10 Quiet Activities To Help You Survive The Winter

A friend of mine recently asked me why my kids play so well without me.  How did I do it? she wanted to know, meaning, How did I train them to play independently?  What is the secret to getting my kids to leave me alone for five minutes?  Why don’t they go take one of their millions of toys that I’ve spent so much money on and GO PLAY?

Well, I’m no expert on this, but I do have two big kids who play really well alone and together, with just the slightest bit of prompting from me.  Without question, that little boost from mom is the key.  Every time I look up from my laptop to the sound of whiny little voices complaining they are so bored, I try to remember that it is not always their fault that they don’t know how to play independently.  It’s a skill that needs to be honed.  That’s why we still enforce quiet time where they play alone (not together) for at least 45 minutes every non-school day, why they must read independently every day, and why we really do have limits on screen time (I shoot for an hour on school days and no more than 2 hours on non-school days, trying to keep it at around 10 hours/week).  After all, how can they learn to use their imaginations if I never ask them to, and never show them how?

Of course, as I type this, Little H is next to me watching Super Why on JDubbs’s Kindle because she woke up early from her nap and I need to get this blog post finished.  So, of course I am a fan of screens and there is always an exception to every rule.  But paying attention to how often and how much your kid interacts with screens may help you in your quest to get your kids to play better on their own.

Well, enough of the lecture portion of this post.  What about practical help?  What do I do with my kids to get them to play nicely alone?  The thing is, although they end up on their own, they don’t start off that way.  In my experience, most kids need a little help getting started with prolonged independent play, and the longest activities tend to need a little parent guidance.  For example, instead of saying to your son, why don’t you play with your zillions of toy cars, help him create a race track on the floor of his bedroom to bring the fun to life.  With 5-10 minutes of prep time from you, you will receive huge returns on your investment while your kids play nicely that day and many days thereafter.  The key is helping them get started.

With that in mind, here are 10 great ideas that need just a little help from an adult on the front end, but can be put away for lots of independent play day after day thereafter. I promise they’ll be so excited to have you by their side at first, they will be all the more invested in the experience once you quietly sneak away.


10 Quiet Activities @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Starting in the left column and going down, then the second and third column, the blog posts are as follows:

1.  Rainbow Scavenger Hunt

2.  Puzzle Treasure Hunt

3.  Play with Popsicles & Play Dough

4.  Pom-Pom Race Through Duplo Maze

5.  Button & Pipe Cleaner Caterpillar

6.  Letters In Salt & Snipping Straws

7.  Pipe Cleaner & Pom Pom Fine Motor Fun

8.  Clothespin Literacy Fun

9.  Butcher Paper Town

10.  Pebble Art

 All of these activities need just a little help from an adult to gather materials or get the fun started, but once you do, the fun will continue on long after you excuse yourself to go get some work done, clean the house, or check your email!  And when your kids realize and are confident that they can have tons of imaginative play without you, they’ll stop coming to you with every problem or question–they’ll start solving them on their own.

 So by taking five minutes to begin the fun, you actually buy yourself much longer than that.  Just remember that imaginations need nurturing, too, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your kids grow.

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Dewey’s Landing

JDubbs was away for almost a week in October, and luckily my mom was able to come up to help me out with the kids.  As the days grow shorter, our little house in the woods feels a bit spookier at times, and I am not ashamed to admit I love having her around to keep my company.  The kids love it, too, mostly because we are able to get out and do more when she’s around.  Grammy is always up for an adventure, and we had lots of fun exploring together on one of the last days before Old Man Winter reared his ugly head.

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I had never walked the expanse of Dewey’s Landing before, but there was so much to see on that tiny strip of land between Dewey’s Pond and the Ottauquechee River.  I did a photo shoot there this summer which led to a family excursion to get our feet good and dirty, but to walk from Quechee Main Street all the way to the Quechee Gorge was a first for all of us.  It definitely won’t be the last.


We sure love that Grammy!


 (photo credit: Jax)

Late October is an interesting time in New England.  The earth is most definitely getting ready to take a long winter’s nap, and there is so much to look at, touch, and observe–especially when you are with three inquisitive kids.

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Look! An added bonus of having Grammy around–Mommy gets to be in a picture!


The kids’ favorite part of our adventure was watching a flock of geese who seemed to be taking a very circuitous route on their migration.  They’d fly here, then there, and back again, as if they couldn’t decide whether it was quite time to head south yet.

