Trapped inside the cottage!

By Liann Bobechko »Liann Bobechko

When the weather outside is frightful, you can still have fun at the lake

January 24th, 2012

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Here’s another guest post from Catherine Hewlett, former web coordinator at Cottage Life. She loves visiting her in-laws’ cottage and says she finds the cottage most relaxing when she’s organized, saying “If I know I’ve packed and prepped properly (food, gear, clothes, etc.) then I can really put my feet up and sit back with a cocktail!” Well, that gives me something to work towards!

Families can have a blast at the cottage in the wintertime when the conditions are right – skiing, snowshoeing, walks in the snow, campfires by a frozen lake. But sometimes it’s just too cold to be outside or mum and dad simply need a bit of a rest. As a former kindergarten teacher and a mum of three, indoor activities have become a bit of a specialty. My claim to fame at the cottage last summer was keeping five little kids happy and entertained over a long, rainy weekend. Here are a few of my top tips and must-haves:

Play dough. It’s not just for kindergarten! Play dough is a breeze to make yourself (plus it’s non-toxic and economical, which makes it even more cottage friendly!). Once the kids tire of making the inevitable pretend cookies and worms, use play dough with popsicle sticks, twigs and pinecones found in the woods to make cottage dioramas or try a 3D version of Pictionary. Here’s the best recipe I know (and as a former teacher you know I’ve tried them all!):

Play Dough

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of ‘cream of tartar’
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 2 cups of boiling water with your choice of food colouring added

Just pop it all in a bowl and mix. At first it may seem as though it’s not going to mix, but hang in there! Pop in a ziplock bag or airtight container and store in the fridge for ages (or at room temperature, but make sure it doesn’t freeze if you turn the heat way down while you’re away from the cottage).

Stop at the Dollar Store. Imagine my husband and I and two friends trapped inside the cottage for three days with five kids under six. Outside the weather was a disaster (the kind where your mother in law keeps phoning to see if the cottage has blown away) but inside the adults enjoyed cocktails and laughs as the kids enhanced their usual cottage play with all sort of creative treats from the Dollar Store. Sure, we sang a few campfire songs, took all the cushions off the sofas and built a fort, but what really kept the kids happy?

For about $30 (the best money I’ve spent in a long time) I bought little wooden boxes and non-toxic paint so they could decorate their own little treasure chests (intended for pebbles found on hikes, but of course the weather didn’t cooperate), popsicle sticks and white glue so they could build structures, picture frames or anything else their hearts desired, plus construction paper, markers, crayons, stickers, sparkle glue (a big hit!), pompoms, pipe cleaners, beads, string, little note pads and tape.

The possibilities were endless: necklaces, bracelets, mini fishing rods, murals, surveys and lists, drawings, paintings, and of course taping anything and everything in sight (every parent of a kid under 5 should know that the most exciting stocking stuffer ever is a personal role of masking tape!). And guess what? I’m not even naturally artistic! With the right supplies, carefully doled out when the timing is just right (for goodness sake don’t give them everything at once!), $30 worth of brightly coloured stuff will turn everyone crafty.

Take a deep breath and cook with your kids. Cooking with kids takes twice as long and is at least three times as messy. But kids love to be a part of things and at the cottage, where bedtimes and mealtimes tend to be a little more flexible, kids can be welcome in the kitchen. The best part is not even that kids are happy and entertained by helping out with preparing meals, it’s that they’re more likely to try a new food if they have helped to prepare it. So drag a step stool over to the counter top and let your little ones measure out the flour for pancakes, braise vegetables with olive oil in preparation for grilling, stir the salad dressing or use a not-too-sharp knife to cut some fruit for dessert.

With a bit of organization and a few tools offered by mum or dad, I’ve seen my kids making great memories at the cottage even when they can’t get outside.

Thanks for the ideas, Catherine! Read Catherine’s last post on this blog, about bringing that cottage feeling to the city in the off-season. Visit Catherine’s blog for more great parenting tips.

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Liann Bobechko