The “storm days” of my own childhood came to mind, reading what the Frugal Duchess says about Low-Tech/No-Tech Fun for Kids. Oh, those longed-for storm days! When we woke on a winter morning to find a white-out of snow, when school was cancelled and a whole day of liberty stretched ahead — albeit a day, often, without benefit of electricity.
As I recall, it usually took about an hour for the novelty to wear off… and then poor Mother was pressed to find ways to entertain three children of different ages, and with very different interests.
Board games were a great stand-by, of course, and dominoes. We drew pictures and made crafts. We played with the dog. And books were a perennial delight — providing that there was enough light, on a storm day, by which to read.
Brother and I also played “Make Believe”: a complex self-invented game that somehow managed to integrate Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars with a box of old costumes and a cavalier disregard for logic and scale.
When we ran out of inspiration, however, Mother had two more weapons in her entertainment arsenal.
One of those essential tools was an old British book called Something to Do: 300 games, hobbies and pastimes for all the year round, long out of print now. I remember it being kept on a very high shelf, a book we never opened for ourselves, a wonderful book from which Mother would pluck the most enchanting ideas — for emergencies only, when “Mom, I’m boooored” whining threatened to turn into sibling warfare.
Her second storm-day life-saver was just a small stone.
Mother presented it to me with great ceremony, I remember, the summer before I started school when every other child in our neighbourhood seemed to be away at camp. It was a lovely dark brown stone with tiny rusty-red flecks, about an inch long and slightly less wide, polished as smooth as silk by the long action of Atlantic waves.
“This is a magic Something-to-Do stone,” she told me. “You have to sit down very quietly in a room all by yourself, hold the stone in your hand, and rub this smooth hollowed part with your thumb, just so. This magic stone will give you the perfect idea for something to do, any time you start to feel bored.”
You know what? It worked!
Decades later, I still have Mother’s tattered old copy of the Something to Do book, and that very same smooth dark comforting Something-to-Do stone. I may not have my mother’s deep understanding of a child’s mind, nor her practical wisdom — but when storm days come around, I am not entirely unprepared.