For most parents, the outdoors can act as a sort of babysitter for their children; outside, the kids can play in the grass, or with rocks, sticks and mud. They are endlessly entertained by jumping in puddles or catching bugs. While sledding and snowman-making can occupy a small part of time in the winter, there are often endless hours where it is too cold to be outside and children must play indoors. Not to mention, time spent outside is limited by shorter daylight hours.

So how do you keep all of your mini-me tyrants from driving you insane? Keeping them indoors all day can take a toll on your home and your sanity. Included here are a few ways to make staying inside more enjoyable in the cold, dark winter months.

Build a Blanket Fort

There is a reason that blanket forts continue to be one of the most beloved indoor activities. Construction is simple, just drape a few blankets or sheets from the back of the couch out to an additional chair or two. To up the fun, string LED christmas lights under the blankets to make a “starry” ceiling within the fort. Encourage the kids to play board games, draw or read inside their fort.

Have A Reading Contest

While studies show that children who are read to every night of their formative years tend to be more successful, it is a highly underutilized tool. Challenge your kids to read as many books as possible each week. Have a reward for the biggest reader, but suit their book material to their age.

If you have kids who are not enjoying reading, there are several ways you can help them gain interest in this edifying task. Find a book your child is interested in, and begin reading it to them. When you get to a terribly exciting spot, stop reading. This will incite your child to want to read to know how the book ends.

Another great way to get your kids to read is to offer an earning system. The average American child spends four hours per day watching television. Want to cut down on that screen time and increase their book smarts?

Tell your children they must read for twice as long as they want to watch television. Have a half hour program you want to see? Better read for an hour first. It is a great method to teach your children discipline and reward and get their noses buried in books.

Build an Obstacle Course

There are plenty of activities you can do inside that are restful and quiet, but that can be the opposite of some children. Some kids just need to move and a great way to do this without breaking down your couches is by building an obstacle course in your basement or playroom. Create tunnels the kids have to climb through and obstacles to go over. For added fun, time each child to see who is the fastest.