17 Simple DIY Activities to Spark your Children's Creativity and Keep Them Busy over Winter Break

by Carla Goldberg, Early Childhood Director

While you are safe at home this holiday season, I wanted to share some ideas from the Akiba-Schechter Early Childhood classrooms to try at home. Many of these ideas can be done on a Zoom playdate with a friend or family member.  

1. Make your own playdough. It’s a great cooking activity (click here for recipe) to do together, and it is the best playdough. Store it in a Ziplock bag so you can reuse it many times. Try some of your holiday cookie cutters with the playdough… it’s lots of fun! Definitely do that on a Zoom playdate, too.

2. Write and act out your own stories. Children are incredible storytellers. Have your child dictate a story to you, assign each family member a role from the story, and act it out. Props are optional! 

3. Make your own light table. Take an under-the-bed clear box, or any type of clear box with a lid. Place safe holiday lights inside (the kind that don’t get hot), and put the lid on. Turn off the lights and you have your very own light table to build on, draw on, and finger paint on.

4. When it snows, go outside and explore. Fill a spray bottle with water and food coloring and use the snow as your canvas.  

5. Do a “listening drawing."  This is a fun idea for a Zoom play date. Everyone gets a piece of paper and markers. One person gives the drawing instructions, such as "draw a sun on the top of the page, draw clouds in the sky, draw a line down the middle, draw a bird in the sky…." Then compare the drawings. Discuss: How are they the same? How are they different?

6. Build an obstacle course in your house.  This is a great directed activity to get those bodies moving safely in your home. Make it challenging by using pillows, and crawling under tables and under chairs. Part of the fun is creating the course with your child.

7. Locate a “sit spot” outside your house that you can visit often and at different times of the day. Depending upon the age of your child, sit for just a minute or two. Employ all of your senses (which can be very calming), and ask: What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Bring a clipboard and draw a picture of what you notice. 

8. Curate a collection of loose parts and create with them.  Collect different items from around your house, such as chop sticks, bottle tops, small containers, wood pieces, buttons, ribbon or string, rocks, shells, marker tops. Sort and classify these items for your loose parts collection. Then build and create with your loose parts. You can start with drawing a spiral or a shape and building on top of that. You can challenge your child to build a house, a castle, a playground, and just keep rebuilding. This can also be done over Zoom with a friend. It’s fun to share what you have created.  

9. Paint rocks and hide them for others to find in parks and trees.  You can use paint pens or regular paint. Put uplifting messages on your rocks to surprise someone and make them smile! 

10. Play with ramps. Find items in your house or outside that would make good ramps. Look for tubes, different length blocks, boxes, tops of boxes, anything can be a ramp. Try different cars and vehicles and see which ones go down the fastest, and which ones roll the farthest. Again, this can be done over Zoom with a friend or family member. 

11. Read the book The Dot and get inspired!
Put one dot on a page and then see what kind of picture your child can draw or paint using the dot. Make it a challenge and put two dots on the page the next time and see what happens. To get you started, enjoy the great reading of The Dot on YouTube. This is another activity you can share with another family on Zoom.

14. Make your own paintbrushes. Get creative: Use sticks and grass, a piece of a sponge on a popsicle stick, a cotton ball on a stick, etc. Half the fun is building the paintbrush together and then using it. 

15. Make your own binoculars using toilet paper tubes and string, then go out and observe.  

16. Wrap a stick. Go outside and find a fantastic stick. Wrap it with colorful ribbons and yarn. If you do multiple sticks, you can create a beautiful stick sculpture. 

17. Paint a box. Take all of those boxes you have lying around and put them to good use. Read Not a Box, and then decide what you want to turn your box into. Paint, color and decorate your box. You can do multiple boxes and create a town, city.... who knows?


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