Parents

Batty from being cooped up with kids? Here are 9 great cures for cabin fever

Bad weather and pent-up kids can challenge the sanity of even the most stalwart parents. What can you do to avoid tedium and tantrums at home?

TODAY

The answer, it turns out, is A LOT. Our TODAY Parenting Team contributors have shared all sorts of cool tips and tricks in response to our “Cabin Fever” challenge. We’ve compiled a bunch of their fun ideas here.

Please feel free to join in this ongoing conversation by becoming a member of our TODAY Parenting Team, and stay connected to TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page. If you have other ideas for indoor games, activities and coping strategies when you're cooped up with the kids, please let us know. We want to hear from you!

1. Think in themes to make “regular” activities more exciting. (Angie Goff)

Courtesy of Angie Goff
Angie Goff's kids enjoy a make-believe campfire at home.

Indoor campfire: Kids love themes! Get some red and orange tissue paper. Put a flashlight underneath it and let them roast marshmallows! To make the logs just twist some brown grocery bags or paper. I let the kids roll out their sleeping bags and eat s’mores mix while watching a movie. S’mores mix is just honey grahams cereal, mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows tossed in a baggy.”

2. Make playing in the snow even more fun. (Amanda Mushro)

Courtesy of Amanda Mushro
Amanda Mushro's son has a blast playing in the snow.

“Let your kids get creative by mixing water and food coloring in spray bottles. Take the kids outside and let them ‘paint’ the snow. Did you put away all the sand buckets and shovels until next summer? Get them back out! These are the perfect tools for snow forts and castles. Bubbles aren’t just for summer fun! Bring them back out when the weather is below 32 degrees. The bubbles will actually freeze! A little frozen science fun. ...

“Toss pajamas and blankets in the dryer before you head out to play in the snow. When you get back, everyone has warm, toasty clothes to put on!

3. Ready, set, race! (Olivia Johanson)

Courtesy of Olivia Johanson
"Bad weather days don't have to be unpleasant," Olivia Johanson writes. "You'll be surprised how quickly (kids) take to any challenge you give them."

Homemade race track: This works best on any kind of floor (use blue painter's tape for hardwood floors and masking tape for carpet) and is remarkably easy. All you have to do is lay out some masking tape around part of your living room floor and draw little lines in the center to make each strip look like a road. You can add some obstacles in the form of toys to make it more challenging. Then race your kids or get them to race around the track together.”

4. Tape can provide loads of indoor fun in other ways as well. (Olivia Johanson)

Tape hopscotch: It turns out that tape is actually the ultimate entertainment tool. Use tape to make an easy-to-remove hopscotch course on your living room floor. You can make this as complicated as you have room for or add to it as the kids overcome each challenge.”

5. Try sensory activities for kids with lots of energy. (Meghan Moravcik Walbert)

Meghan Moravcik Walbert / phasethreeoflife.com

The dry spell: Choose one or two dried goods from your pantry, such as oats, rice or short, uncooked pasta noodles. Set out different bowls or plastic containers of different shapes and sizes, as well as measuring cups and spoons. Pour, stir, mix and measure.”

6. To burn energy and calories, make a workout video with the kids. (Amy Rowland)

Courtesy of Amy Rowland
Staying strong: Amy Rowland incorporates her son into a fun workout at home.

“After a while we grew bored of the typical games and activities and I started looking for something new to do. I was stir crazy from not getting to go to the gym so I had a thought: what if I had the kids help me make a ‘workout’ video? They kids love to watch TV and they love to look at pictures and videos of themselves, so what if I combined the two? Holy cow! It was genius (if I do say so myself)! The kids loved the idea. So, I told them to think of some ‘exercises’ and we’d film everyone doing them. This filled a good hour of our time. It honestly would have gone on even longer; however, mommy can only do so many crab walks and bear crawls these days. The kids, on the other hand, have endless energy which is why this was such a great way to burn some of it off!”

7. Use balloons to launch fun indoor games. (Olivia Johanson)

Balloon ball: Take anything super fragile out of the room and give each of your kids a small pool noodle and a balloon. You don't have to make rules, but one great way to structure this is to give each kid the goal of keeping their balloon off the ground. (You can also get kids working together to keep one balloon off the ground.)”

8. Time for a (supervised) pillow fight! (Olivia Johanson)

“All right, you don't have to watch the whole time, but make sure you take anything fragile, sharp or pointy out of the room before you let the kids loose. If you can convince them to use throw pillows you can greatly reduce the risk of harm.”

9. Clean up, get organized — and teach valuable lessons. (Angie Goff)

Courtesy of Angie Goff
Angie Goff has fun with her kids on a wintry day at home.

Project purge: Talk with your child about the season of giving and how to help those in need. Have your child separate old toys they'd like to donate. Remind them they are helping make room for any gifts they may get this year.”

Follow TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Twitter @ltcoff and Google+ and learn about her new book, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts," at MyOldDogBook.com.

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