Children cherish the good times at birthday parties. However, parties forced inside due to inclement weather— as well as awkward pauses between introductions, entertainment and mealtime— pose a few challenges. Kids often become antsy while waiting for entertainment to arrive, yet it’s not wise for children to play outside when there’s a wintry chill. To keep everyone from going stir-crazy at parties, here are some fun ideas to keep the good times rolling.

Make a Boredom Buster Box

With your family’s assistance, brainstorm ideas for indoor amusement (continue reading for some suggestions). Write down each musing on separate scraps of paper. Fold up the pieces of paper and place them in a box. Then even outside of party time, when the weather is bad or the kids are bored, have a child reach into the boredom box for a suggested activity to try. Better yet: Each week, put something in or under the box that offers an entertaining activity, such as a lump of Play-Doh®, a board game, a snack recipe or a deck of cards to enjoy that week.

Build an Indoor Fort

Choose an old sheet that kids can use to create an indoor fort. They can drape the sheet over furniture, then crawl under with flashlights and pretend they’re in a mountain cave, a far outpost or a secret room. Offer props to enhance the play, including pillows, stuffed animals or little cars.

Grow a Flower Garden

Place a packet of seeds inside the box. Buy small flowerpots, soil and seeds to encourage kids to plant their own flowers. If time permits, invite children to paint their pots before completing another activity while the pots dry. When the pots are ready for use, fill them with soil, and insert the seeds according to the package’s directions. Have your own kids keep a record of how often they water the seeds, when the first buds break through and how much the flowers grow each day or week.

Have a Balloon Blast

Let the kids think up ways to play with balloons, such as:

  • Inflate a balloon, then stretch the opening flat to make the balloon squeal as the air seeps out.
  • Run an inflated balloon against your clothes or hair for static. See how many balloons you can stick to the walls with static electricity.
  • Try to keep an inflated balloon in the air as long as possible just by batting it. Two people can engage in the fun together, batting the balloon back and forth. Or, have a contest to see which pair of kids keeps the balloon afloat the longest.
  • Draw a funny face on an inflated balloon with permanent marker. Another option is to decorate the balloon.
  • Place inflated balloons around the house. Have kids race to retrieve as many balloons as possible.

Learn a Secret Code

Scatter paper and pencils on the floor. Invite children to create coded messages for each other, before trying to decipher them. For example:

  • For each group of kids, one child writes a message using a white crayon on white paper. Others decipher it by rubbing a colored crayon over the message to reveal the writing.
  • Kids can collaborate to make a specific symbol designating each letter in the alphabet. Have a key of the symbols. One kid writes a message, then the other kids decode what’s written using the key.
  • One child writes a message without vowels and lets the others decipher it, like CN Y DCPHR THS MSSG?

Create a “Green” Town

Collect an empty orange juice can, a toilet paper roll, a bottle cap, a bandage tin, a crackers box, a spool and other recyclables. Have kids build a super city, a space station, a country farm or an amusement park using the toss-away materials and a roll of tape. Add a few small cars, farm animals or tiny people to complete the fantasy world.

Put on a Puppet Show

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

Bake and Decorate Cookies

Print a recipe for your favorite easy-to-make cookies, and stash the ingredients next to the directions. Under your supervision, allow children make the cookies, perhaps decorating them with tubes of frosting and candy sprinkles. It’s the perfect sweet ending to a special celebration!

Basic Veggie Soup

Canned soups are often over-processed and full of salt. This will take you mere minutes to make, and it’s downright good and healthy.

Quick Spinach-White Bean Soup

Ingredients1 c. chopped onion 1 c. chopped carrot 1 c. chopped celery 2 tsp. oil 3 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth 1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped spinach ¾ c. uncooked tubetti or ditalini pasta ½ tsp. dried oregano ½ tsp. dried basil ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 1/8 tsp. garlic powder 2 (15 oz.) cans Cannellini, Great Northern or white beans, rinsed and drainedDirectionsIn a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion, carrot and celery in oil for five minutes. Add chicken broth, spinach, pasta, oregano, basil, pepper and garlic powder. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans, and cover cooking saucepan for five more minutes.YieldNutrition

Mediterranean Tomato Soup with Rice

Ingredients2 cans (14.5 ounces each) gluten-free, low-sodium chicken broth, such as Swanson’s Natural Goodness 1 can (15 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, including juices 1/4 c diced fresh onion 1-1/2 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh oregano, basil, marjoram and rosemary, plus extra for garnish 1/2 tsp. sugar 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste 1/4 c instant brown riceDirectionsCombine all the ingredients in a two-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Brimming with the fresh herb flavors of southern France, this recipe uses instant rice that slightly thickens the soup as it cooks and gives it body. If you don’t like chunks of tomato, puree the tomatoes in a blender before you cook them. Or, puree the entire soup with an immersion blender after it has simmered 20 minutes for an extra-smooth consistency.Yield4 servingsNutrition

Snowman Cookies

Craft delightful snowman cookies with this recipe.