When times are tough or fast-paced, it’s tempting even for vehemently anti-TV parents to give in.  These are some of the lowest-maintenance activities for your kids to do on rainy days or otherwise when you can’t get outside.  Join in on the fun if you’ve made the time!

  1. Make a tent.  Or a fort.  Every kid loves them.  It can be as simple as draping a few old sheets over some dining room chairs.  Give your kids some trail mix or healthy snacks and a flashlight, close the curtains to the room and turn out the lights, and have them tell each other stories.  Throw a few stuffed animals into the fun to keep things from getting too scary!
  2. Challenge them to take apart an old appliance (like an old phone) without breaking it.  This requires a screwdriver so it might be best saved for older children.  Hands-on experience is the best learning tool for kids.
  3. Play with newspaper.  Make origami cranes, butterfly wings, hats, or even big gobs of newspaper to use in a “snowball” fight.  Picking them up (and putting them in the recycling bin!) is a bit of a chore, but that can be a challenge for the kids, too.
  4. Challenge them to clean the house—the eco-friendly way.  It helps to start out cleaning by yourself and asking your child or children for help—younger ones especially can’t wait to do what you’re doing and impress you.  Use a spray bottle filled with water and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider or white wine vinegar (don’t add lemon juice if you’re working near fabrics as it might bleach it) to clean windows and most smooth surfaces.  Rather than paper towels, use rags.
  5. Play Memory.  Collect 20 items and lay them out on a table.  Have your child/children look at them for 1 minute before covering them up and letting them write down all the items they remember in 5 minutes.  Have a few batches of items on hand (preferably from the same area in the house to make clean-up easier) to do several rounds of this game.
  6. Make edible play dough with:

1/3 cup margarine or butter

1/3 cup light corn syrup

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 lb. powdered sugar

Food coloring (optional)

Mix the first 4 ingredients and then add sugar.  The kids will especially enjoy kneading the dough.  Divide them into portions and add food coloring.  Refrigerate and eat later.  Although some people may think this is a waste of food, Play-Doh contains more chemicals and comes with plastic packaging that hurts the environment a lot more than some flour and sugar, if your kids don’t eat it.  These household ingredients make this play dough much cheaper than store-bought brands, too. Here are two other homemade play dough recipes to try.

7. Make edible finger paint with corn syrup, food coloring, and paper.  Let the painting dry for a day.  No chemicals and a mess that’s considerably easier to clean up!

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she’s been researching different online bsw degrees and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.