Do you know what makes kids smile? Color. If you ever, even once, let your child pick out his or her own clothes for the day as a toddler, you know this all too well. Shiny red (or pink) rain boots are their favorite shoes…on the driest day of the year. That bright purple shirt might not have matched the neon green pants beneath it, but it made your daughter the happiest person alive. And how many times did you end up giving in and letting your son out of the house in that Superman cape? As they get older, they develop a little bit more taste (or wear lots of jeans, which means that it doesn’t matter as much what they put on top) , but their love of color doesn’t diminish. In the middle of January, when the “blahs” are at their best, adding a bit of color and creativity back to their lives can mean the difference between a bright, happy day, and a day spent staring out the window at a sky full of grey clouds and longing for summer.
Finger paint! No matter how big your kids are, getting out a little bit of finger paint and making a mess can be the highlight of their day. Bonus points if you make pudding paint—vanilla pudding with just a few drops of food coloring added. Then, not only can they make a mess, but they can eat it afterwards!
Make a rainbow cake. Detailed instructions can be found here. If you ice it with white icing, they won’t know what they’re getting until they cut into it. And hey, what kid doesn’t get perky off of a sugar rush?
Engage in their favorite craft. It might be painting, drawing, or modeling; it might be simply coloring a picture. Even older kids would benefit from designs like these mandala coloring pages. Break out the markers, or the crayons, or the paints, and let the kids do what kids do best!
Make sensory bags. A little bit of food coloring and hair gel in a Ziplock bag (name brand recommended in this case, unless you’re really, really sure of your favorite store brand), add a few little toys or beads and some glitter, and suddenly, you have a bag for kids to sit and squish for hours. You might be surprised by how much enjoyment your older kids get out of this! Warning: be sure to duct tape the bag closed. If your kids tend to be rough, you might want to duct tape all the seams.
Make homemade “lava lamps.” Clean out an empty water bottle. Add water, food coloring, and vegetable oil. Glitter makes it even more fun! Combine, and watch your kids get lost in the bottle’s waves.
Blow up balloons. It doesn’t even really matter what you do with them—just get them out and play with them. Kids don’t ever really outgrow balloons.