Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rice for a Snowy Day

We're bracing for another snow storm here in Philly. I'll admit, snow today makes me as giddy as it did when I was a kid. I still get excited that school may be closed, even though it has no bearing on my life at all at this point. I start thinking about snow pants and snow shovels, bright red cheeks and numb fingers. I warm my brain with thoughts of hot chocolate and cozy indoor activities. And then I get serious and think about how to keep the kids sane throughout the inevitable cabin fever.

We do have one reliable go-to plaything on bad weather days: a big basin full of construction trucks and a generous sprinkling of colored rice. Dying rice (another of many great ideas from my friend) just calls for vinegar and food coloring. But there is extensive drying time, so it's a project that requires some advance planning. Once it's done, though, it's pretty fun.

 I keep the basin up on a shelf (rather awkwardly, I must say; it's kind of big). It only comes out on rainy or snowy days, which helps it maintain its charm. I insist the kids play with it on the rug so that clean-up is as simple as using a vacuum or Dust-Buster. And I also limit their time with this particular plaything. They're good for 15 or 20 minutes. But as soon as one of them decides to throw the rice or put their face in it, it's time to put it away.

Once the big basin o' rice has fully lost its magic, I will reuse the rice for other craft activities. We've already made "I Spy" jars, which I thought were pretty darn cool, but which did not impress my kids very much. The kids helped gather small items such as toy farm animals, buttons, paper clips, pennies, etc. They put them in old jelly jars and then used funnels to add rice. I made labels for the lids, listing the hidden objects. And then I spent some time trying to find each object while my kids went off, preferring to play with things not trapped in a jar.

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