Note: This post was originally posted in October 2012 after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, but these suggested activities are good for any rainy day.
BERKSHIRE COUNTY — Berkshire County schools aren’t immune to October closings, but in past years its been due to nor’easters and not hurricanes. On October snow days parents have simply bundled their kids up in layers upon layers of winter-wear and sent them out to build snow forts and snowmen, engage in neighborhood snowball fights or trek sleds to the nearest hill and slide down with hearts full of winter glee. But today, Monday, Oct. 29, gale force winds and heavy rains courtesy of Hurricane Sandy will leave families stranded indoors with kids who will no doubt rejoice at the announcement of no school, yet claim hours later how bored they are. So what’s a parent to do? Here are a few suggestions from Berkshire Family Focus Founder Kelly Bevan McIlquham that you can do with and without electricity.
- LET THE KIDS SLEEP IN — Kids and families in general run way too much during the school year. No more sleeping in on the weekends, as families are in the car by 8 a.m. on a Saturday heading to the nearest soccer field for practice, swimming pool for a meet, music school for instrumental lessons or art center for a crafting class. Letting kids sleep in is one of the biggest treats we can give them on their day off (especially our pre-teen and teenaged children) . If they still insist on getting up early, let them crawl into bed with you to watch a movie or cartoons, share stories or simply cuddle. Even teenagers are up for a good snuggle with Mom or Dad every once in a while.
- PLAN A MOVIE DAY — Speaking of movies, what could be better than an all-day Family Movie Fest. Don’t require the kids to get dressed for the day, and you can make it a Pajama Movie Day. Have kids vote for which movies they’ll watch. Browse Netflix on your computer or television for some new releases or pull out some old family favorites. Pop big batches of popcorn, and concoct a yummy kid-friendly cocktail (ice cream floats or shakes, hot chocolate with whip cream or indulge in a soda), and you’ve got a recipe for a day full of indoor family fun.
- GET COOKING — Whether its baking chocolate chip cookies, cake, brownies, or concocting a warm savory soups, most kids love to cook. Not sure you have the ingredients, dig through your fridge, freezer and cabinets for a few ingredients, go to recipe.com’s recipe builder, plug in the ingredients you have on hand and Voila! it spits out a recipe you and your kids can dish up for dinner. More interested in baking up something sweet, recipematcher.com has got you covered. From 7-Up to avocados, almond extract to baby canned corn, the site can combine your household ingredients into something truly tasty.
- BECOME SCIENTISTS — Regardless of your children’s ages, every kid loves to combine regular household ingredients to make slime and goo, exploding volcanos and sizzling, fizzy lemon drinks. Just log on to sciencekids.co and you’ll find recipes for diet coke and mentos geysers, chocolate melting experiments, making eggs float and water glow, among other fascinating creations to keep your kids busy for the day.
- START A PUZZLE — Each summer our friends on the lake cover a table with their latest puzzle project of the week, and every time they walk by or someone like me stops by to visit, a few more pieces are find their way home. Why not start a puzzle on your rainy day, and leave it out until it is completed? It could result in hours and days of family fun, even after the wrath of Sandy has passed us by.
- USE THOSE VIDEO GAMES FOR GOOD — I know, I know, kids spend way to much time gaming nowadays, but with the invention of the Wii and XBox 360, kids are playing games that even the most video game challenged of parents can figure out. Have a Dance Dance Revolution contest, challenge your kids to a game of tennis or create a family Iron Man video competition and spend some time creating the event and a chart to keep track of ranks. Send them to their closets or dress up boxes and have them create unique costumes/uniforms to compete in. Make awards for the top competitor, best uniform, most effort and/or for individual events. Even though the day was spent indoors, you and your family will have spent the entire day being fit, active, laughing and having fun together.
