‘Tis the Season for Crafts, Board Games & Other Indoor Fun

It’s here … the season of winter winds, shuddering bodies, frozen breath and the constant question you ask yourself while shoveling your walk or scraping your windshield – why do I live in Wisconsin? Haven’t I learned enough about its winters to know they aren’t always as pleasant as they might sound during July’s heatwaves?

We’ve all been there and yet, here we all are again. Winters in Wisconsin are long. They are gray. And they make you stir-crazy. Add in a blizzard or two and some icy roads, and you might be doomed to realize that unsafe travel conditions will leave you with not a lot to do.

Ryan Miller

Illustration by Ryan Miller.

You could toss a bag of popcorn into the microwave and wait out winter watching movies and TV, or you could take our suggestions to amp up those long snow days in as active a fashion as being indoors will allow.

Whether you are crafty and creative or passive and simple, you are sure to find something here to bring you to the bright, beautiful spring ahead.

For the Crafty

Few crafts are as simple and versatile as homemade baking clay. This simple-to-make clay relies on three common pantry items and can be made into a variety of creations, from a bread bowl to candle holders and even picture frames.

To make the clay, gather:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½-cup water

In one bowl, mix together flour and salt. In another, mix vegetable oil and water. Slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture. Knead dough until smooth.

Once the dough is created, let your imagination run wild!

  • Roll the dough out and grab a variety of cookie cutters. Cut out shapes in the dough then use a nail to make a hole toward the top of the shape. After baking, weave a ribbon through to create an ornament or necklace.
  • To make a homemade bread bowl, roll out clay to half-inch thickness and cut into one-inch strips. Turn over an ovenproof bowl and coat with vegetable oil before covering the bowl with the clay strips in a woven pattern. Cut away excess dough and pinch the remaining dough around the bowl.
  • Roll several small balls out of clay. Using a skewer, poke a hole through the center of the ball to create homemade beads for decorations or jewelry.

Clay creations should be placed on a baking sheet and baked at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours until hardened. Check on them often.

Once items have cooled, gather some acrylic paint, glitter, buttons and beads to add personality to your newly created pieces of art.

For the Charitable

Whether it’s just you at home or your entire family, turn on your favorite music and get ready for a bit of physical activity in the form of a fashion show! Gather winter jackets, spring dresses and anything else you might have stored away.

Turn on some catwalk music and have your kids put on their clothes to check for fit. Anything that is too small can be put into a donation bag for a local charity. The benefit is twofold:  your storage spaces are a little emptier and someone else will be able to put your old clothes to use. Call it pre-spring cleaning.

For the Kids

It doesn’t take long for the cries of, “I’m bored!” to escape your child or children’s lips. It also doesn’t take long to come up with a few ways to entertain them without spending any money or leaving the house.

Indoor forts may be one of the greatest inventions for snow days. Clear out an area around a couch or bed. Prop up sofa cushions or chairs around the couch or bed to form the walls. Gather bed sheets and blankets, and drape them over the walls to build a roof. Add in some throw pillows for indoor seating and provide your kids with flashlights. Get extra creative by draping some string lights along the fort.

With the Kids

Enjoy the classic childhood joy that is playdough with this homemade, non-toxic recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/3-cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Food coloring

This recipe will yield a large ball of playdough in your selected color. Make one batch for each color you wish to use.

Ryan Miller

Illustration by Ryan Miller.

In a saucepan, add the flour, cream of tartar and sauce. Add water and vegetable oil. Turn stove burner on medium low and stir. The mixture will increase in thickness so quickly add food coloring and continue stirring until the dough isn’t wet anymore. The entire process takes just a few minutes. Remove from pot and cool on wax paper for a half hour. Knead ball of dough for up to a minute and prepare for some color-filled fun!

Passive Pastimes

One of the more traditional wintertime activities involves a regular deck of cards. For young children, stick with classics like “Go Fish,” “Crazy Eights” or “I Doubt It.”

If you have more time on your hands (and who doesn’t when the mercury dips below 15 degrees Fahrenheit?) and you don’t have your own Pictionary game, try making your own.

Pictionary is a game of drawing and guessing, and works best with teams of three or more people.

What you will need:

  • Two large pads of paper
  • Notecards
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Timer

An individual who will not be playing should prepare the cards by writing one word on each notecard. The words should pertain to one of five categories (person/place/animal, action, object, challenge, all play). Prepare several cards, place in pile and shuffle.

Hand a notepad and pen to each team, and get ready for a fun-filled competition!

And if you do have a plethora of board games at your disposal, take advantage of chilly winter weather by teaching your children how to play the old school classics, like Mancala, Backgammon and Solitaire.