It's wet and cold outside for the fourth day running and the kids have resorted to tormenting the dog for kicks. So what do you do?
Dance aerobics: Throw on a kids' aerobics or dance DVD if you have one and get down for half an hour of hard physical exercise. If you don't have one look up Wiggles' hits on YouTube and "Hot Potato" your way around the living room.
Have an indoor "snowball" fight with scrunched-up balls of newspaper. Mark a dividing line on the foor using blocks or tape and then shout, "Go!"
Alternatively, have a game of basketball using a rubbish bin for goals and see who can pot the most shots.
For three and four year olds try an easy exercise course: Crawl to the kitchen, hop to the door, ring the outside doorbell three times then bottom-shuffle back. If they can master that, up the ante by adding in some star jumps and hula-hooping.
Hold a treasure hunt: You could use a handful of Smarties or teddy bear biscuits and hide them in odd places around the room - on the windowsill, behind the couch (in an egg cup), in the fruit bowl. Instead of sweets you could use favourite dolls or toys. And you might need to give a lot of guidance for littlies, such as "getting colder/warmer" etc. If you have the time and energy make up clues by drawing a picture of, say, the couch or the window and add an arrow to help the hunters on their way.
Bowling alley: This is perfect if you have a long hallway. Set up a collection of toilet rolls or paper towel inners at one end and grab a tennis ball or rolled-up sock. For a touch of pizzazz, get the kids to do it in their fairy dresses or cowboy outfits.
Ball and spoon races: That's using a pingpong ball on a dessertspoon and the aim is to get to the finish line as fast as possible without dropping your ball. If it falls, go back to the start line. You can stay in the hall for this or mark out a race track in the lounge or rumpus room using tape.
Squeeze painting: Make up a special squeegee paint mixing grated soap with hot water and then adding dye or food colouring. Pour into a squeegee bottle or cake icing piping tube and let the kids go wild in the kitchen sink or bath (check for staining first).
Googly eyes are cheap and widely available, and any toddler can do this hilarious "craft" project. Using self-adhesive eyes, get the kids plastering pairs of eyes all over the house - their favourite cups, plant-holders, door handles, the toaster… those eyes will be watching you everywhere! If there's a break in the rain take the kids outside to collect pretty leaves, acorns, pebbles etc. Then:
Make a mobile: Cut out a cardboard disc and hang your nature objects from it with string.
Make a leaf painting: Decorate coloured or white card with leaves attached with double-sided tape or glue - the more colourful the better. You could even make one to send to Grandma.
Make a leaf figure: (As demonstrated right) arrange leaves into a figure shape, attach to paper and add a pair of googly eyes. You could add a smile, fingers or a hat using pipe-cleaners.
Paint stones: Pebbles, stones and small rocks have great surfaces for paint and you don't need to be Picasso to make them look pretty and colourful.
Colour and scratch: This is an old technique you'll remember from your own childhood. Cover a sheet of paper with all the colours of the rainbow, making sure you cover every bit of white. Then paint with thick black poster paint and leave to dry. With an old biro, fork or spoon scratch out a pattern, drawing or scribble to reveal the beautiful colours below.
Think and learn
Memory game: Get out a tray and on it place two or three items - an egg cup, a fork or a small bowl, for example. Cover with a teatowel. The children get 20 seconds to look and then the tea towel goes back on. How many can they remember? Start with just a few objects and gradually build up your numbers, depending on the age of your kids.
Make a happy list: Grandma's "count your blessings" maxim is not too old-fashioned for a re-run on a rainy day. Your children might be bored but what do they have already that makes them happy?
Make and do
Pictures above from top: Set up a bowling alley with plastic skittles, or toilet rolls. Make a maze, using a large piece of cardboard and paper towel inners cut in half lengthwise. Make a leaf figure with leaves, glue and googly eyes.