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Cabin Fever Busters

Ten activities to shake up your stir-crazy kids

As the bitter-cold season settles on Michigan, plenty of parents brace themselves for a long winter – indoors – with the kids. To keep everyone from getting cabin fever, think "inside the box" with these 10 entertaining games.

1. 'Boredom Buster Box.' Brainstorm ideas for indoor fun (read on for ideas), and write them on scraps of paper. Fold them and place them in a box. When the weather is bad or the kids are bored, have them reach in for instant fun. Or, each day, put something in the box that offers a fun activity, such as a tub of Play-Doh, board game or snack recipe.

2. Indoor fort. Grab a bed sheet. Have the kids use it – and their imaginations – to create a fort. They can drape the sheet over furniture, then crawl inside with flashlights and pretend they're in a mountain cave or secret room. Offer props to enhance the play, like pillows, plushies or toy cars.

3. Flower garden. Get a packet of seeds. Buy small flowerpots and some soil, and let the kids plant their own spring flowers. Have them paint the pot first, fill it with the soil, and insert the seeds according to package directions. They can record how often they water the seeds, when the first buds break, and how much the flowers grow each day.

4. Balloon blast. With a package of balloons, a little inflation goes a long way. Without tying it off, stretch the opening flat to make the balloon squeal as the air seeps out. Rub it against your clothes or hair and see how many you can stick to the walls. Try to keep it in the air as long as possible by batting it. Decorate it with permanent markers or stickers. Or blow up a bunch and see who can gather the most.

5. Secret code. Gather paper and pencils. Ask the kids to create and decipher coded messages. For example: Write the alphabet in a line; then, write it backwards underneath the first line, so that each letter below correlates with a letter above. Write a message using the bottom line, and decipher with the top. Or write in white crayon on white paper. Decode by rubbing a colored crayon over the message.

6. 'Green' town. Get an empty orange juice can, toilet paper roll, bottle cap, mint tin, animal crackers box, spool and other recyclables. Create a super city, space station, country farm or amusement park using the toss-away materials and glue or tape. Add a few small cars, farm animals or tiny people.

7. Puppet show. Find hand or finger puppets, or small dolls. Get a big appliance box; have the kids cut out an opening for the stage. Staple on a piece of cloth or towel for the curtain, paint the box to make it festive, tie on a few helium balloons, and have the kids present a show from inside the box.

8. Magic tricks. Gather some simple magician's tools, like a marked deck of cards, wand, cape and book of tricks. Let the kids practice a couple feats; then put on a magic show for each other.

9. Cookie time. Find a recipe for your favorite cookies, along with some of the ingredients. Under your supervision, have the kids make the cookies, then decorate them with tubes of frosting and candy sprinkles.

10. Baker's clay. You'll need plastic bags filled with 4 cups of flour and 1 cup of salt, a measuring cup and food coloring. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl, plus about 1 cup water, and knead until smooth. Divide dough into quarters and add food coloring to each quarter to make four different hues: red, blue, yellow and green. Let the kids make whatever they want – decorative pins, picture frames, tiny figurines – then bake at 200 degrees for about an hour (until firm).

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