Believe it or not, sometimes even I do not want my house covered in glitter and finger paint. As much fun as messy activities can be, we all have days where the house actually needs to remain looking like a house, and not like an art explosion.
I went searching for non-sticky, non-goopy imaginative ideas, and happened across the best blog:
First up: Foil and Block Invitation to Play
Ok, I really hate when activities are described as “invitations to play” but this idea is great. It is SO easy, you’ll think your kids are going to be bored within five minutes. My kids played with this idea for 45 minutes the first night. I had to stop them to get ready for bed. They played for an hour the next morning. Now, if I ask “do you guys want to play with the foil,” they will run down the hall exuberantly shouting “foil!!”
Give your kids a stack of foil pieces. Any size- I usually tear them into maybe a 5×5 inch piece, and stack 15-20 pieces. Next to the foil, put a pile of blocks. That’s it.
You can look at the set up here, but it is really is a stack of blocks and a stack of foil.
At first my kids looked at me as if to say “what do we do with this?” Then Liam started wrapping his blocks like a present, and Kellen started crumpling his foil into balls. We somehow morphed into an assembly line at Santa’s workshop: Liam wrapped the blocks, Kellen unwrapped them and crumpled the foil, my husband had to build with the blocks, and I had to uncrumple the foil. Before long, Liam had developed his own elf language to advise us to speed up our work, or slow it down.
We used the foil and blocks to make sculptures, create an alien spacecraft, build a town with foil windows and lightbulbs, have a snowball fight, and a few other ideas that I have forgotten. I’m not kidding- foil and blocks, that’s all it takes.
Second up: Scavenger Hunt
Another idea that is so easy, I can’t believe I haven’t done it yet.
Here is a link with a sample scavenger hunt using photos.
I did a simple sheet where I listed a few desert items, and drew simple pictures of the items, creating a link between the word and the drawing. I gave each boy a sheet and a marker, and had them cross off the items as we found them.
The desert hunt was fun, but this idea really helped me in a pinch. We all know the end of the day cranky hour before dinner. The boys were in those tattle tale, grouchy “he’s looking at me” moods. I knew I had to do something before we got into a contest to see who would meltdown first- them or me.
I drew up a quick Christmas scavenger hunt and we walked down our street finding the items on neighbors lawns- candy canes, snowman, reindeer, etc. Really made what could have been a annoying night into an easy outing.
Last up: Creating a Habitat Imagination Play
I saw this idea for creating a small world for pretend frogs, and thought it would be a great way to use the items we had gathered on our nature scavenger hunt.
I didn’t have frogs, so I just kind of gathered up all the small animals we had. We ended up building a large lake by putting a blue pillow case on top of a brown towel. On one side of the lake was a cold habitat. We used snowballs to make snow, small glass stones to create ice. One the other side, was a mountainous area we made with rocks, twigs, and plastic trees. Beyond the rocks was a piece of the plain brown towel we determined to be the desert.
I asked Liam where each animal would live and had him place the animals in that area. He put penguins in the cold area; bears in the mountainous area, etc. I was surprised at how many concepts we ended up talking about. We discussed how birds migrate between the two areas, and how bears hibernate in the winter. We also pretended a flashlight was the sun and “melted” the snow and ice.
About this time, Kellen woke up from his nap and wanted to get in on the action. We decided to rebuild our habitat into a planet for their Star Wars figures: complete with an ooze pit, alien rock formations (pinecones with glitter), and a rock trail that had magical power.
I really loved the ease of all three activities. All three required no special planning. They all used readily available items. Each held my kids’ attention for a long time and provided a good outlet for creative expression.
But we still ended up spending yesterday morning covering our kitchen table in paint while making DIY rainsticks, so I guess I’m not completely reformed when it comes to making messes.