There’ll be lots you probably can’t do this winter thanks to the pandemic. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had if you’re prepared to get creative indoors.
The next wave of Covid appears to be here, and this time we can’t rely on walks under warm spring sunshine or long summer afternoons in the park to see us through. Winter is coming, and it’s going to be a long one.
So how can dads keep restless kids amused and entertained for the next six months, with many of the usual activities curtailed? Winter is always a trickier parenting problem than summer, and with Halloween cancelled, leisure centres and soft play areas closed, and cafes and restaurants a risk, this year promises to be the ultimate test of our creativity and endurance.
Still, one way to tackle the coming storm is to bring activities we’d usually undertake outside the home inside. It might take a bit of ingenuity and planning, and it won’t be quite the same, but it will help to make Covid-blighted winter weekends a lot more fun.
Here are a few ideas:
Home Cinema nights
This is not to be confused with the much more common and mundane “watching a film”. A night at the cinema is something special, and the at-home version should be too.
- Pick a brand new film if you can. Many films are being released straight onto streaming services, so you should be able to watch something nobody has seen before (Think Enola Holmes). If not, a family favourite is fine.
- Buy or make snacks. Ice cream, popcorn, nachos, wine gums: pick something for everyone, and don’t forget drinks.
- Cosy it up. In one way the living room is better than the cinema. Cosy it up with blankets, candles, fairy lights or anything else. Channel the Danish concept of Hygge.
Crazy golf (the Winter Cup)
If you’re longing for the summer staycation buzz of banging a ball between the sails of a mini windmill, recreate the crazy golf experience in winter, at home. It’s easy and loads of fun.
- Create your course. Under the kitchen table, down the stairs and round the corner, a long straight par three along the landing…any space can make a hole.
- Add obstacles. Build Lego barriers and use randomly placed furniture. Enlist the moving menace of a curious cat. The holes themselves can be anything with three sides and an opening.
- Muster your equipment. Golf balls are good, or at least a ball of the same size. Clubs can be real ones, or cricket bats, hockey sticks, table legs or stick-and-plastic implements of your own construction. Anything that will propel a ball in roughly the right direction will do.
Soft play centre closed? Recreate the thrills and spills in your own home, minus the 50ft slide and ball pool!
- Accept the mess. This one takes a bit of disruption. Use mattresses, sofa cushions, bean bags and blankets to create wall-to-wall squishiness. Don’t stress the mess.
- Do a risk assessment. Kids will be running, jumping, diving and falling, so remove any hard edges, keep cups and glasses in another room, and put barriers in place wherever necessary. You’ll need to stay in the room with younger children.
- No need for organised fun. In our experience, if you show kids a wide expanse of softness they’ll jump (literally) right in. If you want to take things up a level, and you have some space, you could look at small bouncy castles too.
Hide and seek
Yes, hide and seek is more challenging in the park, and rounds tend to last a bit longer, but taking it inside can bring out your kids’ creative side.
- Set ground rules. Are there rooms or spaces that shouldn’t be used? Mark them as out of bounds at the outset.
- Be a hopeless seeker. Let’s face it, young children are pretty rubbish at hide and seek, especially indoors. They’ll always pick the wardrobe, or just dive under the covers of their beds. Keep the suspense going for a bit. Look in all the wrong places. Search the room they’re in, deliberately miss them, then come back later. Mumble to yourself – goblin-like – as you search, and ignore the excited/terrified squeaks from under the bed, at least once.
- Make it spooky. If your children are old enough to handle it, hide and seek on winter evenings, with only a few strategically placed lamps to light the way, can be spooky, Halloween-esque fun.
Talking of Halloween, it looks like trick or treating will be off the menu this winter, so bring the ghostly fun inside instead.
- Go trick or treating! But only at your own house. Let’s face it, sweet treats are half the fun, so send the kids outside to knock on the door and be offered a selection of the finest pick and mix. Get into character if you want to spice things up a bit.
- Go traditional. Bob for apples. Decorate pumpkins. Make your own spooky masks. There’s lots you can do to make Halloween fun in your own house.
- Open your spooky cinema. For older kids, organise a special cinema night (see above), with a bit of (age appropriate) ‘horror’, Halloween cupcakes and candles for lighting.