Once when my older two children were ages three and four, it was a late winter day and they were happily playing in the play room. I told them that I was going out to dump the compost and that I'd be right back in. I went out the back door, down the hill and dumped the compost. I tried walking back in and realized that the hill was so icy that I actually could not get back up.
Though I will admit I'm prone to hyperbole, I swear to you it took me a solid twenty minutes to get back in the house. I was honestly starting to wonder each time that I stepped forward a foot and slid back three if I should try shouting for help.
When I got back in, they were still playing and hadn't even noticed my prolonged absence.
The thought of that happening with my three younger children makes me shudder in fear with the thought of what the state of my house would be if there were left alone for twenty minutes in the winter. These children are ACTIVE. When it gets too dark/cold/rainy/icy to be outside playing sports, they come in and pick up exactly where they left off, jumping off furniture, kicking balls, tackling, sliding, throwing things. Sometimes they jump so hard upstairs they make the entire kitchen ceiling shake and I'm certain it's going to crash down on me one day.
Quite frankly, I don't enjoy living like this but I cannot change them so instead I'm working on my list of ideas to harness their energy and keep them engaged indoors in a way that doesn't cause me such agita. (They will get as much outside play as much as possible, of course, so long as it's a winter that's not too bitterly cold or icy!)
1. Keep a running list of hands-on activities that they will actually like to do. My 6 and 8 year olds are not big into crafts but they love messy-fun experiments, like making flubber and ooblek (corn starch and water--really fun), baking soda "eggs" with toys hidden inside and droppers of vinegar to dissolve them, painting with toy cars and trucks. (Driving toy cars through blobs of paint--plus you can save these giant paintings to use as wrapping paper.)
2. Cooking and baking is something they all like. I think I'll employ them in making baked goods as holiday gifts.
3. Active games that they can play without (hopefully) breaking anything or each other: cars and ramps, freeze dance/dance party, Simon Says, Hide and Seek.
4. Setting up board games in different spots in the house and then continually switching games and partners. Also coming up with ideas for lego building contests.
5. Saving this one for a day when they're really wound up and driving me crazy: I want to work out some sort of system of points...for example,
for every five minutes of calm play with nobody getting hurt translates
into points and a certain number of points will earn them time on the Wii.
Anyone else saving up ideas now? I'd love to hear what you've got in your bag of tricks!