Staycation: 7 Cabin Fever Rescues

By various authors
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Christy Waldner/
When cabin fever strikes during your next staycation, here's a list of ideas to keep your kids entertained, instead of restless and bored. 

“Mom, I’m bored!”

It’s only noon, but already your kids have played with every toy and game in their closet…three times. You’d send them outside to play, but the subzero wind chill forces you to reconsider that idea. When cabin fever strikes your home, how can you head off the restlessness and boredom? Relax! We’ve got you covered. Check out our creative list of ideas to keep your kids entertained for hours. We’ve taken the guesswork out of these activities by listing the materials and showing the level of potential messiness so you’ll know what to expect. Let the fun begin!

Closet Hideout

Inspire imaginative play with this simple activity.

Perfect for: ages 4 to 10

Materials: empty hall closet, flashlights

Set up: Remove all contents from the floor and shelves so there’s room for a pretend world, created by your kids.

Play: Kids can pretend they’re carrying out a secret mission or they’re in a rocket ship flying into orbit. Imagination is key, and the sky’s the limit! Flashlights provide the ambiance of secrecy and enough light to play.

Mom says: “When it was too cold for snow forts, our front hall closet was transformed into a hideout for my sons. Besides having a great time, my sons also kept our closet uncluttered — at least in the winter months.”

Mess-o-meter: Low. You’ll need an alternative location for displaced closet belongings.

—Letitia Suk

Bathtub Artists

Help your kids discover their “inner Picasso” as they splash color on a life-size canvas.

Perfect for: ages 3 to 8

Materials: bathing suits, nontoxic washable paint, swim goggles

Set up: Remove shampoo and other items from the bathtub. Dress kids in their swimsuits or trunks and goggles and put them in the tub.

Play: Squirt one color of paint inside the tub and let your children paint the walls, themselves and each other. Every few minutes, add a little more paint in a different color. Optional: Use nondairy whipped cream instead of paint.

Mom says: “Tired of all the messes I’d been cleaning up, I decided I’d let my kids make a mess in the tub, where it was easily cleaned. My two little ones had the time of their lives.”

Mess-o-meter: Medium. The kids will need a bath once painting time is over. Simply turn on the shower and wash all the colors down the drain.

Kate Gleich

Giant Spider Web

This tangled activity encourages teamwork and keeps kids occupied for hours.

Perfect for: ages 8 to 12

Materials: ball of yarn, masking tape

Set up: none

Play: Give tweens a ball of yarn and masking tape and let them design a spider web in their room. They can string yarn throughout their bedroom, connecting walls, floors, ceilings and furniture.

Mom says: “My kids loved zigzagging yarn throughout their room creating a huge web. It gets increasingly fun and challenging as the web develops since the kids have to crawl through some spaces to make their way out of the room.”

Mess-o-meter: High. Pulling the web down can be just as fun as putting it up. Have the kids rewind the yarn to use again or throw away if the yarn is too tangled.

Beth Naylor

Marble Maze

With this challenging activity, your kids will sharpen their problem-solving skills and get a basic lesson in physics.

Perfect for: ages 6 to 12

Materials: newspaper, masking tape, marbles

Set up: none

Play: Show your kids how to roll and tape a sheet of newspaper lengthwise so a marble can roll through it. Then have them add more newspaper rolls to the first roll with tape, and challenge them to design a maze to guide a marble from one end of a room to the other. They can use furniture or other household items to support the structure.

Mom says: “My kids spent hours constructing a large maze to roll marbles from one end of the room to the other. Sometimes they had to problem-solve when a marble didn’t make its way through to the end. They learned some valuable lessons about gravity that day.”

Mess-o-meter: Medium. The kids can clean up when they’re done, but be prepared to find stray bits of newspaper lying around your house.

Beth Naylor

Helping-Hand Scavenger Hunt

Turn chores and good deeds into a fun game. You’ll rid the house of unused items, keep the kids entertained and help people in need.

Perfect for: ages 6 to 12

Materials: a pen and paper

Set up: Prepare a list of items. Consider items that can be donated to charity and simple tasks that help your family. Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Find three nice clothing items you can’t wear anymore.

• Pick out six canned goods.

• Throw away four socks that have holes in them.

• Write a letter to a family member far away.

Play: Hand each child the list with instructions to find the items and complete the tasks. To keep kids motivated, offer a small prize for each task or let the child who completes the most tasks choose dinner.

Mom says: “We found something fun to do inside that helped us think outside our home. I keep tweaking the list and have it handy for those winter days when we’re stuck indoors.”

Mess-o-meter: Low. Just store your donation items somewhere out of the way.

Becky Tidberg


Keep your kids laughing and thinking on their feet with this unique game of improv.

Perfect for: ages 6 to 12

Materials: paper, scissors, pencil, bowl, props (household items, toys, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, etc.)

Set up: With your kids’ help, make a list of different scenes, real or imaginary: a circus, a wedding, an undiscovered planet. Cut the list into slips of paper, and then place the folded slips in a bowl. Gather a variety of props into a pile nearby.

Play: Each player draws a slip of paper and keeps it secret from the others. Select who goes first. The game starts with the first player acting out his scene while the others guess. Unlike charades, he can speak. For example, he may grab a rope, pretending it’s a hose and say, “Don’t just stand there, help me put out this fire.” Players respond using the props and seeing who can come up with the funniest or best lines, even if they haven’t figured out the scene yet. At any time, another player may yell, “Switcharoo!” Then, that child begins acting out his scene and the others join in, using the props in imaginative ways. In one scene a towel can be a tablecloth, the next a super hero’s cape.

Mom says: “This is a good way to encourage creativity. One of my son’s friends told my son, ‘I never learned to use my imagination until I met you.’ ”

Mess-o-meter: Low. Have your kids put away the props when finished.

—Connie L. Peters

Beach Play

Escape to a warmer climate. This creative activity can turn a dreary snow day into a sunny day at the beach.

Perfect for: ages 3 to 8

Materials: small wading pool, towels, bathing suits, buckets, beach ball, bath toys, water

Set up: Place your small wading pool in the center of your kitchen. Fill the pool with water from the sink and spread towels around the “ocean.” Keep a few more towels handy to mop up big waves. For kids who like to splash, you can protect the kitchen floor with a blue tarp or large sheet of plastic.

Play: Pretend you’re at the beach and play beach ball games, lay on towels and share your best beach stories. Optional: Sit on the beach and enjoy a picnic lunch complete with lemonade.

Mom says: “As the boys lay on their beach towels, exhausted after hours of laughter and fun, they all agreed, ‘This is one of the best snow days ever!’ “

Mess-o-meter: Medium. Splashing could get out of hand if not monitored closely. Then again, it’s only water.

Sue Heimer

Parental Note: Water activities should be supervised.

“Closet Hideout” copyright © 2011 by Letitia Suk. “Bathtub Artists” copyright © 2011 by Kate Gleich. “Giant Spider Web” and “Marble Maze” copyright © 2011 by Beth Naylor. “Helping-Hand Scavenger Hunt” copyright © 2011 by Becky Tidberg. “Switcharoo” copyright © 2011 by Connie L. Peters. “Beach Play” copyright © 2011 by Sue Heimer. Used by permission. Compilation of article copyright © 2011 by Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

various authors

This article is a compilation of articles written by various authors. The author names are found within the article.

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