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This winter, the safest place to keep your kids may be at home—just as they’re hitting unprecedented levels of stir-crazy energy. Some irresistible activities to add to your basement can renew interest in this underground playground. Whatever the state of your basement or your budget, it may just be your best chance for prying your kids away from computer screens during the cold months ahead.
Any game that usually costs tokens is popular with kids, and they can practice their skills so they’ll win more tickets next time. You can set up an old cornhole game, get a newer Skee Ball game designed for younger kids, or make your own with cardboard and buckets. At-home versions of basketball arcade games are everywhere, and you can reinvigorate bowling by having the kids decorate water bottles to knock over.
If you have the floor space, set up a hockey rink with inflatable nets and foam hockey sticks. You could even talk the kids into wearing pads just like the grownups do. Create a hopscotch course for little kids or a four-square court with painter’s tape or chalk. If you’d rather buy some entertainment, everyone will get a kick out of a “putting pool table” that goes on the floor or a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course.
A ping pong table has long been a basement staple, and your kids might ready for one. Yes, the paddles may give you pause, but the table puts some distance between the players. The lightweight balls are mostly harmless, despite any velocity or naughty intentions behind them. You can try a kids’ version for under $100, or invest in a more serious table so Mom and Dad can play, too. You can fold it away when not in use.
Floor-size puzzles could lead to a passion that increases in difficulty as they get older. You can find larger-than-life classic board games like Scrabble, Four-in-a-Row, Jenga, and Checkers. You might be surprised at how kids enjoy tabletop shuffleboard; a bit of skill is involved and may teach kids that sometimes restraint is more important than strength. You could also invest in a floor-size game, or create a reclaimed wood version that could be a permanent—and gorgeous—in addition to your basement.
If you’re planning to finish the basement in the future, why not let the kids decorate the walls? Or you could paint a wall with chalk paint in a variety of colors, and let kids play a limitless game of Pictionary. Basements are perfect for long rolls of art paper, or even butcher paper. You already have the art supplies and chalk, and they can leave the mess downstairs.
Ask friends about activities to add to your basement, or come up with less equipment-based ideas, like creating your own game shows. Your kids can blow off steam—and take a break from destroying the rest of the house.