I have always been called the “fun mom” by my friends. We do messy art projects, we dress up every chance we get, and we are naturally very playful. My house is open to the neighborhood kids who run in and out, eating snacks, shooting nerf guns and bringing noisy chaos that warms my heart.
As my kids have gotten older, some of the play has quieted down. I miss the days of handing out goldfish and juice boxes to a crowd of kids as they run through my kitchen. I miss the excitement over a great game of “The floor is lava” and the magic in their eyes when they would wake up and I would declare it “Pirate day”. Winter days now mean sledding (if we are lucky!) and hot cocoa and time to play Fortnight. (Insert eye roll here!)
I feel like childhood is a time of fleeting magic, and it seems to end faster these days thanks to technology. I want my kids to be able to carry on a conversation, to be able to pretend, and to cling to the magic of creative play as long as they can. Mine may be aging out these days, but I hope these will help you find new ways to engage your kids and extend the magic-especially if you have little ones still at home!
1. Beach Day
When you wake up and it is too cold to play, especially a few months into the cold weather, this is a great way to spend your day. Crank up the heater, and tell your kids you are pretending to go to the beach for the day! Have them help you lay out beach towels on the floor, blow up a beach ball to play some games, and you can even let them wear their swimsuits for a while!
They can take a bath and pretend it is the ocean (my kids loved bath time in their swimsuits. I went with it.) You can hide little things around the house for them to find on a seashell hunt, you can build a “sandcastle” out of couch cushions or pillows. Put your sunglasses on and challenge them to a crab walk across the living room!
2. Pirate Day
Ahoy, matey! Grab a bandana or even tie a pillowcase around your head and make them walk the plank! My kids LOVED to walk across the ironing board (while it is flat on the floor) and pretend to jump into the ocean. I would hide a bag of candy necklaces in the house and draw them a treasure map, and we made cardboard swords and dueled. I even pulled out some of our Halloween decorations to make it look like a pirate ship, complete with a skull hiding in the closet!
3. In the Jungle
Go on a pretend safari through the house. Stop and listen and pretend to hear a monkey, a waterfall, or a tiger off in the distance. Walk with your back pressed against the wall, pretending you are clinging to the edge of a rickety bridge. Jump from pillow to pillow across the floor, pretending there are alligators below! We set up camp (a blanket fort) by the “waterfall” (usually a blue blanket, draped across the couch) and pretended to swim in a lake. This is a fun one to play with the lights off and using flashlights because the tree cover doesn’t let much sun through the jungle. Toilet paper rolls or paper cups make excellent binoculars for this theme!
4. Indoor Winter Wonderland
We still like to have indoor snowball fights with balled up socks, build “snow forts” out of the couch cushions, and go “ice skating” by standing on paper plates and gliding across the floor. I blow bubbles that we catch like snowflakes, and we finish the day with real hot cocoa.
5. The Zoo
We had a gazillion stuffed animals, so I liked to set them up around the house and take the kids for a walk through the zoo. We would make popcorn, go visit all the different animals, and even pretend to feed them. My kids loved to pretend to be the different animals, and would do tricks like a seal to get a graham cracker stick! It was hilarious to me, and fun to see what they come up with once I give them just one or two suggestions.
I think having a plan makes it easier to get through the long days home with little ones, and creative play engages them intellectually, verbally, and physically! I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but hopefully, you will find inspiration with a couple of these ideas.
Do you have a favorite creative play activity with your kids?
*This post was originally written in 2019.