It's tipping it down out there, you're all stuck indoors and the children are yelping that they're bored. And all this and it's still only 10am.
What to do? Here are 10 fab ways to keep them entertained without having to stick them in front of a screen (well not all day at least).
1. Bath time at the wrong time
Who cares if it isn't their normal bath time, most young children will run for the bath if you run them one at the 'wrong' time of day (although they might look at you like you've lost the plot a bit on the way...). Without the evening routine's 'need to get to bed soon' pressure, they can splash about until their fingers and toes go all wrinkly. Chuck in anything from some simple pouring cups (any old plastic cups will do) to bath crayons or the spookily realistic RoboFish.
2. Make your own cinema
We can't all have one of those flash dedicated home media room but that doesn't mean you can't create your own cinema experience. Close those curtains, pop some popcorn (it's incredibly easy even without resorting to the microwave stuff) and get cosy with some fave flicks. Think ahead and for future use, record a stash of the extra-good kids' movies usually shown on Christmas TV, so you'll have them at the ready for such occasions.
3. Building Challenge
Take a big pile of building bricks, such as Duplo for toddlers and preschoolers or LEGO for school-age kids, and see who can make the grandest creations or the tallest tower. Integrate their models with other toys too – got a train but no station? Make one for them or draft in older siblings to do so (provided they're co-operative!)
Domino runs and card towers are also enormous fun – see who can make the longest/ tallest/ fanciest.
4. Raid the back of the toy cupboard (and tidy it up at the same time!)
You might have to chivvy the kids along initially with this one but we can guarantee that mid-sort out they will fall in love all over again with some long-neglected stuff from the back of the shelf or the bottom of the box. Whilst at it, assemble a pile of outgrown items for the charity shop or eBay – particularly wise pre-Christmas and birthdays ready for the next present influx.
5. Stage a Grand Games Tournament
Set up an assortment of their favourites, from snakes and ladders to Monopoly and Scrabble, Triv or plain old playing cards. Older children will enjoy keeping a league table of scores but you might need to join forces yourself with younger members of the family to even out teams or stick with more games of luck than skill.
6. Chore Challenge
Some bribery in the form of prizes might be required here but create a challenge around the household's chores and get them folding laundry (you judge whose is the neatest), matching socks (as quickly as possible) or competing for whose bedroom is the tidiest and cleanest. All good skills for later life! Prizes for winners (and runners up) need to be covetable for this one to work but that needn't mean it costs a fortune and be warned, it's unlikely to work with older children who will see right through this!
7. A life on the stage (well, ok, just an afternoon...)
Turn the little ones into theatrical luvvies with dramas of a different kind by staging a play. It could be a script downloaded from the internet or from a book, an easy home-made adaptation of a favourite tale that younger kids can do actions to (We're Going on a Bear Hunt or The Gruffalo would be ideal), or if you're creative (and brave), make something up yourselves. Artier primary school age children can craft posters, tickets and props and even film the performance to show (patient) grandparents later on.
8. Build a den...
Grab chairs, smallish tables, any huge delivery boxes and sheets to cover it all up with and voila, you've got an indoor den. Once done, add some cushions and in they go: the perfect hangout for reading, playing and just chilling out.
9. Have a rubbish time
Raid the recycling bin and put those loo rolls centres, empty cereal boxes and plastic bottles to good use – add a bit of tin foil, some glue and some paints and you've a space rocket, or a house or a car...
10. Go all out with art
Even relatively un-arty kids can still appreciate messing about with some paints, crayons and craft now and then. Creating portraits of themselves and each other, drawing outlines round someone's whole body with them lying on a huge sheet of paper (or several smaller ones taped together) and good old home-made scratch art, all top our arty activities list. If you're short on inspiration, and they're short on enthusiasm, try theming things around their favourite hobby – look for relevant projects online.