What to do with children when there's a power outage.
No power? No problem. Wait a second, that means no Wii, no Xbox, no iPad, no DVD player? And you have two cranky kids? Run for it!
Parenting young children is difficult on any day. When boredom sets in and parents or caregivers need to finish chores, electronics sometimes become a temporary babysitter to keep kids busy. (Admit it, you've done it.) But when the lights go out, tantrums begin, as the electronic "nanny" vanishes.
But power outages are the perfect opportunity to have fun in an old-fashioned way and to encourage kids to amuse themselves using their creative abilities and minds. Along with the flashlights, batteries and candles, be prepared with fun activities and supplies that will keep the kids and family having fun when the lights go out. Share them with your nanny too, in case she's watching your kids when a blackout hits.
Build the Day Away
Everyone loves LEGOs -- except when you step on them with bare feet! They're the perfect toy to keep kids busy all day long, no electricity required. Pick up a copy of the LEGO Ideas Book and store it with your bin of bricks. It will give your kids inspiration for building a fantasy castle or a dream race car, encouraging imagination and ideas beyond the common LEGO structures.
Be Inspired by Books
Instead of just handing your kids crayons and coloring books, make artwork more interesting. Read your kids' favorite book with them -- or your favorite book from when you were little -- then create art based on it. Be as creative as you can. For example, the Imagination Tree created a "Very Hungry Caterpillar" wall collage.
Fashion Old-fashioned Yarn Dolls
This is a little nostalgic fun for an electronics-free day. If you don't have yarn on hand, then re-purpose an old sweater by unraveling it. Easy directions can be found on Spud & Chloe's blog.
Turn Art into a Game
Alissa Marquess, of Creative with Kids, has turned power outages into family fun time. "Sometimes life gives us unexpected chances for connection. If you know a couple little games, you'll be ready for them," Marquess says.
Read instructions for a simple game called Pass the Drawings. Each person gets a piece of paper with their own pencil, marker or crayon. Set a timer and start drawing. When the timer dings, the paper is handed over to another to continue adding with their own color and imagination. This is a great way to join in as a family to create beautiful pieces of art together.
Get Everyone Laughing with Mad Libs
Mad Libs are simple word games that have been around since the 1950s. The books come in different themes and for all ages. Kids will have a ball creating hysterical stories using everyday words and will soon forget they are having fun without the assistance of a technological device.
Break Out the Board Games
Checkers and Monopoly are fun for all. Get Twister to help tire out the kids. When you get bored with traditional games, invent your own. Heart of the Matter online has ideas and instructions for helping the kids design a game of their own to play.
Play Spotlight Charades
Play a twist on the classic charades game. One team or person acts out their favorite show or book, while the others try to guess what it is. But since you're probably surrounded by flashlights during a blackout, you have to incorporate it into your pantomime. Maybe you pretend it's a sword or use it for making shadow hand puppets. The ones who get the title right in the shortest time are the winners; everyone wins by having a great time.
Craft a Duct Tape Masterpiece
Keep patterned and colored Duct Tape in your emergency kit. Use it for home repairs, as well as entertainment. It can be the base for everything from a piece of jewelry to a bag to a play tent. Visit this online gallery for inspiration and how-to guides for creating Duct Tape-based works of fun.
Cook up a Tasty Treat
Brainstorm kid-friendly goodies you create without an oven or refrigerator. Keep a box of Rice Krispies and a jar of marshmallow cream on hand for some yummy fun. Directions for making Rice Krispie treats can be found here.
Make a Camp Site
The kids can build indoor forts and pitch tents to wait out the blackout. At night, turn on a lantern and tell ghost stories, as the family has a slumber party. With some flashlights and paper cut outs, make DIY shadow puppet shows.
Amy, the creator of the blog While Wearing Heels, says "Don't let the sky limit you! Transform story time into an interactive playtime experience with the imaginative planes, trains and spaceship shadow puppets. Tell a story of a journey across the town, across the world, across the sky with these innovative paper crafts for kids, which are also easy printable crafts!"
Turn an unfortunate power outage into a moment to connect with family fun. This is the perfect chance for the kids to use nothing but their imaginations and hands in order to pass the time.
Carol Ruth Weber is a freelance writer in Long Island, N.Y. Read more of her work here.