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It's raining, it's pouring...and your kids think life is boring.

This winter has been a doozy with rain and extra-cold temperatures. We aren’t out of the woods yet. Banish the winter blahs by being creative and steer clear from “A Nightmare on Boredom Street.”

TODDLERS/ PRESCHOOLERS

Toy Exchange: Do your children tire easily of their toys? Set up an exchange program with other families with similar aged children. Here’s how it works: Get a lidded box and fill it with toys your child has lost interest in. Make sure to label your toys with your name. Do not include sentimental items or anything with too many pieces. Set a date and exchange tubs with other families. Your child will be entertained by the “new” toys and then after a set time period, pack up the tub and exchange again. You will have a constant stream of “new” items for your child to play with, but you won’t be out any money.

COST: Zilch

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: For awhile, and if the toys don’t entertain, the box will.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Depends on what’s in the box.

UNSEEN BONUS: Expand this idea for adults and exchange boxes of different unopened wines.

Homemade play-dough: This is a great sensory activity for kids. When you make your own, you have the benefit of watching the colors blend and have fun kneading the warm dough. It keeps for up to 3 months in sealed containers in the refrigerator. Recipe: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 cup water. Mix ingredients together in a saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the pan. Remove from heat and let it cool to touch. Divide dough into the number of colors you wish to make. Add food coloring and knead dough, until the coloring is worked in and blended completely. Make sure you knead the dough on a surface that won’t be damaged by the food coloring. While this recipe is made from non-toxic ingredients, it shouldn’t be ingested.

COST: Do you bake? Ingredients are already in your cupboard.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: Long enough for you to enjoy a relaxing bath.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Recommended on bare linoleum only.

UNSEEN BONUS: Teach how the three primary colors can be mixed to form different color combinations.

Shaving Cream: Another sensory and exploring activity for young children. You will need cans of classic shaving cream, not the gel type (unscented is best, unless you want your child to smell like your grandfather) and aluminum foil. Spread out a piece of foil, folding up the edges about an inch to make a border. Squirt the shaving cream onto the foil and let the kids have fun squishing the cream and making designs on the foil. Children shouldn’t be allowed to “slap” the shaving cream because it can get in their eyes. You can also hide small plastic animals in a mound of shaving cream for the kids to find. Have a bowl of warm water near by so the kids can wash off the animals.

Note :This activity is for children who no longer put their fingers in their mouth.

COST: One can of shaving cream and possibly your husband’s ire the next morning.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED FOR: 15 minutes, or until can is empty.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Unfortunately high.

UNSEEN BONUS: There isn’t any, but kids enjoy this activity.

ELEMENTARY AGE

Camp Out: This is a good activity on days so dark they seem like night. Push aside the furniture in your living room, roll out sleeping bags and turn off the lights. Before your “camp out” search the internet for “campfire stories for children.” A good fun scare always helps the time pass quickly.

Flashlights are magical to kids and provide endless amusement from light-beam ceiling chase to shadow figures. Reading by flashlight makes the activity seem extra special. Of course no campout is complete without s’mores. Recipe for microwave s’mores: one graham cracker, split in two. One large marshmallow. One square of chocolate. Put marshmallow on one half of the cracker. Place on plate and microwave for 10-20 seconds or until the marshmallow expands. Remove and put chocolate on top of marshmallow. Top with other half of graham cracker, forming a sandwich. CAUTION: Marshmallow may be hot.

COST: Minimal for s’mores ingredients.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: Until you scare them so badly they insist on turning back on the lights.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Strewn furniture and piles of pillows.

UNSEEN BONUS: Finally find the remote that was hiding under the couch.

Dance Party: Again, push aside your furniture and turn up the music. It’s time to get the wiggles out. Introduce your kids to the music that you grew up loving. Teach them the “moon walk,” “the electric slide” and some freestyle disco. Your children will enjoy seeing you get your groove on, and you’ll have fun reminiscing. Take your dance party to a new level and break out some Olivia Newton John leg warmers or Michael Jackson’s glitter glove.

Cost: Zero.

Will keep them occupied: As long as the tunes are hot, the dancing will go on.

Potential for mess: A strained back if you aren’t careful.

Unseen bonus: Your children’s amazement when you sing all the lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Turn your house into A GAME SHOW: Pick up small prizes at dollar stores and on clearance. Set up a prize table and let the fun begin. Again, depending on your children’s age, play games like “Candy Land” or “Uno” and each winner gets to chose a prize. Use the rule that you no one gets a second prize until everyone has received a prize. This is a hit for kids and grownups alike. Who wouldn’t want a prize of a Chia-pet?

COST: A dollar or so per item.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: Until the prizes run out.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Fighting over treasures could get ugly.

UNSEEN BONUS: You’ll finally have an excuse to buy Fruit Stripe gum.

