February's winds howl and blow outside, sending drifts of snow across the sills and doorframes. Even the cat doesn't want to go out and play today, the birds and squirrels are huddling in their dens and there's nobody to chase.
Living in rural Caada can be isolating in these conditions, and even though most households are fully armed with an arsenal of electronic equipment and games, children can become cranky and go 'stir-crazy' if too much time is spent on these sedentary activities. Hours spent watching TV or focusing on electronics can cause eyestrain and irritability, and is a contributing factor to childhood obesity.
But what to do when cabin fever sets in, siblings start squabbling, and the all too familiar battle cry, "Mommy I'm bored!" is taken up? Offering to find work for them to do such as cleaning of bedrooms, bathrooms, shovelling of walks can quickly quell such complaints. However when even that won't quite do, there are many tried and true ways to create magical worlds of make-believe in your home that will whisk your children away to the realm of unstructured creative play.
Blankets and bedsheets can be draped, hung, and strung over practically anything from chairs to bedknobs to well...broomsticks! In fact the building of such a fort is indeed a veritable lesson in physics, not to mention co-operation. As long as parents help a little and keep a supervisory eye over the safety of all building projects - kids will do some crazy proppings of lamps to keep a sheet in place... once the stage is set, you can take a step back and let the children's imagination come out and play!
'The Tickle Trunk' is inspired of course, by Mr. Dressup, Canada's beloved television star from the 1960's and 70's. Which of us doesn't remember the thrill of watching each day to see what he was going to pull out of that trunk?
Mine is an old black trunk that I bought at a garden sale and painted with yellow moons and stars. The interior lid has photos taped all over it, memories of dress-up days gone by with the kids.
Collecting costumes for your tickle trunk is easy - there are lots of great thrift shops everywhere, and yard sale season is coming soon! Old clothes make great candidates too...outdated ties, scarves, hats, purses and shoes wiill keep kids happy for hours playing make-believe!
A child's work is playing - it is through this process that they make sense of the world around them. Playing house, re-enacting fairy-tales, pretending to be animals - these activities teach empathy, compassion, and trust.
Old boxes are also great for building forts and creating costumes. If you can get your hands on a fridge box then you are very fortunate indeed - they are good for weeks of fun until they inevitably fall apart after one too many assaults on the castle!
Use your imagination - add some face paints - make some paper masks...a sock puppet or two....the fun is endless! Before you know it the kids have been playing happily for hours, the tv is still off, and the house is filled with the happy sound of children off on a great adventure!
Just watch out for the sharks in the bedroom...quick quick get on the bed - it's a pirate ship!