For years I’ve been babysitting my best friend’s kids, Daniel and Nathan, and I feel so lucky to watch their personalities emerge. Now that they’re 4 and 6, we’ve become a big part of each other’s lives—they even call me Auntie Rai.
While we usually spend our time together climbing trees or kicking a ball around the year, the recent snows in our area have made the jungle gyms impassable (and there are only so many snowmen I can handle), so we’ll be making memories indoors for a while. Luckily I’ve found a way to bring some of the boys’ favorite outdoor sports in with a few fun, safe twists.
Pom Pom Soccer
The boys are both avid soccer players—their parents secretly dream of cheering for them from the stands of a college stadium one day. I support the cause by making sure they can enjoy their game even when snow is coating their backyard soccer field. Of course, I don’t think their mom would be too thrilled if I let them kick a ball around the living room, so we had to get a little bit creative.
- Cardboard box
- Green construction paper
- White printer paper
- We started by crafting our soccer field. First, we found a large cardboard box. I cut it in half, horizontally, so the boys were left with the bottom and about four-inch-tall sides.
- Next, we glued green construction paper into the bottom of the box for grass. We cut strips of white printer paper and taped them down to make the sidelines and half-field line.
- Using straws and tape, we made the frames of the goal boxes, tying string in a crisscross pattern around the straw frame to make a net.
Our homemade indoor soccer pitch looked perfect to me, but Nathan said something was missing. Running to his room, he gathered up a handful of Lego characters and placed them along the sidelines saying, “This is where Mom and Dad stand when we play.” Now we had a life-like model field and an attentive audience.
Daniel chose our pom pom ball—a bright orange one—and Nathan grabbed two straws, one for each of the boys. Serving as referee, I dropped the pom in the middle of the field on the count of three and the game began! Using their straws to blow the pom around the field, the boys battled to see who could get it into the other player’s goal. It was such a fun time that we lost track of the score after the third goal, and played until we were all out of breath!
Indoor Inflatable Tennis
After fun on the floor playing pom pom soccer, Daniel spotted his mom’s tennis racket in the corner and asked, “Can we play with this?” While I wanted to encourage them to try their hand at tennis, I couldn’t consider myself a good babysitter if I let them play with an expensive professional racket—especially indoors. So we came up with an alternative kid-friendly and indoor-safe option.
First, we had to create rackets. Heading to the kitchen, we found paper plates and popsicle sticks. (Well, actually, we found popsicles. To get the sticks, I let the boys enjoy a little pre-game treat.) Popsicles devoured, we glued each stick between two paper plates and voila! We had tennis rackets! Next, we grabbed a balloon and blew it up to serve as a jumbo-sized tennis ball. Finally, I grabbed a bed sheet and draped it over a piece of twine, which I tied to the backs of two chairs at about two feet off the ground.
With rackets, a giant tennis ball, and a makeshift net, the boys were ready for an exciting match of tennis, although the lazy pace of the balloon gave them a chance to practice their over-the-top slow-mo reactions, which repeatedly had us all laughing.
T.P. Stock Cars
After a few games of tennis, the boys and I began discussing other sports. “I want to be a stock car racer,” Nathan said, before convincing me that we should have our own stock car races. Gathering up some empty toilet paper rolls, construction paper, water-based paints, markers, and scissors, we set to work creating our stock cars.
We started by painting the bodies of our cars with the brightly colored paints. Daniel’s was red, Nathan’s was blue, and I went for a bright green. We let the cars dry while we cut out tires from black construction paper. Daniel even cut out a lightning bolt from yellow construction paper to make his car the “Flash Mobile.”
Once the car bodies were dry, we glued on our tires and decor—Nathan added a number to the hood of his car and drew a driver into the front seat. With our stock cars ready, we were all set to race them around challenging obstacles like the couch, ottoman—and the dog—by seeing who could push them around from their hands and knees the fastest.
Even though we weren’t able to enjoy our usual favorite activities outside, our day indoors was a thrill. Though the boys probably look back on that day as just another weekend with Auntie Rai, I look back on it as a time when I found out how passionate Daniel and Nathan truly are about sports, and how quick they are to make creative suggestions all their own.
Who knew two boys born in the technology era could have so much fun with some pom poms, straws, balloons, and empty toilet paper rolls? Not only did I show the boys that they don’t need to be glued to a screen on a snow day, but we got to make some memories that I’ll always cherish and I hope they remember for years and years.
Want more ideas on how to make wonderful memories with your kids? Let the Elves help you get creative for birthdays, holidays, or even fun weekends spent indoors this winter. And get even more ideas on our Facebook page, Instagram @Elfstergram, and Twitter @Elfster