Plastic Cup Towers: And you thought they were only for backyard barbecues! Buy four-five packages and you are set to erect great buildings. Plastic cups are fantastic for building sky scrapers and make a big crash when they fall. Challenge your kids to build interesting towers with patterns and designs. See who can make the tallest building using all the cups. Clean up is a snap, just stack the cups and you’re finished.

COST: A few dollars per package of cups.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: Long enough to check Facebook.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Very little except strewn cups.

UNSEEN BONUS: Your backyard keg party will never run out of plastic cups again.

Hide the Thimble: Or hide the key, or paper clip, or quarter. The object doesn’t matter, as long as it’s small enough to hide. The rules are simple: you have to hide it in a specific room, and it has to be in plain sight (not under pillows or inside a drawer). Take turns being the hider. The finder looks around for the object while the hider calls out “hot and cold” clues depending on how close the finder is to the object (the closer the person is to the object, the hotter they are.) “Go put on your coat. You are freezing!” or “Grab the sunscreen, you are burning!”

COST: Nada.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: It depends. If they have an attention span of a fruit fly, count on one round.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Knocking over an antique vase while hiding the object.

UNSEEN BONUS: Finally put your thimble to use.

You won’t melt: Yes, it rains a lot here. Most often the rain is plentiful, yet gentle. If you hike on a wooded park trail, you may get damp, but you won’t get soaked. Sometimes the only cure for cabin fever is to go outside.

A favorite game to play in the woods is “troll.” Important rule: you are not allowed to go off the path or trail. Take turns being the “troll.” The rest of the group are the “troll seekers.” The seekers close their eyes and count to 30 while the troll gets a head start on the trail, finding a tree or large rock to hide behind. The seekers walk the path, searching for the hider. If they spot the troll, the troll is no longer “it.” If the troll jumps out and scares them, the player gets to continue to be the troll. For smaller children, it is a good idea to pair them with an adult or older child. Get ready for some screams! Even though you know the “troll” is out there, it can still be startling.

COST: Nothing.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: Indefinitely, if hiding and screaming is involved.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Only if your neighbor didn’t pick up after his dog.

UNSEEN BONUS: Opportunity to tap into your inner troll.

Older children

AND TEENS

Teens often cure boredom by using electronics for entertainment. Banish the screen crutch and spend some time together. It can be like pulling teeth to get teens diverted from their electronics, but once you do, the pay-off can be great. It’s only fair that you follow the rules you impose. If you don’t want your teen to text during the activity, you should put away your phone as well.

Famous People Game: A quick moving game where you try to guess as many answers as you can in a minute. You need at least four players. Write down famous people on slips of paper. To make the game fun, you need a lot of entries, so spend about five to ten minutes writing down names. It’s okay if you have duplicate entries, it can actually be funny to get repeats. Divide into two teams. Decide which team will go first. Set the timer for one minute. The first team choses the clue-giver and the rest of the teammates guess. Describe the person as well as you can without saying the celebrity’s name. For example, for “Ichiro” the cule-giver could say, “Plays right-field for the Mariners.” Once the teammates guess the answer correctly, the clue-giver picks up another slip and continues until time is up. If the clue-giver says any part of the famous person’s name, the team loses a point. The game ends once each player has been the clue-giver. The winner is decided by the team who correctly guessed the most.

COST: Free.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: Depends on the teen’s ever changing mood.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Realizing the singer KE$HA spells her name with a dollar sign could confuse parents.

UNSEEN BONUS: Teaching moment that Lil Wayne isn’t a nickname for John Wayne.

Rearrange: A teen’s room is often a sanctuary. Help give your teen’s room a new vibe by rearranging the furniture. Of course, this can be a daunting task if your teen uses the bedroom floor as a dumping ground. Be prepared to help sort through piles and find homes for misplaced items. It can be similar to an archeological dig so come prepared with trash bags and empty boxes for items they wish to donate. An inexpensive lava lamp or a trio of flameless candles gives the teen’s room a hip feature without a lot of expense. The end result will be a cool place for your kid to “chillax” with a bonus of actually seeing their bedroom floor.

COST: $10 for a Lava Lamp.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: You will outlast your teen on this one.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: None. You couldn’t make their room worse.

UNSEEN BONUS: Find the source of that unknown smell.

Baby Pictures/Old Films: Pull out old family photos from when the teen was a baby. Teens love to see themselves when they were younger. Retell funny stories. If you have them, watch films from their early days.

COST: Only your tears.

WILL KEEP THEM OCCUPIED: It depends how long they can handle your blubbering.

POTENTIAL FOR MESS: Runny nose from parents, eye rolling from teen.

UNSEEN BONUS: Teens will realize your love is everlasting. Later, you may receive a text that reads “LU4E&A”, which translates to: love you forever and always.

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