Some parents survived this harsh winter when their children were confined to the house better than others. The wise parents were those who were prepared. The same preparation will help with the long summer months about to come.
This preparation involves providing opportunities for children to be creative rather than relying on nintendo and television to fill the long hours. There are many ways to do this and the following are just a few suggestions. Create a "dignified junk" box. This is a very big cardboard box in which you put things you might ordinarily throw away but save because they have the "potential" to be used as something else or made into something wonderful. That would include, among millions of other possibilities, string, ribbon, colorful wrapping paper, rubber bands, egg boxes, tissue paper, toilet paper rolls, pieces of toys that fell apart, broken jewelry, left-handed glove, pieces of material, old picture books, greeting cards, catalogues, boxes and on and on.
Sometimes the only time the children have to pursue a hobby is when they are forced by unforeseen circumstances to stay in the house.
When you start doing this, you may never again throw anything away because you get caught up with its potential.
When the winds blow, or it gets too hot or miserable to be outdoors, take out the box and add scissors, paste, scotch tape, needle and thread and whatever else creative children need and let them create wonderful things to their hearts content. Starting a scrapbook is also fun. This requires that you save old magazines and newspapers in preparation. A young child can make a book of all the things that start with the different letters of the alphabet. If a child has a hobby, like collecting airplanes, she could cut out all of the stories about airplanes. If she likes sports, she could cut out pictures of her favorite players. It helps to encourage your children to start a hobby. Children can spend many happy hours pursuing it.
Hobbies like collecting stamps, baseball cards, coins, and on and on require a great deal of time. Sometimes the only time the children have to pursue a hobby is when they are forced by unforeseen circumstances to stay in the house. If you are ready with the suggestion and the materials, they might become interested, enjoy themselves and learn a great deal at the same time. If you have a camcorder, you might suggest that older children write a script, dress the part, act in, and film their own movie.
In anticipation of this activity, you might get another cardboard box in which to throw old clothes. It is a good idea to stockpile materials for cooking. These would include but not be limited to cake mixes, pie ingredients. cookie mixes, jello, puddings and so on. The children could help prepare a meal. Other materials you might want to have on hand are puzzles, clay, crayons, and magic markers. Do not forget board games, legos, blocks and cards. If you are given enough warning that the children will be confined to the house for a period of time, go to the library as quickly as possible and get out as many books as are permitted. When you choose books for children's pleasure reading, choose those which are at least a year below their current reading level at school. For younger children, choose those with no writing or only one word per page. Provide a comfortable atmosphere for reading.
There should be comfortable chairs with good lighting available.
We tend to make the most comfortable room the one that has the television in it. Close up the television and declare that room off limits. Instead provide the atmosphere, the opportunity and the encouragement for your children to make creative choices.
If done right, you and your children might even begin to look forward to these periods of unforeseen togetherness.
First published in 1994