"I'm bored," our oldest daughter of five informed me one day when the weather didn't allow outside play.

On the way to check the TV or put in her favorite movie, I caught myself and remembered not to substitute playtime with activities that don't awaken the imagination. There's nothing wrong with movies or TV. We actually enjoy a family movie nightat least once a week, and we do have our favorite family shows. But playtime activities do not involve sitting in front of the tube. They should involve creativity.

Indoor activities do not have to require a lot of steps or be costly. Here are five activities that have saved the day many times as our children were growing up.

Writing letters

Write letters to relatives, friends, even each other. The art of writing is on the endangered list. Yet children and adults have not lost the love of receiving snail mail. I'd heard that going to the mailbox is the number one exercise. I don't know if this is true, but I do know that checking the mailbox is at the top of the list for every member of our family. Let your younger children dictate their letters to you and encourage them to draw or color a picture. Then allow them to place the stamp on the envelope.

Writing stories

Grandma loves stories. So we discuss story ideas, pick who starts the story and, when they're done, the next child continues the story, and so on, until they're finished. Generally, we record this part as none of us are able to write it down fast enough. Another way is to let the first child write until he is ready to pass it on then allow the next to continue and so on until they're finished. I prefer the verbal storytelling because it involves the entire family at the same time, and laughter is a great boredom breaker.

Another type of story writing is similar to picture books. Make some booklets out of printer paper and have the children draw pictures and tell the story. For the younger ones, you may need to write the words. Again, recording is the easiest way to get the story right.

With either method, never (and I mean, never) stop their creative flow by telling them they can't do or say that. It's their story!


Try something different other than the usual coloring, painting and drawing. One of our children's favorite was salt art. I would take out a cookie sheet and lightly salt the pan until there was a thin layer. The children would draw pictures with their fingers. I often used this as practice for writing numbers and letters as a change from handwriting paper.

Another favorite was shaving cream on the cookie sheet instead of salt. It was thicker and a little difficult to work with, but they enjoyed using it for their artwork. Sometimes I put it straight on the table. It did a really great job of cleaning it. I never tried using whipped cream, but I think it would have been fun. I can imagine children eating their creations with delight.

Shadow boxes

This one requires some advanced logistics. You'll need small boxes (I found shoe boxes are the best), glue, construction paper, scissors, writing, drawing and possibly painting utensils with paint. Other items I recommend, although not needed, are plastic figures or creatures. These will add a third dimension to their themed shadow box creations.

Cooking or baking

Children love to create in the kitchen. Let them help make dinner or bake a dessert or snack. Be creative and make hot dog people or Mickey Mouse pancakes. As soon as our children showed an interest in the kitchen, I taught them baking skills. As they grew older, they were responsible for meal planning. When they were ready, they prepared the meals.

There are so many activities you and your children can do you may feel overwhelmed. Pick a few that sound interesting and involve your children in the choices.

Many of our children's ideas came from magazines such as "Family Fun Magazine." The children couldn't wait to choose new recipes and craft ideas.

Have fun chasing away "I'm bored" while exercising your child's creativity and waking up their imagination.

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