Cabin fever: Ideas to ensure you never hear 'I'm bored' again

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What do you do with your brood during unexpected snow days, in-service days off from school or on the weekends to help conquer cabin fever and save your sanity? Sure, sleeping in and channel surfing couch-side are great, but soon little cries of “I’m bored!” boom through the house. Start planning ahead and listen up when other moms offer their time-tested tips.
 
“I see it as a time for kids to be creative and have free time that they don’t normally get during the school week,” says Shannon Reel, mother of four children age 3 to 11. As a stay-at-home mom and former teacher, she offers this advice: have perspective and let the little stuff go. Whether it’s a snow day or sick day, Reel says you’ve got to look at it as a mom’s day off, too.
 
“They’re not always planned, so you just have to go with it,” she says. “Your kids will remember being together and all the fun memories, not if the laundry or dishes got done. If they want to turn the whole living room into a fort, that’s fine, because you’re all together and having fun. That’s what they’ll remember — that mom was playing with them.”
 
Forts aside, Reel’s crew eagerly anticipates the first snowfall of the season to make real snow cones. Collect a bucket or bowl of snow. Mix one cup of sugar with one package of Kool-Aid (not lemonade, she suggests, because who really wants to eat yellow snow?) and sprinkle the desired amount over cups of freshly scooped snow. “My kids can hardly wait and ask, ‘Is there enough snow to make snow cones yet?’”
 
Want another “snow” easy activity? Fill spray bottles with water and food coloring, and turn kids loose in the backyard. Watch your cherubs create magical, colorful snow art from the warmth and comfort of your armchair, mug of hot chocolate in hand.
 
No snow? No problem. Check out these cool indoor ideas from other Kansas City moms:
 
Try sponge painting. Preschool teacher Chris Waris likes to cut clean sponges into fun shapes, clamp a clothespin to the top for a handle, dip into tempura paint and stamp to make homemade wrapping paper to use all year long. Not creative? Buy ready-made ones. Stamps and ink pads work, too. Find rolls of paper at craft stores or the post office. 
 
Invite friends over for tasty group craft time. Waris devised make-your-own trail mix stations, filling bowls with crackers, pretzels, raisins, dried fruit or candy. Kids fill treat bags then settle in to watch a movie while the moms steal a moment to chat.
 
Activity sets like sand art, stained glass and jewelry making also are a hit with kids. Available at local craft stores, they range in price from $6 to $25.
 
Yearning for some yummy treats? Diana Cooper, an instructor at The Culinary Center of Kansas City, offers up some tasty tidbits. Baking can be overwhelming to children, so plan accordingly, she says. For little kids, pre-measure everything and keep it simple. Drop cookie recipes are perfect. “Break it down into bite-size pieces, keeping in mind the child’s age and capabilities and dole out just a little at a time — bake one day and decorate the next,” she suggests. “You want to make it a fun experience they will treasure and remember.”
 
Decorating tips: Don’t want to mess with frosting all those cookies? Try dusting them with powdered sugar or drizzle with chocolate or even dip half the cookie in melted chocolate. When using sprinkles or sanding sugar, work on plastic mats or a piece of parchment paper for easier clean up. Instead of frosting, Cooper likes to let kids “paint” on icing glaze (see recipe to the right) with clean, nylon paintbrushes. The colors stay vivid and dry firm to the touch. While the glaze is wet, decorate with sprinkles, sugars, candies or candy eyes.
 
 
Easy Sugar Cookies
3 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup butter (chilled) 
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions: Sift together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cut in butter. In separate bowl, beat eggs and add in sugar and vanilla. Combine two mixtures. Chill at least 15 minutes or more. Roll out only what you need onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees on ungreased pan. Don’t brown. Makes 3 dozen.
 
 
Sugar Cookie Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon white corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
Directions: Mix all ingredients together. Stir each time you use the glaze or it will dry mottled instead of clear. Tint glaze with gel/paste food color. Use this to paint on cookies. Colors dry firm to the touch. This is a great “glue” for adhering decorative sugars, sprinkles, etc.

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