Trapped inside the house with kids during the holidays while it’s pouring outside? 

No holidays planned, no friends around for playdates, no budget for a pricey hour at an indoor activity centre. Fear not. Here are some old-school fun ideas that will keep them happy and busy…

Winter means soup and pancakes, but it can also be an excuse to warm up the kitchen with a baking day. If it keeps the kids “un-bored", so much the better. Get an easy recipe or, if you have, a bought mix for cupcakes or muffins and start baking. The kids get to decorate the treats for a tea party. Try these fun marshmallow recipes here.

For slightly less mess, try basic science experiments like the Rainbow Milk experiment. (If you’re feeling braver make non-Newtonian fluid, which will fascinate kids for hours.

Technically it’s a pressure-dependent substance like quicksand or silly putty, which you can also make at home.

The kids will know it as Ooblek, a name that comes from the Dr Seuss’ book Bartholomew and the Oobleck (get it from the library for a bed-time story). The ingredients are cornstarch (Maizena), water and food colouring.

You will need:
* 2 Cups Cornstarch
* 1 Cup Water
* Food colouring (optional)

How to:
1. Pour 2 cups cornstarch into a bowl
2. Add 1 cup of water and stir to combine
3. If you’re adding food coloring to your Oobleck do it at the mixing stage

If you’ve never made Oobleck before one of the hardest things to figure out is just what you are looking for in terms of consistency. When mixed you should be able to press a handful of oobleck into a ball in your hand; when you release the pressure the ball should “melt” back into a liquid. Oobleck is messy! But once it dries it returns to a cornstarch powder that can be easily swept or vacuumed up.

Make play dough fun last longer with themed competitions: who can build the biggest castle or the coolest dragon. Here’s our recipe for making your own.

You will need:
* 1 large bowl
* 1 cup of plain flour
* 1/4 cup of hot water
* 1/3 cup of salt
* Food colouring
* 2 Tbsp of cooking oil

How to:
1. In the bowl, mix the flour and salt.
2. Add the hot water and mix until all stickiness is gone.
3. Add 1 drop of food colouring and mix it into your mixture to brighten your dough
4. Add the oil, mix it in well and get playing!
Note: If the mixture is too sticky add more flour, and if it’s too dry add more water – just a tiny bit at a time. Keep in an airtight container and it could last for months. You can also bake your kid’s play dough art to preserve it. Place it on aluminum foil in a baking tray and leave in an oven preheated to 90 degrees Celsius for up to 15 minutes.

Board games are a winner if you can get the tablet generation interested. Try something different like the African classic Mancala.

You will need:
* An empty dozen eggs carton
* Scissors
* Sellotape
* A large packet of jellybeans, stones, beads or Cheerios

How to:
1. Take your empty egg carton and carefully cut off the top. Once the top is cut off, cut each end of the top (a) as well as two pieces from the middle to the edge (b) as pictured.

2. To make the end pockets, tape together each cut off end and the middle-to-edge pieces. Make sure the outside of the carton for the middle pieces (b) is facing towards the inside of the end piece (a).

3. Tape each end pocket to either end of the bottom of the carton, the middle piece (b) facing inward. Make sure they are taped securely on the sides, top and bottom.

4. Fill each small pocket with four of anything, either with beads sweets, stones or cereal.

5. Now you are ready to play.

Setting Up
Before play begins, the players set up the board. Each player takes 24 stones or seeds and distributes them among the six shallow cups on their side of the board. The two larger cups at the end of each row –called mancalas – should remain empty.

Sowing Seeds
The first player now chooses one of the cups on his side of the board and takes all of the stones out of it. Starting with the next cup to the right, the first player drops one stone into each cup, including their own mancala; however, do not place a stone in the opponent's mancala. This action leads to players dropping stones into cups on their opponent's side of the board as well as their own. The second player then takes a turn, picking up the stones from one of the cups on their side of the board and dropping them into cups in a counter-clockwise direction.

Scoring Points
There are two ways to score points in a game of Mancala. Each stone in a player's mancala at the end of the game represents a point. Thus, stones dropped into the mancala during the player's turn are worth points. Additionally, if a player drops his last stone into an empty cup on his side of the board, he gets to collect all the stones from the cup opposite the one they just dropped their last stone into. These stones also go in their mancala. Play ends when one row of cups is completely empty. The player with the most stones in his or her mancala wins.

Younger kids might want to play something simpler. If you can’t find the snakes and ladders, visit Printable Boardgames for free games to print, cut out and colour with the little ones.

For more active competition, play air soccer with a table tennis ball or pom-pom on a table of any size. Just move breakables out of the way. Make two goals and blow the ball with straws or your mouth. No hands and no shoving or pushing allowed. If the ball goes off the table, put it back on at the same spot.

If you’re willing to use some data, let the kids make a home movie on a phone or tablet. They could come up with a story and plot the scenes, using siblings and parents as actors. Or let them make a nature documentary about a pet. If it works out, that might be a show-and-tell sorted for next term! You can download free apps to edit the video and add a soundtrack.

At some stage, you’ll need a breather. The solution is a game they can get on with by themselves or with you watching from the couch.

Make a list of everyday objects for a treasure hunt. The kids are not allowed to come back to you until they have everything. Some ideas: two red crayons, one green building brick, maybe two sweets as a bonus (hide the packet before they start).

Put on some music and have them do a fashion parade wearing their own clothes, yours or a sibling’s. They can dress to look like you, like each other, like a favourite character or for an event. You’re the judge, so you can sit back. Secret bonus: getting to see which of their winter items don’t fit anymore.

As bedtime approaches, build a fort with blankets, sleeping bags and sturdy chairs. Place it so the entrance faces the TV and let them get comfy inside the fort while watching one last show or a family-friendly movie.

With any luck, they’ll doze off…

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article on Budget-Friendly Family Holidaysor for something sparklier, How To Make Glitter Slime.

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