Entertaining Kids with a Mostly Empty House

The unfortunate aspect of international moves and living is that you’re without your stuff for long periods of time. And with our delays in visas and a mess of government holidays, we’re without it even longer than previous moves. We do get a welcome kit of basic needs (linens, basic cookware, etc) to borrow until our items arrive and I was Mary Poppins with our suitcases and managed to fit a lot.  Combine minimal toys and items with hot days and being stuck at home a lot supervising workers as our AC has needed fixing every day this past week and the kids (and me) are a bit stir crazy.  Luckily I have a couple tricks up my sleeves that are inside-the-house activities that don’t take too many supplies and are either easy to move or easy to buy most places.

Homemade Playdoh

Sure, you could just stick some actual Playdoh in your suitcase, but it’s really easy to make with basic pantry items. Plus, the act of making it is half the fun.  This is my favorite playdoh as it doesn’t involve cooking, is fast to make, and makes a great texture.

Ingredients:  white flour, oil (any type), boiling water, salt, cream of tartar (the only item that is sometimes tricky to find locally, but we have in our commissary and would be easy to stick in a suitcase if needed)

Kitchen Items: bowl, electric kettle or pot for boiling water, 1 cup measuring cup, 1 Tablespoon measuring cup, spoon, bag or container for storing afterwards

How to Entertain Kids in a Mostly Empty House | www.carriereedtravels.com

The directions are on the link, but you basically mix everything together, add the water, then knead it until it is no longer sticky. Kids can help with kneading. If you want it colored, you’d need food coloring too, but we just use it as white.  I gave DD a dull kitchen knife, some toothpicks, and some paperclips and she went to work playing and creating things.

Entertaining Kids in a Mostly Empty House | www.carriereedtravels.comHow to Entertain Kids in a Mostly Empty House | www.carriereedtravels.com

Muffin Making

Muffin making takes a little bit more planning, but as we make them all the time both for the fun of making them and because they are great breakfasts and snacks, I preplanned prior to our move and stuck silicone muffin liners and a baking sheet in my suitcase. And a cooling rack, but that would be optional. I went with muffin liners and a baking sheet instead of a muffin tin because then I have the baking sheet for cookies or roasting veggies. To be honest though, I did also stick in my mini muffin tin. BUT, I hope to get mini silicone muffin liners and will bring just those next time.

Silicone muffin liners are awesome because they take up minimal space, are lightweight, and allow you to just place them on a cookie sheet.  They are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe as well as obviously oven safe. Most recipes I find I can pop out of the liners immediately to reuse them, but occasionally I have to let them cool first.  They come in regular, mini, jumbo and shaped versions! Friends have said they’re great in Bento boxes for sending in lunches.

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I really like this whole wheat blueberry muffin recipe.  It uses honey instead of refined sugar. Only change I make is using applesauce instead of the oil they call for. It’s a 1:1 substitution. You can also make it with other fruit or add-ins instead of blueberries. I use frozen blueberries for year-round eating.

DD loves baking with me and is great at stirring, dumping, and scooping into the liners. DS loves eating the muffins! He’s big enough now to open our fridge and will open it looking for muffins. This recipe freezes well, so make a double batch.

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Other Ideas

Fort making! Take sheets or blankets and drape over chairs, sofas, etc to make hiding holes.

Take advantage of empty closets or cabinets and play hide and seek

Use a small bouncy ball and go hog wild in a room empty of decoratives and breakables.

Create new fridge artwork. Stick some tape or magnets in your suitcase to make a kitchen feel more like home immediately

Preplan and bring a few packs of fancy stickers or flat craft kits (DD loves this tiara craft kit)

If you won’t have internet right away, pre-download videos to watch offline. I downloaded a ton of kids tv shows from Netflix to my ipad. They expire about 48 hours after starting to view one, so rewatching is minimal (or needs to happen quickly). Not every Netflix show lets you download, but we found plenty of kid ones that do. Magic School Bus, Chuggington (about trains), Strawberry Shortcake, and My Little Pony are just a few. Plus some books have TV versions like The Gruffalo and Stella and Sam. On the days you are getting over jetlag or the crankies just won’t go away, a quick tv episode saves the day.

Another preplanning one, have family members record themselves reading favorite books and load them on your ipad or phone. It can help pass time when you desperately need to unpack, set up, cook food, or just put your feet up. Of course, if you have internet or enough phone data, they can also email them to you for downloading.

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