Oh man, these winter afternoons cooped up inside can feel loooong!! My favorites are when my 3 year old daughter says to me “Mom, lets play Family!” Then, she assigns me the role of “Mom”, gives herself the role of “baby” and assigns our actual baby the role of “dad”… and then “dad” refuses (because “he” is an actual 8 month old baby in addition to “dad”) to help set the table for our pretend dinner and then I have the epiphany that art is actually imitating life and then everyone starts crying.
Instead of make believe games, here are three fun and easy activities that can all take place in the kitchen, don't require any new or expensive items, AND won’t result in you having an existential crisis.
1. Set up a car wash/baby bath/rock cleaning facility! Water play is so much fun and definitely not something that our little ones get a lot of during the winter months. So, indulge their need to splash and play by setting out a large container (we use a roasting pan), a few bowls of different sizes, maybe a small colander, a ladle, a sponge and whatever else you can dream up and let your little one go to town washing toy cars or giving their babies a bath. After they’ve explored all of these new play materials, change things up by adding soap and let them watch the water become sudsy, giving their play a whole new dimension!
Spoiler alert: Your floor will get wet. I always lay a vinyl tablecloth down underneath the set up, but of course, that gets wet too! Fortunately, water dries and doesn't even leave a mess!
2. Make OOBLECK! Any Toddler will tell you, there is nothing more fun than getting messy! A close second is the act of making something tangible. Now combine the two and you have oobleck! If you don’t know, oobleck is basically slime – gross right? Wait until you actually make it – the first time we did it at home I was as much in awe of the process and ever changing shape as my 3 year old was and we had so much fun playing and exploring with it!
1.5-2 Cups of cornstarch
1 Cup of water
A few drops of food coloring
1. Start by pouring the corn starch into a large container (we use a roasting pan) and let your little one run their hands through that for a while, it's a really interesting texture!
2. Mix the food coloring into the water and stir
3. Add water to the cornstarch and mix with your hands
The consistency changes with each addition of water so keep adding and playing and watching it transform! Add kitchen utensils, little toy cars, anything, this is so much fun to play with and will keep your little one (and possibly you too) busy for ages!
*Oobleck doesn’t keep so after you’re done playing with it, throw it in the garbage and not down your drain (it clogs).
3. Cook or Bake Something! Remember how pleased your toddler was when you guys made slime?? Now, try it with something edible. Is there a food you’ve been wanting your little one to try but he/she has been reluctant? Or, do you just want to get dinner made and occupy your toddler at the same time? Helping in the kitchen is a great way to spend time together and will ultimately be so satisfying when they see the end result and know that they had a hand in it!
And, if you’re really looking to make any of these projects an all-afternoon type deal, have your little one help with the prep and clean up. Go on a scavenger hunt to find things to “wash”, rifle through kitchen drawers to find exciting utensils to use with your oobleck, and teach your little one about all of the different ingredients and what you use to measure them while you’re cooking! Have fun!!