When the weather gets too cold to be outdoors, children can get "cabin fever." You can't change what's going on outside, but you can change the scenery inside... and your kitchen may be just the place to start. Try these ideas for making ordinary cooking fun and exciting for the grandkids.
Make a batch of pancake batter and divide it into four bowls. Have the children add a few different drops of food coloring to each bowl and stir. Preheat the griddle or skillet and let the children watch you drizzle a small amount of batter from each bowl onto the griddle so that the colors touch. It will be one monster pancake. Make one for each child.
Give the grandchildren party stir sticks and let them spear grapes, cherries and chunks of apple, banana, and pineapple. These kabobs make a great snack or lunch treat.
Similar to the pancakes, make cake batter and pour some if it into a plastic, resealable bag for each child. Place two drops of food color in each bag and have the children squeeze the bag to mix the color. Then, clip open a corner of the bag and have children squeeze the batter into the baking pan. Bake as usual.
Place some kitchen utensils on the center of the table. Include items like a rolling pin, sifter, spatula, oven mitt, saucepan, ladle, muffin tin, measuring spoons, and cookie sheet. Have the children sit around the table and ask them questions like, "What's this for?" or "I'm going to make muffins, what do I need?" Have children answer your questions and then let them make up their own. Challenge them by asking, "What else could we use this for?"
At lunchtime, assign children the roles of servers or customers at a restaurant. Help children take orders, serve food, and clean up after their customers. Depending on the children's ages, they could switch roles. They could even use play money to "pay for their food." Other fun versions of this game include grocery store, shoe store, and hair salon.
Use a softly inflated beach ball in this under-the-table game. Place your kitchen chairs at the short ends of the table to mark the "playing field." Divide the children into two teams and have each team sit in a line on the longest sides of the table. After they remove their shoes and socks, let them kick the ball back and forth under the table. Everyone wins!
Take children camping in your living room or kitchen. Throw a blanket over the table and give children camp items like a flashlight, play food, and books. Sit together inside the tent and read a story together with a flashlight. Pretend to cook a meal or roast marshmallows over a campfire.
Hide a ticking kitchen timer in the living room while children wait in another room. Tell the children to be "quiet as mice" so that they can hear the ticking. Whoever finds the timer first gets to hide it for the next round. Give each child a turn to hide the timer.
Take turns describing an item in the room. Have children guess what the mystery item is. Take turns describing different items.
Choose a letter of the alphabet and make up a silly sentence using as many words as you can that begin with that sound. Choose different letters to make up other silly sentences.
Sit in a circle. Make up the beginning of a story. Have the next person in the circle continue the story. Continue to the next person and see how long and silly the story can get.
Adapted from Cabin Fever Relievers, by Tina Koch, Redleaf Press, 1997.