Home with the kids? Activities to curb cabin fever

Editor's note: Originally published in February, 2011

The weather is awful, you're stuck at home, the kids are stir-crazy and you feel like tearing your hair out.

Sound familiar? Try one of these tips to keep little ones entertained, and you might even manage to have a little fun yourself.

* Blow bubbles. You'll have to head outside for this, but it's worth it. In extremely cold weather, soap bubbles freeze solid and settle to the ground as intact spheres, then collapse slowly. Try it and see.

* Bake something. Use refrigerated cookie dough if you want to keep it simple. Make breads or pretzels you can knead, braid and shape. Or try this recipe for snow cream from Collect about a half-gallon of fresh, clean snow. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract and enough milk to the desired consistency. Serve at once.

* Save a snowman. Make a small snowman and pack him away in aluminum foil for a long winter's rest in the freezer. (Store him in one piece, because separate pieces don't stick together well later on.) Come summertime, display your snowman in the yard, perhaps during a Fourth of July gathering, and take guesses on how long it takes Frosty to melt.

* Build a fort. We're not talking about one measly sheet stretched from couch to coffee table. If you really want to keep kids busy, empty the linen closet of every sheet, blanket and beach towel you own, and build a tent city. Use anything sturdy and upright, such as a music stand, ladder or tee-ball tee, to fortify your structure in the middle of the room. Then get out the pillows, flashlights, books and snacks — or a portable DVD player — and hunker down.

* Make Valentines. The holiday is next week, so get out all your paper, glitter, stickers, lace, markers, googly eyes and other art supplies and craft some homemade cards. Cut paper snowflakes to decorate the windows. Make a paper chain. Or cut pictures from old magazines and catalogs to make a collage.

* Dance. Clear some space, crank up some tunes and go wild. Give young children a scarf or some ribbon to twirl around. Play your kids' favorites, or try something new. Tune the radio to Wichita's all-Spanish station — KYQQ, 106.5 FM — and listen to musical styles such as Tejano and Cumbia. If your TV gets digital music channels, listen to some bluegrass, Latin jazz, big band, reggae, alternative rock or Broadway show tunes.

* Make a movie. Movie marathons with plenty of popcorn are fun, but if you have access to a video camera and a fully-charged battery, create a cinematic masterpiece of your own. Write an original script and bring it to life. Or film your own family newscast, with journalists who report "on location" from the living room, kitchen or back yard.

* Dig out your games. Play an old favorite or that new one you got for Christmas. Teach the kids how to play chess, charades, marbles or solitaire. Get to work on an enormous puzzle. Combine forces to build a huge Lego structure or a roller coaster out of K'Nex.

* Invent a new game. Dani Stone, a Wichita mom, says her husband created a cross between shuffleboard and marbles that her family calls "Sliders:"

Use painter's tape to make one large square and a smaller square inside it on one side of a carpeted room. Give each player at least one furniture slider marked with a sticker or permanent marker. From the other side of the room, players take turns sliding their sliders, aiming for the center square. Make up your own point system — two points for inside the square, one point for on the line, etc.

"We crank up the fireplace, crank up the music, and we can play for hours," Stone said.

Sounds like a lovely day.