Tag Archives: Better than TV

Welcome to our indoor fun series! When the rainy day blues have got you down, sometimes you need to pull a rabbit out of your hat to make the day go by quicker. Be sure to Join us and get great ideas like these in your inbox every week! Have you got an idea you’d like to see featured on this list? Contact us! We’d love to feature your submission.

Microwave Soap Clouds

Making microwave soap clouds kitchen science indoor play activityWhen I saw this post, I thought, man, we’ve gotta do that! That has my dudes’ names written all over it! That rocks! So I added Ivory soap to my shopping list (this is very important- it’s all the air in that 99.44% that makes this trick work) and waited for a lull. I crept into the kitchen and called out (in my best “you are all in trouble” voice) “Who wants to blow stuff up in the microwave?”


“No, really! Who wants to blow stuff up?” See if you can identify which members of the family were actually excited about this project:

Click image to play video

Well, we got there in the end.

So, what to know before you do this: If you have a really small microwave, doing a whole bar of soap at once WILL mean you have soap all over the inside of the microwave. So be prepared to hit that “stop” button. The author of the original post mentions the soap cloud crumbling into dust. That it will, once it has cooled off completely. While it’s still warm, you’ll be able to squeeze it and form it into shapes. (Fun!) Make a note that although everything I read said you’d be done in 2 minutes or less, our microwave is lower wattage and we still had a nub of un-expanded soap left at the end. (Yes, “nub of unexpanded soap” is a phrase it never occurred to me I’d utter.)

Want to know a little more about the science?

I’m off to add a little water to our soap dust and press it into molds for fun bath soaps. Good luck!


Hey, Mr. Post Man

Hey, Mr. Postman! There is nothing like pretend play to fill up a LOOOONG afternoon of being indoors, and the mechanics of mail delivery are the perfect foil.

To create a play post office, you’ll need a largish cardboard box (a jumbo size diaper box will work, or if you have an old mailbox, that’s even better! You can also keep an eye out for a breadbox at the thrift store- the hinged lid will remind the kids of the chute you open to mail letters at the post office.), and some envelopes. (I pay my bills online, so I save the payment return envelopes for the kids to use.) Add paper and crayons or markers, and you are ready to go! I used painters’ tape to assemble my boxes and to create details on the outside, but you could use any strong adhesive tape, and you can, if you prefer, decorate your mailbox with craft paint or even spray paint.

Print and assemble a Mail Carrier’s Hat for each kid.

Add an old purse or satchel for a mailbag, and your favorite mail carrier will be in business!

My kid actually insisted that we make a second mailbox to receive the home delivery. Also, we had to put our house number on the house mailbox. And then we had to build a truck to carry the mail from place to place. He appropriated all the junk mail and catalogs in the house to use as mail.  (For the truck, we looped a bungee cord between two of the top corners on a large box and let him stand inside the harness to “drive” the truck.)

In other words, once we got the game started, his imagination just kept building on it. I’d love to see pictures of your play post office. (Just put a link down there, in the comments!)

(PS: I found a “US Mail Carrier Play Set” online for $130.)

(PPS: Measure your mail slot against the short side of a catalog to ensure maximum deliverability.)


Let’s Get Messy: Shaving Cream Play

…in which we learn that not every activity is a winner for every child.
Shaving Cream play is not for me.

And that was the end of that. Notice, however, that he has shaving cream not only on the play kitchen, but also in his hair and on his clothes. By the time I clicked “stop” on this video, it was also on the carpet, all over me, and on the walls. It all wiped up in less than two minutes with a clean cloth. I didn’t even have to change my outfit.

The other upside? The play kitchen is super, super clean now. Test drive this with your kids. If they like it, lather up the kitchen table and let them go nuts- it’ll buy you some time to prep a meal, and you’ll finish up with a nice, clean table to serve it on!

Build engines of (minimal) destruction

All you need to keep your kids occupied non-digitally on a super hot or rainy day is a glue gun, craft sticks, wooden clothes pins, masking tape, bottle tops, plastic spoons, rubber bands, and small size Lincoln logs or other small, glueable pieces from the thrift store or junk drawer. (If you want to take it to the next level, we were inspired by Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare. The kids didn’t have the attention span for the more complicated designs, so we mainly improvised.)

Obviously the clothes pin provides your firing mechanism and everything else is there for leverage and torsion. To fire the catapult, hold the front end of the bottom craft stick down onto a flat surface, load the bucket, and pull it back. Then, release it quickly. You can pull it down farther if you hang it off the edge of a table or other piece of furniture.

The kids think they are just shooting each other (or, in the case of our outdoor distance trials, shooting mini marshmallows into their mouths) but, since we all understand the underpinnings of math, science, music, and other abstract disciplines based on our experiences, they are absorbing plenty of physics along the way.

We found that we had two designs that achieved superior distance, but that only one achieved both distance and accuracy. For older kids who have started learning math, you could introduce the basics of chart making by measuring each shot and plotting the distances on a graph. For preschoolers, distance trials and “aim for the bucket” are good games. (Sorry, did I say bucket? I meant MOUTH. I did mention we used mini marshmallows as ammo, right?)

TIP: The kids enjoyed making up their own design refinements, and we discovered after a little experimentation that wiffle golf balls make excellent indoor ammunition. They are light, aero-dynamic, and they bounce entertainingly. You can also shoot each other with them without hurting anyone. And, they are the right size to fire from a bottle cap or spoon.


Stage A Table Play


If you’re thinking that you don’t have any wooden peg people or that you aren’t that crafty, think again. You can make some characters from clothes pins, play dough, or cardboard. Or sub in some Fisher Price or Lego people. We did Little Red Riding Hood (sort of) but any story line (or open ended story play) is just right.


We made the trees and bushes from construction paper based on the paper doll principle.

Fold your paper over to give 2-4 thicknesses the right size. To guide your assembly cuts, fold each piece in half in both directions and then unfold so you have two fold lines at 90 degrees.

Then, cut your shapes. Slit one halfway from the bottom and one halfway from the top and slide them together.

They’ll store flat for future play. The longest running segment of our story was the woodsman chopping down trees. After that, disassembly was as fun as setting up the play at the start.


Write with Invisible Ink

Do you remember writing with lemon juice as a kid? Yeah, me too. Do you remember why it works? Nope, me either. Mostly what I remember was that it didn’t work very WELL, and my brother trying different lamps hoping for a better result.

This little chemistry lesson has way more for your kid to take away than which is the hottest lamp in your house. There are several ways to create and reveal invisible messages with household items.

You will find it easy to scale this lesson to your child’s interest and ability level. If you’re feeling unsure, test it yourself first and skip any method you think won’t go over well.


Instructions for:

If your child is very dexterous, a toothpick will work fine. Kids who have not yet or who’ve just begun to learn to write will probably prefer a paintbrush or a q-tip. This is a low mess, high- learning afternoon project!