Bad weather is a bummer for active kids, but thanks to this wonderful gift called "imagination," we are able to still have wonderful times indoors. Here are three pretend-play ideas you've probably never heard of that work particularly well with a bunk bed (especially the KURA bunkbed from IKEA), though you can really do them anywhere. Also, though more children add to the fun, you can play these with an only child simply by providing your presence.
Keep in mind that my kids are only 5, 3, and 1, and they all love this stuff. It's amazing how even super-energetic children can be so willing to stop, listen, and play pretend as long as Mommy or Daddy is spending time with them.
I will provide more ideas later...I've got a ton of 'em!
1) Double Decker Bus Tour Around the World
Sit on the top bunk, grab a world atlas with plenty of pictures, and let someone be the tour guide. Another person could drive the bus recklessly using an invisible steering wheel or a plastic plate, and, of course, there can be passengers that bend and bump along with the imaginary bus's movements.
Here are some things the tour guide might say:
"Coming up next we will visit Nepal's Himalayas and visit Mount Everest! Brr, I hope you all brought your winter coats! Let's invite some sherpas onboard and give them warm food!"
"We're driving right along the Nile River right now. Watch out for those Crocodiles. I think I see some pyramids in the distance!"
"Hold on tight because we're about to enter the Audobon. There's no speed limit, so we might go really fast! Say hello to the German people!"
If you want to extend the play further, you can get off at each stop, and the possibilities there are limitless! And, of course, this game will go better if you already teach your kids about other cultures and places.
2) Spy Base
Put blankets on the top bunk or use yellow crepe paper as caution tape to section off your base.
I Googled, printed out, and laminated "hand scanner", "eye scanner", a map, and pictures of various countries and recognizable cartoon characters, and taped them up in the base and around the house so we can play two different games as spies.
A) Search for the Missing Diamond
A precious jewel has been taken (and hidden somewhere around the house) by a mysterious diamond burglar!
How you play is extremely open-ended, but you can examine the suspects (the cartoon characters), pretend to ask witnesses, and look around the house for answers.
B) Smuggle Bibles and Necessities into Restricted Nations
I came up with this after reading God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. Before playing, I chose some nations hostile to Christianity (Russia, Iraq, North Korea) and taped outlines of their country on the doors of various rooms in our house and I hid some Bibles in a cabinet. I then told the kids that we need to pick up Bibles, then send them along with church planters/missionaries (the cartoon characters) to these nations.
Here's what some of the gameplay might sound like:
"I just got a call from Frodo in Iraq. He said the people there need medical equipment, badly! Here's a box of Band-aids. Send it to Iraq!"
"I just received an encouraging call from Belle in North Korea. Many people are finding hope in Jesus and they're able to forgive their enemies and not despair! Let's send more church planters there to help the work!"
"Inspector Gadget just let me know that it's a really bitter winter in Russia and they're losing access to food. Go to the pantry and bring some food to our brothers and sisters in Russia!"
When I'm ready for us to be done playing, I say, "Uh-oh, the government is becoming very suspicious of us. Quick! Let's erase all the evidence that we've been here!" (That's my sneaky-mom way of getting the kids to clean up all the laminated papers and cards we've used.)
I understand that this activity sounds really weird, troubling for kids, and possibly even disrespectful to people who are actually going through these hardships. But I think it's important to find a balance between teaching your kids about the sufferings of other people while also keeping it lighthearted enough that they're not having nightmares. Finding that balance is, of course, up to you.
When we sneak to the hostile countries, we might duck for protection from bombs sometimes, but then we might ride on the backs of dolphins to cross the ocean or something. When we're playing I never use words like "kill," "dead," "blood," etc. but afterwards I try to talk about the real-life hard situations people are enduring around the world (reading Voice of the Martyrs magazine helps!)
I think instilling a sense of adventure in our kids, even in the context of gently immersing them in perspective of horrible real-life events, is good for them. I hope that this plants seeds in my kids of longing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Maybe one day they really will be smuggling Bibles and medical supplies into North Korea.
3) Time Travel Elevator
I simply found clip art of some worldwide historical events, masked them into the shapes of ovals, organized them in rows, printed out my "elevator panel", laminated it, and taped it onto the wall of our bunk bed.
We'll say things like, "Okay, let's go watch the Boston Tea Party! Beep. Nrrrrrrrrrrr. Ding! We're here!"
The options then are, of course, endless. You might have a mission, such as taking an artifact or giving aid to famous historical figures, or you might just walk around and pretend to interview witnesses of the event. At this point, though, we just like hopping on and off the elevator. The kids like to leave me stranded in the time when dinosaurs existed and conveniently forget to come back and pick me up!
Here's a printable of the PDF and the .docx file so you can edit it yourself.
I have lots more ideas, so keep an eye out for Vol. 2!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today