What can I do with my 5 kids on the weekend?

I have five children under the age of 9, and on Saturdays, when my husband is working, we are stuck in the house because of weather and finances. I want to do stuff together, but there is only one of me and five of them. I would like to find a way to entertain all of them because I don't want them in front of the television or computer all day. Any advice?

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A mother once told me that when her kids complained that they were bored, she would respond by saying, "Do I look like an entertainment center to you?" (In "the olden days," this was the cabinet that held the TV and stereo, which have largely been replaced by laptops and iPods.)

With the infinite offerings of television and computer in today's world, it can be challenging to pry kids off the screen and convince them that fun doesn't require electricity -- or parental involvement! Here's my advice:

Create a "What can I do?" box with your kids. Encourage them to brainstorm as many ideas as possible on slips of paper that they drop into the box. If they come to you because they don't have anything to do, invite them to reach into the box for an idea! Here are some possibilities:

  • "Take Turn" stories, where each sibling writes two sentences of a story and then passes it on
  • Marbles
  • Make sock puppets
  • Living room obstacle course
  • Chair tents
  • Homemade board game
  • Puppet show
  • Theatrical performance
  • Playing the recorder
  • Collage from magazine pictures
  • Bean collage
  • Clay or playdough sculptures
  • Finger painting in the bathtub
  • Beading
  • Make juice popsicles

Don't be afraid of your children whining about "being bored." There's nothing wrong with kids wandering aimlessly around the house, as long as they aren't allowed to get into trouble. Once they discover you aren't always available to liven things up, they'll tap into their natural stores of creativity.

Clarify when your children will and will not have access to their electronic toys. Be prepared for angry complaints that "it's not fair!" Be that Captain of the Ship that I talk about, and remain lovingly firm. If your kids know when you are available to play with them, and when they're on their own, they'll soon figure out how to occupy themselves.

In the long run, helping children learn to entertain themselves gives them the chance to create the kind of fun that doesn't come with a plug. Be patient, and your efforts will undoubtedly pay off.

Yours in parenting support,

Watch my video for even more tips on how to get your kids to entertain themselves.

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, <a href="" rel="nofollow" cl="http://www.passionateparenting.net/thebook.html" class="comlink"> Parenting Without Power Struggles</a> , is available on <a href="" rel="nofollow" cl="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1600374840?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=a0382e-20&amp;linkCode= as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=1600374840" class="comlink">Amazon</a> . <a href="" rel="nofollow" cl="http://www.passionateparenting.net/freenewsletter.html" class="comlink">Sign up</a> to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

set up a place with paper (recycled if possible) and art supplies (be sure its ok to mess up in that place, not the living room of course)

write down in little pieces of paper a few simple art projects (water colors, paint by number, seasonal themes etc) and have each child pick a piece of paper and find their assignment

let them play-paint! encourage imagination, even relating to their favorite tv characters (you can download drawings to color from most cartoon websites), while using their hands and brains ....set some nice music and play musical chairs in between painting...keeps them occupied! good luck!

take the children to the nearest school which has a playground. then let them go wild. even join them on the over head bars and down the slide. Make sure that you have packed juice,water, crackers, fruit, sandwiches, any thing that they can eat and still run to play , without hurting themselves with it.

teach the kids to all have some type of hobby.  sewing,  crocheting or knitting, or painting.  reading also is sort of a hobby.  volley ball is a good family game,  basket ball and base ball are also family games and cheap to play.  hoola hoops and jump rope.  boardd games,  bike rides ands going for a walk,  better yet is there trails to walk on in the woods near you(safe ones)  ice skating and sledding.  rollerblades also.  small plays made after a movie?  have the children help you clean in a fun way.  let them help re paint a room .  washing the family car and vaccuming it out too is something that smaller kids like to do.  playing in the garden and weeding them also is fun to them.  not each child will have the same likes as the rest of them.  nurture each one in their own liking...........

in the winter months, board games are always fun.  we also play family games no the xbox, or listen to music and dance together- which can count as exercise.  hide and seek is a big winner too.  in the summer it's much easier..sprinklers, car wash, yard work, are all good family activities. 

As a mom of five myself, here are things my kids liked to do:

  • build forts out of furniture and sheets

  • puppet shows where we made the puppets

  • help mom cook ( I would usually pre-cook for the entire week)

  • make decorated cards to send relatives

  • clean the tub (although they thought they were painting the tub walls with colored bubbles while bathing ...)

  • have a dance-a-thon or sing-a-thon

  • with Redbox, you could do a theme $1 movie, maybe a learning-oriented one, and make the whole day about __________ (weather, Italy, etc) including the meal and decorations ... it's in front of TV but at least it's learning

With warmer weather:

  • walk to the park about 4 blocks away, play and have small picnic

  • go to middle school and play on their outdoor basketball court

  • go to high school and walk on their rubber track

  • local museums, especially on free days, kids never even cared how big or great the museum was

  • taking leftover bread and going to the lake to feed the ducks, also watch frogs and turtles and collect leaves or rocks

I grew up with five siblings. I can assure you that there were times when we were "bored," but it was neither a terrible thing nor was it my mother's fault. Fortunately in large families there are always playmates available. They could probably come up with some sort of make-believe game on their own, but here's some of our favorite things to do, after Saturday chores were done:

Bake bread for the week. Or, bake bread and eat it or deliver to neighbors/relatives/someone in need of a smile. Also works for baking anything else.

Have Saturday morning projects: fix a shelf, paint a room, etc. Plan one thing each week that needs to get done, and do it! Teach the little kids how to help out

Plan simple science experiments. Check out a book full of them at the library. Most require simple household items, and they're fun.

Family band. If the older kids play the piano or another instrument, that's great. If not, pull out the pots and pans, make a wax-paper and comb kazoo, put some beans in a jar for a shaker and belt out your favorite songs. Or write a song.

Scavenger hunts

This sounds lame, but we also loved to match socks. Every once in a while, Mom would pull out this huge pillowcase of single socks, and we'd go through and find all the pairs. We'd always try to find the most matches

Or things your kids could do themselves, if you need a break:

Put on a play (we'd either write our own or put on 'Little Red Riding Hood' or something. We'd also put on circuses all the time, but that's better for the outdoors)

Play school or house. We'd sometimes play "The Price is Right" (our favorite TV show) We even built the wheel to spin and plinko out of cardboard

Make our own art museum-- we'd pull out our crayons and modeling clay and whatever else and each make several pieces of art to display. Sometimes an older sibling would "judge" and give awards for most creative, best use of the color blue, etc.

Build blanket forts

Make things out of leftover cardboard boxes. Especially fun if you have really big cardboard boxes

Play with wooden blocks-- we'd make ramps to race toy cars down, or have contests of who could build the coolest or highest tower

Also, you could always set up playdates with another family. Invite the whole gang over, rather than just an individual child, so that there is still family bonding time, and come up with a large group game or just let the kids have fun

Age appropriate chores with a fun reward system and praise for effort.  Start early, or you will end up with teens who will not want to lift a finger.

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