When you have gone through all of the activities that usually keep the children entertained, and the rain is still falling and the day is still young, it is time to unleash the most underappreciated source of inspiration and good old fun: improvisation. It might come as a surprise that the more freedom you take in organising new activities, the more pleasant it can become, especially if you’re like me and enjoy some degree of anarchy.
So if you’ve ever taken a dance improv class, some instinctive drawing courses, or if you have experienced free falling in any shape or form, this is the time to channel those energies. The idea is not to think too much, but rather to let the experience unfold.
It all starts with an idea
Don’t be intimidated; it sounds much more elaborate than it has to be. It can actually start with a funny word, a whimsical arrangement of toys, an insightful part of a story or a childhood memory. It can be your own, or something one of the kids is saying, singing, or screaming. You might like to write those words and thoughts down and see how they evolve.
To get you started on your own list, here are some of my notes.
Crash the tea party
For starters, everyone can help clear the dining table and place a nice tablecloth on it. Then start preparing for a special tea party, to which everyone must contribute something. The kids could select some of their toys, make lemonade, prepare name tags, or anything else they might enjoy doing. There can be sandwiches, fruit, and popcorn; you can even take out some of the fancy tableware you usually use for parties.
There can also be costumes and fancy dress, pyjamas or bathing suits (inflatable beach toys included). Ask everyone to return to the party room at a certain hour. The twist could be a picnic blanket under the table, where you will actually eat and play, reaching for the top of the table from time to time for more food or drinks. If it looks like a Mad Hatter’s tea party, it’s probably a success.
A nest made of blankets
If you lived through “MTV Cribs” in the 1990s, you should know we’re trying to recreate the “chilling space.” For the kids, however, it will be called a nest, so we need to arrange all the blankets in order to get as close as we can to this specific shape. Once the nest is built, you can use it as a new place to play cards and games, have a hot chocolate, or enjoy your favourite film.
Total eclipse of the sun
Shut all the drapes and prepare for a solar eclipse. It can be the perfect time for a little astronomy lesson, a shadow game, or a space exploration adventure. Some of the ideas you can explore are zero gravity, training for a space mission, observing and documenting types of space activities or spacewalks. The light should be minimal and the fun should be out of this world.
The ultimate shopping list
Everyone makes a shopping list containing the most outrageous things she would like to own. Most likely, the group will quickly go through material items like planes, a huge house with the biggest pool ever, or a pony farm. Then it’s time to slip into fantasy land and allow imagination to take the stage. There will be flying cars and horses with magical powers, castles and undersea domes, and intergalactic travel with all the trimmings. Paying attention and encouraging exploration by asking questions can go a long way.
Some other ideas are: going through old photos and telling the story behind each of them, role play, a day in a hotel (organised in the living room), or planning your dream trip. No matter what you manage to organise, though, the key is to try to enjoy each other’s company. Your kids will constantly give you clues on the best ways to do that simply by being themselves.
By Laura Munteanu
Laura studied journalism and advertising and has worked as a journalist and an illustrator. She has illustrated for magazines, websites, charities and diverse campaigns. Laura also designs jewellery and has had her jewellery and art exhibited. She lives in Zurich with her husband and eleven-year-old daughter.
Illustration by Lemady Rochard
Lemady Rochard is an artist and illustrator living near Einsiedeln. She runs the Storycraft Studio near Zurich, where she offers themed art and craft classes and parties for children from 1.5-10 years old. She has two young children and in her spare time enjoys travelling and drinking lots of tea! She can also be found on her website and Facebook page.