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Ideas for Indoor Winter Fun

pcmlogocolor-9.jpgBy Cathy Saunders,
Director of Education, Providence Children’s Museum

Working at the Children’s Museum, I have a reputation to uphold with the young people in my life.  They fully expect that I will have a project, a toy, or a riddle up my sleeve when they see me.  And indeed, I have garnered a repertoire of favorites to have on hand:


Creative Constructions
Playful building projects are always a winner with children and adults. A bag of marshmallows or gumdrops paired with toothpicks or dried spaghetti provides the foundation for wacky tabletop constructions. To build larger structures, roll sheets of newspaper into “poles” (tape the ends with masking tape); you’ll find they are surprisingly sturdy. Start by building triangles, squares, and cubes. Then let the engineer in you go to town!

Slime Time
When I’m willing to get a little messy, there is nothing that beats oobleck–the curiously fascinating polymer made from cornstarch and water. Mix up a little in a bowl (one part water to up to two parts cornstarch) and then play with spoons, strainers, and containers of all sizes. Give the oobleck a squeeze or a poke and it hardens instantaneously, but scoop it up and it runs through your fingers. Add food coloring for special effect. Oobleck is easy to clean up, but be sure to dispose of it in the trash, not down your sink.

Scientist in the House
“Rubber” eggs and chicken bones are marvels. It’s simple: Submerge an egg or a thin chicken bone in a jar full of vinegar and watch to see what happens. It takes a few days, but it’s fun to check the progress—taking notes, making observations, and discussing what is happening.

On cold winter days, it’s nice to explore ice in the comfort of the indoors. Fill a balloon or milk carton with water and freeze it to make a giant ice cube. Set the ice on a tray or in a pan and let the investigation begin. Drops of food coloring will reveal the cracks and crevices. Sprinkling salt will have interesting effects, too.

Get Physical
Making up yoga positions gets in good stretches and giggles. Start simple by making different shapes with your body—triangles, diamonds, circles. Then look to nature for ideas. Many yoga positions are named after animals (downward dog, cobra, eagle). Try some of those and invent new ones.

Balloon badminton is a hit at the Children’s Museum. Construct rackets from paper plates attached to paint stirrers or rulers and use a balloon as the birdie. For a coordination challenge, I like to have a balance race. We try to walk the length of a room with books on our heads. We work our way up, balancing two or three, even adding a stuffed toy to the pile!

Some helpful websites with other activity ideas to keep the winter blues at bay:

– The Silicon Valley Art Museum has “at home art” activities as well as tips about materials and creativity.

– PBS’s FETCH!â„¢ website provides hands-on science activity guides and resources. (You can also drop into the Museum’s FETCH! Lab each week.  Check our calendar for details.)

– The Science Learning Network’s Thinking Fountain is a dynamic website with creative science ideas.

– The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine has simple art, culture, science and cooking activities.

For more indoor winter fun, visit Providence Children’s Museum—there’s something different happening every day! Join the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 18, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Popular storytellers and actors Valerie Tutson and Rochel Coleman perform the powerful “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace” at 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM, and 2:30 PM, bringing the civil rights movement to life through songs and stories. Families also explore an exhibit of photographs, words and books describing Dr. King’s life and work and take part in a thought-provoking antidiscrimination activity.

TM/© 2007 WGBH Educational Foundation

photo credit: Providence Children’s Museum

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