Have fun while preserving memories. Fill a shoe box or coffee can with family photos, mementos, and present-day items (such as a sports star's trading card). Older children can tuck in a letter to their future selves. Decorate the time capsule, store it in a safe place, and agree on a time to open it -- such as when your youngest turns 18.
Bonus: Your family will have a blast opening it years down the road.
All kids love getting their hands messy! Help your youngsters whip up a batch of homemade play dough by mixing 1 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of salt. Add 1/4 cup of water (more if needed) and knead the dough until it’s formed and not sticky. Divide it and knead in various food dyes and glitter for a special touch.
Bonus: This concoction is as much fun to make as it is to play with.
Let your little ones' special skills shine. Children of all ages can participate in a talent show by singing, dancing, or turning somersaults. Older kids may want to write a skit. Have them plan their show, rehearse, and distribute homemade tickets. Don't forget the video camera.
Bonus: You may get a chance to channel your inner diva in front of a rapt audience.
Capture the fun of a camping trip without leaving home. Set up a small tent (or pillow-and-blanket fort) in the living room. Help younger children cut shiny red paper into flame shapes for a pretend campfire. Dim the lights, turn on flashlights, and spread out sleeping bags and pillows. Then serve a special camping treat -- such as Indoor S'mores -- while campers tell ghost stories and sing songs around the fire.
Bonus: Without the muddy sleeping bags and leaky coolers, cleaning up the campsite is a snap.
Commemorate a special event in your child’s life, such as a trip to the amusement park or a visit with Grandma. Help her paste pictures on card stock and write captions to go along with each photo -- such as "I helped Grandma make dinner." Have her design a cover, and then hole-punch the pages and bind them together with string or ribbon.
Bonus: Your little one will feel like a star -- and proudly read her book over and over.
If it's too chilly for outdoor sandbox play, bring the fun indoors. Fill a large plastic bin with dry beans, rice, oats, and various kinds of pasta. Provide cups, spoons, and funnels, and let your little ones enjoy scooping and pouring. Spread an old sheet under the bin, and pour any stray pieces back in when the kids are finished playing. (Carefully supervise smaller children.)
Bonus: You won't be shaking sand out of their shoes for the next week.
Write clues on small pieces of paper, and hide them around the house. Draw pictures for young children and invent riddles for older kids. Each clue should direct them to the next. The last one should lead to the prize -- a small toy or treat.
Bonus: This game sharpens puzzle-solving skills and promotes teamwork.
Occupy the kids and keep your gift wrap station stocked with cute DIY paper and cards. Provide a markers, crayons, stickers, stencils, and glitter, and let the kids go to town decorating card stock and large sheets of paper.
Bonus: They'll be so proud seeing their designs used to adorn gifts.
Blow up a dozen balloons for several games in one. Kids can team up to keep balloons from touching the floor, or play one-on-one balloon basketball using a laundry hamper. Include creative games, such as seeing who can hold the most balloons at one time using their hands, chin, and knees. (Be aware that balloons pose a choking hazard to small children.)
Bonus: One word -- exercise!
Turn mealtime into a party with food the kids can decorate. Let each child make his own pita bread pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and a variety of healthful toppings. For dessert, decorate sugar cookies with icing, sprinkles, and candies.
Bonus: They'll be more likely to eat their meal since they helped make it.