a whole lot better than the store-bought stuff, plus your kids will have so much fun making it, then playing with it after it cools off.

3. Sumo wrestle
When the kids need to burn off some steam indoors, clear out a space in the living room and line the corners with pillows. Let your children borrow an old t-shirt of yours, stuff it with pillows in the front and back, and let them wrestle each other. Go ahead, try to hold back your own laughter while you referee the match.

4. Make marshmallow structures
Use dried spaghetti and mini marshmallows to build anything your child can imagine! Experiment with the strength of different shapes and configurations or use this opportunity to introduce geometry to your little ones.

5. Make cardboard monster feet
With the leftover cardboard you have from the play house, make a pair of monster feet that tie onto your child’s feet with shoelaces.

6. Let your child take a “Mad Scientist” bath
Gather up various sized plastic cups, small containers, spray bottles and funnels, and set up a plastic stool in the bathtub. Let your child take a bath in the middle of the day without the goal of getting clean; rather, let him or her use the stool as a table to line up the “experiments.” Add soap and bubbles and see what he comes up with.

7. Make a marble race track
Cut a pool noodle in half lengthwise using a serrated knife to make two racetracks. Then set them up side-by-side on your stairs or propped up against the couch. Let the kids race their marbles or small cars.

8. Indoor scavenger hunt
Hide clues around the house for a hunt that will keep them busy solving riddles and working as a team. Leave a “treasure chest” at the end with a few treats for an extra special surprise.

9. Build a tapestry table
Pick up an old coffee table frame at a secondhand store and staple a large piece of burlap all the way around the edges. Use scraps of yarn and string and large plastic children’s sewing needles and let your child learn to sew on the tapestry table. It’s great for their fine motor skills, and when they’re finished, they can hang it on the wall in their room.

10. Make a reading nook
You can always turn to books! Check out a giant bag of books from your local library and when you return home, build a reading nook in the most comfortable spot in the house with pillows, blankets, and favorite stuffed animals. Then join your child for a reading marathon.

Lauren Knight is the mother of three boys and blogs at Crumb Bums.

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