Entertaining kids on a rainy day

Kids are interested in cooking.
Kids are interested in cooking. 

It's raining, the kids are stir-crazy and you're all out of ideas to keep them amused. If you have an internet connection and a printer, there are stacks of resources on the web that can help you keep the kids amused. Read our rainy day rescue!

So here are 10 ways to use the internet to keep your kids busy, none of which involve them sitting in front of a screen!

1. Colouring-in pages: When my oldest son first took an interest in colouring in, we went through scores of commercial colouring books before I ventured online. There are hundreds of sites out there with printable colouring pages including the familiar and friendly CBeebies. Some are attached to individual websites (like Charlie and Lola) but they tend to only have less than ten pages each. There are larger selections are various colouring page sites like this - click here . These sites can sometimes be hard to navigate because they are supported by a lot of advertising, but many of them have thousands of colouring pages from popular movies, books or TV shows that kids love to colour. If you are printing out pages for pre-school age kids, try to choose ones with stronger lines and fewer characters. The larger white spaces for colouring are a lot easier for novices.

2. Print off mazes and puzzles: When colouring-in gets boring, we move on to mazes, simple crosswords, dot-to-dot and find-a-word puzzles. You'll find plenty of free printable downloads at www.essentialkids.com.au, arranged by age, to keep the kids amused. Sites like www.printactivities.com  have a range of puzzles sorted by topic, including dinosaurs, princesses, knights and penguins. There are join the dots, word search and colouring pages related to those topics.

3. Bingo games: For fun that's a bit more interactive, or if you have a group of children to entertain, try print off bingo games. Some sites, like www.dltk-cards.com let you customise bingo cards with number cards, for older kids, or picture match cards for littlies. You can choose a theme, print out the cards and call sheet and you're away!  

4. Origami patterns: For a more parent-intensive activity, the ancient Japanese paper-folding techniques of origami can showcase the wonders of paper. www.origami-instructions.com has a section of origami instructions for kids, including simple (and some not-so-simple!) boats, houses and animals. 

5. Paper planes: While we're on paper folding, there are a number of sites with instructions for various paper airplanes. There are thousands of paper airplane enthusiast sites like www.paperairplanes.co.uk which has instructions (graded from easy to difficult) on how to make and then fly these planes. My favourite site, though, is the appropriately named 'World's Greatest Paper Airplane' www.metacafe.com/watch/309341/the_worlds_greatest_paper_airplane which includes a video (with sound) on how to make this wonder of navigation. You really need a video to get all the steps right, but the plane flies like a dream.

6. Make your own play dough: Commercial play dough is cheap and easy to pick up in the supermarket, but it's never as soft as the stuff you make at home. Recipes for the perfect play dough abound online, but for really smooth, long lasting play dough, try this recipe for cooked play dough.

7. Kitchen science experiments: While you're in the kitchen, it's amazing the stuff you can teach the kids using simple household ingredients. Remember Professor Julius Sumner-Miller and his experiment of putting a hard-boiled egg into a bottle? You can find instructions on how to do that, and many other experiments at www.thenakedscientists.com in their 'kitchen science' section.

8. Getting crafty (and educational): If you're up to getting your hands dirty, Blue Mountains Mum Amber has hundreds of ideas for crafting with kids. She sends out a weekly newsletter full of activities often using things found in the pantry at home. Or download some of the printable from her beautiful website is at http://kidscraftweekly.com

9. They Might Be Giants vodcast: For fans of alternative music, 90s sensation They Might Be Giants will be a familiar name. You might not know, though, that the kings of quirk have released a number of kids albums which make a welcome change from the usual kid-centric music experience. TMBG are now putting out a vodcast (a video podcast) featuring knitted puppet versions of themselves, complete with button eyes. The vodcasts include gorgeously animated video clips of their kids' songs and silly jokes which, once they're on your iPod, can form the background entertainment to any of the crafty stuff above.

10. Free audio books: For quiet times, when you've read all your own books a thousand times and can't face another rendition of 'Where is the Green Sheep?', try some of the free audio books available online. Libra Vox has a mission to get classic texts, now out of copyright, into the public domain as free recordings.  You won't find the latest Harry Potter, but classics like Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland are available for free download. They are all read by volunteers and you might find a book to listen to in your own downtime (Jane Austen classic, anyone?).

Discuss your toddler and games to play with Essential Baby Mums.