Bring the playground inside

By Beatriz Terrazas

When bad weather forces your kids to play indoors, there are plenty of activities that are fun, educational, and best of all, create great memories. Think about going big with indoor gyms or using inexpensive household items to bring the fun indoors.

The key is to see the world through your kids’ eyes, says Teresa Altherr, an entrepreneur and inventor who works from home in Jackson, Ohio. With an education degree and several years of teaching under her belt, she has plenty of indoor play ideas for her 8-year-old son Cam and his friends:

  • Bring the outside in. Sure, there’s the standard fort made from blankets and chairs, but a child-sized tent complete with a sleeping bag fits nicely in Altherr’s 1,000 square-foot home, and has provided hours of play for Cam and his buds. Open a window so kids can hear nature or have a sound machine that chirps like crickets or birds. Oven-baked s’mores complete the experience. If the kids don’t fit in one tent, expand the “camp site” to the rest of the floor.
  • Get physical. Toymakers have a plethora of indoor climbing gyms and fabric pop-up play huts and tunnels for kids to navigate. Altherr suggests you layer your floor with colorful, interlocking foam pads for safety and let your kids get physical. These spaces stimulate kids’ imaginations and become “pirate ships, space ships, forts, and hide-outs,” she says, creativity that’s important in their development.
  • Go low tech. When Cam’s friends come over, they gravitate to the Legos because they like “that free-thinking, creative, tactile play,” Altherr says. “Everything in the rest of their world is so structured,” and while kids thrive on routine, “open play stretches their minds,” she says. So besides the requisite crayons, paints, and coloring books, she also keeps puzzles, magnets, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys around to build with. Whose to say you’re not watching a future architect in the making?
  • Think simple. Use common household items. Altherr has layered cookie sheets with shaving cream or sand and let the kids practice writing on them. Hold an indoor scavenger hunt, or have the kids create snow globes with empty plastic bottles, water, glitter, and food coloring.

Altherr thinks of her own childhood when considering activities for Cam. One of six kids, time with her working mom was precious. It’s not so much what you do with your kids as much as it is about “being in the moment,” with them, she says.

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