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Winter crafts for kids

The winter can be a lot of fun for kids, bundling up, playing outside and, when it snows, enjoying snowball fights, building snow forts and making snow angels. Sometimes it even means having off from school. But after frolicking in the cold, a warm break is much needed. Indoor crafts and games can provide easy entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. Ashley Hodgson, early childhood program coordinator at the Long Island Children's Museum, shared some of the museum's family-friendly activities that you can create and play indoors when the weather outside is too frightful. So grab some hot chocolate and try these 10 crafts and games for kids when you're stuck inside.

5 homemade crafts

Soap Crayons
1 cup grated Ivory Soap
1/4 cup warm water
Food Coloring
Plastic molds
Directions: Mix water, soap & food coloring together in medium size bowl. Stir the crayon mixture until it begins to stiffen. Remove the mixture from the bowl and knead until it is the consistency of very thick dough. Spoon crayon mixture into plastic mold. (Ideas for plastic molds: ice cube trays, Play-Doh molds and cutters, Tupperware cookie cutters, plastic cookie cutters or plastic soap molds.) Press down firmly. Place the plastic cookie cutters in your freezer for 10 minutes. When firm, pop the bath crayons out of the cookie cutters (or other molds) and allow them to air dry overnight or until hard.

Playdough (Play-Doh)
2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup salt
Food coloring (optional)
Directions: Mix all ingredients, adding food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth. Place in plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.

Flour Finger Paint
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. salt
1-1/4 cup hot water
1-1/2 cup cold water
Food coloring or tempera paint
Directions: Put flour and salt in a saucepan and add cold water. Beat with a whisk or rotary beater until smooth. Add hot water and boil until mixture is thick. Beat until smooth. Keep in refrigerator and add food coloring as needed.

2 mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
1 cup glue
4 teaspoons borax
Food coloring
1-1/3 cup warm water
Directions: Mix together 3/4 cup warm water, 1 cup glue and several drops of food coloring in the first bowl. In the second bowl, mix together 4 teaspoons borax and 1-1/3 cups warm water. Pour the contents of the first bowl into the second, but don't stir. Let it sit for 1 minute, then lift the now-congealed slime out of the bowl. Divide slime so that each child has a piece to play with. The glue in slime can make it stick to certain fabrics. To minimize accidents, give each little monster a zip-top bag to store it in.
Safety tip: Since borax is toxic in large doses, be sure to keep the slime away from kids younger than age three.

Paper Bag Puppet
Paper lunch bag
Construction paper with various colors
Glue stick
Washable markers or crayons
Directions: "If your child is familiar with using scissors, invite them to cut out a variety of simple shapes to use for their puppet’s eyes, nose, mouth," said Hodgson. "If your child is not familiar with using scissors, this is a great time to practice, developing fine motor skills." For even younger children, shapes can be pre-cut by an adult. Then ask your child to glue the shapes onto the brown paper lunch bag using a glue stick to create a puppet of their choice. Details can be added with washable markers or crayons. "Encourage them to tell you a story with their puppet, or make two and act out scenes together," said Hodgson.

5 interactive indoor games

Search and find
Put your little detective to work with this fun challenge! On index cards, print up or draw simple pictures of objects that are seen around the house, or that can be seen from a window: a teddy bear, a spoon and a car, for example. Try to incorporate objects above and below a child’s eye level to add to the challenge. "If they need hints while searching, try using words like above, below, in front of, behind, underneath and on top of, to encourage spatial development," said Hodgson.

Memory game
Practice memorization skills with a low-cost version of a childhood favorite. Create game pieces using index cards. Print out or draw simple pictures on index cards of the same size to create pairs. Themes could be shapes and colors, items that match such as mittens or things that go together like animals and their babies. Make it even more fun by customizing the game with your child’s suggestions.

Color hunt
Practice color recognition by using construction paper in a variety of colors and cut down to a size that can be easily held in a child’s hand. Give your child the task of identifying these colors in household objects. "Challenge them to find each color of the rainbow," said Hodgson.

Make a sand-free sandbox
Use a large plastic bin, dishpan or aluminum-foil roasting pan as your box. Fill with rice or oatmeal and stock with scoops, funnels, spoons, toy cars, a plastic tea set — whatever suits your child's interests.

Cardboard Box Creations
When you’re making that last-minute grocery store run before the big storm, ask the manager for boxes from the loading dock, then get out the colored paper and the markers and let the kids use their imaginations, said Hodgson.

What are your favorite indoor family-friendly activities? Share your comments below.

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