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As I sit here at my computer, looking out the window at the melting piles of snow on the ground, while both of my children learn very important things at school, I can't help but reflect on the days when there were piles of snow on the ground… and they were NOT in school.

If you've ever been cooped up for multiple days with a toddler in a house, you'll understand me when I talk about the desperate need for activity facilitation. I don't care if you've read that fancy French parenting book that tells you to calm down and "let them be bored," because after 2 days of icy below-freezing temperatures and 472 fights about a small plastic donut toy (that is missing the rest of the set and suddenly the most popular item in the house), you're going to be looking for some — any — kind of structured distraction.

Now, while I've facilitated many activities in my day, I haven't always enjoyed it. A lot of times the cleanup takes longer than the activity itself, or I spent 30 minutes preparing an activity that ended up being a total flop. There were, however, a handful of consistent low-parental-effort winners, and I feel it's only right and good to share them here with all of you.

Giant Ice Marbles

Check this out: you can set this activity up all by yourself, with no help from the kids. You can, of course, involve them if you want, but I'm not going to judge you if you just need to fill balloons with water without the help of impatient little hands.

I've linked to the giant ice marble video tutorial here, but the concept is really quite simple:

  1. Put a few drops of food coloring into a REGULAR (not water) balloon.
  2. Fill the balloon with water to the desired size.
  3. Tie up the balloon.
  4. Set the balloon outside when the temperature is freezing or (preferably) below.
  5. Surprise your kids the next day with your incredible awesomeness by peeling the balloon off of your totally awesome giant ice marbles.

You can put these in a plastic tote, in the bathtub, wherever it's easy to contain the mess. Give the kids water to pour over it, some toy tools to chip away at them, or action figures to climb them. Pour the activity down the drain when it's over. Pat yourself on the back.

Kids Yoga

One of the biggest problems with being snowed in (or, with these recent temperatures, just "frigid temperatured-in") is the mind-blowing amounts of energy that children contain when going somewhere out of the house just isn't an option. Not surprisingly, their volumes tend to increase with their energy.

One of my favorite solutions is to find online kids yoga or exercise videos. They're excited about the fact that it's on a screen, and you're excited about the fact that they are moving around in ways that don't involve fighting or breaking things.

There are a lot of options out there, but our favorite is a YouTube channel called Cosmic Kids Yoga. With a friendly instructor, fun stories, and poses that are kid-friendly, we can usually rely on it to break up a dreary afternoon.

Another hint, ParentSavvy has a family fitness challenge taught by Andrew Mantzaris. You can sign up for the 6 week Family Fitness Challenge here, and you'll receive one email a week with one challenge a week or you can check out the playlist of the videos on YouTube.

Make Pizza

Are you ready for this? Functional and fun. If you do a little of the prep work beforehand, you can turn dinner into an activity that results in you having the meal taking care of and your kids thinking something other than "I wonder if I can climb that bookshelf."

Remember: The key here is putting the kids' pizza ingredients in individual bowls. A few more dishes, yes, but it'll make the activity less hands-on for you as facilitator.

What you'll need:

  • Pizza Dough (Think pre-made, refrigerator tube dough. I'm not trying to make you work too hard here.)
  • Pizza Sauce (Give each kid their own small, individual bowl of sauce with a spoon.)
  • Toppings
  • Shredded Mozzarella (Same as the sauce, give them their own bowl.

Separate the dough for individual pizzas and spread it on a pizza pan for each kid. Have them spoon on the sauce, dot on the toppings, and sprinkle the cheese. Follow the dough instructions and take over for the cooking part.

Dinner? Done. Those 10 minutes of mostly quiet pizza assembly? Priceless.

Lauren Bonk

Lauren Bonk is a freelance copywriter, editor, and blogger who's been wrangling children and words since 2010. She high-fives her husband frequently, probably drinks too much coffee, and sighs nostalgically over 90's music on a regular basis. Learn more about Lauren at ...

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