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They talked about those birds for days!

At the end of our walk, we made it to the beginning of the Gorge (which wasn’t really that exciting photography-wise since there was a big chain-link fence between it and us) so after a few minutes enjoying the waterfall we headed home.

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A fitting farewell to the season.  Hello, winter.



Please be kind to us this year, or maybe we’ll all be migrating south!


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Bubble Wrap Stomp Painting!

For those of you who are like me and have done a good deal of online shopping this holiday season, here’s a great activity for the kiddos who desperately want to hear the bubble wrap “pop” but aren’t quite coordinated enough to do it well.

bubble wrap stomp painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Bust out a piece of paper (for this we used our trusty butcher paper), wrap the kids’ feet in bubble wrap, and coat the bottoms in paint.

bubble wrap painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then be sure to remind them that they have to be careful (stomping is much safer than skating), and ready, set, pop!

bubble wrap painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It

They thought this activity was hilarious and asked me to paint their feet again and again.  They wanted to paint every square inch of the butcher paper, and I finally just squirted dollops of paint directly on the paper in order to keep up with their demands.

bubble wrap painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_2271-2

In the end, I had big plans to cut out some kind of holiday shape out of the mural, like a Christmas tree, but it never came to be.  It was a beautiful work of art all on its own!


A fun way to get the kids moving while stuck inside this winter!

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Tutu Cute!

So remember the other day how I said Little H had finally been turned on to dress up (which, by the way, is an everyday staple of existence in this house)?  Well, it looks like she’s hooked.


I can’t even stand the cuteness!

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Okay, seriously?  What is there to say about her?  Sassy, adorable, fabulous, perfect?  Yes, all those things and more.  And mine all mine.


And she hasn’t even realized her dress up potential yet!  Em is just getting started showing her protege the ropes of all things poofy, purple, or pink.


Be still, my pink- or purple-poofy-loving heart!

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Easy Christmas Tree Ornament

Hanging out with the girls one morning before school, and things inevitably got a little whiny.  Little H had a cold and Em wanted more attention.  But with a few magic words (“Do you want to do a craft?”), she was back on track and even grumpy Little H couldn’t resist the allure of being allowed to play with a bowl full of colorful buttons.  So we made a very simple (and really pretty!) Christmas Tree ornament, with very little materials required!  I made a couple changes from where I originally found it here, but this is what worked best for us.

Easy Christmas Tree Ornament @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Materials:  Popsicle sticks, glue, buttons, ribbon, paper for a star.  So simple!

I happened to have rainbow-colored Popsicle sticks from when we made our leprechaun trap last St. Patrick’s Day, so no need to paint or color them green.  Just add a little glue and let them set; you may want to add your ribbon in one corner now (maybe in between the sticks?) to give it plenty of time to dry.  I thought of that after the fact and think it would have been a good change.

Easy Christmas Tree Ornament @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then just add buttons!

Easy Christmas Tree Ornament @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Em wanted to make hers in a rainbow pattern, and Little H was happy just to be allowed near the glue.

Easy Christmas Tree Ornament @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I snapped a plain stick in half, let the girls color them brown for a trunk, then added a paper star and ribbon on top.

Easy Christmas Tree Ornament @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then I did it all over again with Jax when he got home from school.  Now I have three beautiful  Christmas tree ornaments to decorate my home, year after year!

Easy Christmas Tree Ornament @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I’m going to keep them forever!

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3 Little Monkeys

Three little monkeys jumping on the bed.


None fell off and bumped their head (thank God).


Mama took some photos of the fun instead!


I still have three crazy monkeys jumping on the bed!


Love these three little monkeys jumping on my bed!


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On Saturday, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I are taking Em to see Clara’s Dream, which is kind of a shortened version of The Nutcracker, put on by the dance company where Em takes ballet.  She and I went last year and it was a heavenly mother/daughter evening.  This year, we are going to the matinee, but we get to attend a special tea beforehand with the dancers!

Em had a chance to meet them before during one of her ballet classes, so she knows what to expect and is really more than excited!


Seeing lovely performances like this are what fuels her desire to stick with ballet week after week, with no sign of lagging or any loss of enthusiasm.  In fact, I’d say she’s really flourishing!
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I’ll be sure to take lots of photos at the tea!  I’m sure she’ll be starstruck to get to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy!  I know it will be another day to remember!

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