The great indoors

Autumn is here! The days are shorter, the weather is cooler and your family is starting to spend more and more time indoors. Keeping the whole family entertained when you can't get outside can be a real challenge. Instead of wanting to spend time together, cries of 'I'm bored!' and 'There's nothing to do!' can make you wish you were somewhere else. Keep reading for some ways to beat those cool-weather blues and enjoy bonding as a family.

A winter picnic
Just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't enjoy a picnic! Pack up some sandwiches and yummy picnic treats, throw down a rug on the lounge floor and have an indoor picnic. Your kids will love it for the novelty value and it equals great family time.

A warm-up dance-a-thon
Get out your favourite CDs, turn the music up loud and dance around the house. It's a great way to wake up and warm up on a chilly autumn morning. One mum we know puts on Elvis and lets the kids groove around the lounge. And with no-one else around, Dad's disco dance moves won't embarrass the kids!

Hide and seek
This old favourite never seems to go out of fashion. Or try Sardines, which is similar - one person goes to hide, and then the rest of the family have to fi  nd them. But instead of revealing their hiding place, the person who found them has to hide along with them. If your child is too young for proper hide-and-seek, just go with the flow - even though you can clearly see them hiding behind the lounge curtains, keep calling out for them and make the game last. Children get a real kick out of listening to your efforts to find them.

Dramatic dress-ups
Even very young children love to dress up, and you can create a whole dress-up basket just from Mum and Dad's old clothes, belts, scarves, ties, shoes and costume jewellery. Let your little one clomp around in your shoes while you pretend to put theirs on - you'll all dissolve in giggles. Get out your favourite CDs, turn the music up loud and dance around the house. It's a great way to wake up and warm up on a chilly autumn morning.

A blitz of baking
Kids love to cook, bake, and generally hang out in the kitchen, and they especially love to eat the results! Check out the OHbaby! cookbook for some great recipes to try with your kids.

Arts and crafts
Encourage your little ones to get creative with glitter, glue, stickers and crayons. Invest in a plastic storage bin with a fitted lid, then fill it with paper, pens, glitter, glue, markers, crayons, stickers, stencils, felt, ribbons, sequins, scraps of fabric, yarn, and any other bits and pieces you can think of. Even a toddler can play with these items under supervision - perhaps you can make a collage as a family using photos cut out of magazines, with Mum cutting the picture out, Dad dabbing glue on the back, and your toddler sticking it to a piece of poster board.

Puzzles and blocks
Puzzles and blocks are a good indoors activity that also engages your child's fine motor skills. See who can build the highest tower, or finish their puzzle the fastest. Or use your arts and crafts box to make your own puzzle. Glue a pretty picture to a piece of thick card, then cut into pieces and let your toddler have fun trying to fit the picture back together.

Storybook time
Kids love being read to, and experts agree that story time is crucial for both brain development and encouraging special time with Mum and Dad. So snuggle up with one of their favourite stories (or even one of your favourites from when you were a child!) and share the magic. Make regular bedtime stories an institution in your household.

Tunnels and forts
This is a great activity for dads! Drag your dining room chairs into the lounge, grab a pile of sheets and blankets and drape them over the chairs, and the lounge furniture, to create tunnels, cubby houses, fortresses and hideouts. This is a great way to encourage your child's imagination. If you can stand the mess, leave the fort in place overnight and let your little one have a sleepover inside of it.

Fantasy bath time
Who says bath time is just about getting clean? It can also be a fun way to fill in an autumn afternoon! Little girls love fairy baths - add flower petals, some bubbles, and even a splash of glitter to the water. For boys, make an easy monster bath with a few drops of green food colouring and some plastic monsters or dinosaurs. Or go swimming in the tub - put on your togs and climb in with your goggles, and take turns splashing each other or "snorkelling" under the water looking for fish. Remember, it's only water, so go ahead and make a mess!

Emma Fahy is the former editor of the OHbaby! website and mum to five beautiful daughters.



As seen in OHbaby! magazine Issue 1: 2008

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