- PULL OUT THE TRUSTY BOARD AND CARD GAMES — The McIlquham family members are avid gamers, especially 10-year-old Shea. Every once in a while Shea goes through the bookshelves full of games and the family spends hours playing Sorry, Twister and Monopoly and simple card games like UNO and 31. My husband even took one of the kid’s old trophies and turned it into an UNO championship trophy which currently sits proudly on a shelf in Shea’s room (until the next challenger takes him on, that is). Here’s a site with a few card classics, as well as some new ones activityvillage.co.
- BUILD A FORT — Did you ever build a fort with your children when they were toddlers and watch them squeal and smile as they ducked in and out of the makeshift shelter? Well, you’re never too old for fort building and either are your kids. Send them to the basement or their rooms or event the living room with a pile of blankets and their imaginations and see what they come up with. Let them eat their lunch in there, promise to keep it up so they can sleep in it over the weekend, or climb in there with them and listen to music, color, play a game or, if they are young enough, take a nap together.
- HAVE A DANCE PARTY — Dance parties never get old in our house. Smiles abound as soon as the music comes on and various family members break out their secret dance moves. From the child who dances like a mini-Usher to the one who slightly resembles Steve Urkel, dancing in our house always leaves us breathless, giggling and definitely in a good mood. So what are you waiting for? Go PUMP UP THE VOLUME and JUST DANCE!
- CREATE A RAINY DAY MURAL — Grab some paper, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, paint and various other art supplies. Tape several pages together to make your creative canvas and place it in an area of the house where everyone has access to it. Add cartoon characters, newspaper clippings, stickers, a scene from outdoors, ribbons, beads etc. each time you walk by, and see what you have created by the end of the day. Hang in on display in a prominent location of your house to remember the Great Hurricane of 2012.
- READ A BOOK TOGETHER — It sounds simple, but how often to we actually sit and read a book out loud with our children nowadays. It seems after they reach a certain age, they’re on their own and you no longer get to share the most recent children’s books on some Top 10 list or another. I know firsthand, that my 10- and 13-year-olds still like to cuddle up and share a family book together, we just hardly ever have the time to do so. So take this rainy day, snuggle up on the couch with your brood and enjoy. Time goes too fast and before you know it these kids will be experiencing these rainy days from a college campus, so take advantage of them while you can and enjoy a day of fun with your family.
Able to get out of the house today? Why not …
- VISIT A LOCAL MUSEUM — The Berkshire Museum, MASS MoCA, The Clark Art Institute and the Norman Rockwell Museum (just to name a few, provide hours of fun and excitement for kids of all ages).
- TAKE IN A MOVIE — What could be better than a big bucket of popcorn a great kid flick with the family? Try comfortable, cozy and intimate theater venues throughout the county such as The Beacon in Pittfield, The Triplex in Great Barrington and Images Cinema in Williamstown.
- HEAD TO A LOCAL LIBRARY — Many libraries have ongoing story times and various free family activities throughout the year and a little rain won’t stop them from doling out a little family, literacy fun.
- LET’S BOWL — It’s inexpensive and fun, so why not swing by Cove Bowling in Great Barrington (it also has an in mini-golf course and arcade); Ken’s Bowl and Imperial Bowl (candlepin) in Pittsfield; and Greylock Bowl and Golf and Valley Park Bowl (candlepin) in North Adams.
- SEE SOME KID-FRIENDLY THEATER — Depending upon the time of year, kid-friendly theater is in abundance in the Berkshires be it at Pittfield’s Barrington Stage Company or The Colonial, Berkshire Theater’s Group Stockbridge campus, Mill City Productions in North Adams or the Mac Haydn Theater in Chatham, N.Y.
- GO OUT AND EAT — Rainy days (for those not working) provide the perfect opportunity to sample the local fare at any number of delectable restaurants throughout the county with your kids, and taking advantage of lower lunchtime prices is a bonus. You get much of the same fare at lower prices. Some favorites: Baba Louie’s with locations in Pittsfield and Great Barrington; Spice Dragon in Pittsfield; Coyote Flaco and Water Street Grill in Williamstown. Tell us some of your favorite family restaurants in the Berkshires in the comment section below.
Have fun and stay dry!