What do you do to entertain a bunch of energetic visitng kids, left on your hands while their parents hit the Boxing Day sales, if it’s too cold to send them outdoors to play?

Welcome to my day-before-yesterday!

My young friend Emma is ten years old, Jenna has just started school, and Caleb and Kyle are four-year-old twins who are not unlike Lynette’s little hellions on TV’s “Desperate Housewives” — if the boys aren’t kept busy, preferably making a great lovely mess, they’ll find their own destructive amusements. We know this for a fact.

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With a mixed-age group like that, of course, the challenge is finding one activity that all can enjoy.

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What is fun for one child soon gets boring for the older ones… but what’s fun for the older ones is too hard for the little kids, who soon get frustrated… and that’s how the grumpy bickering and whining can start!

So what did we do yesterday?

Not surprisingly, we ended up in the kitchen — baking up a storm of cinnamon rolls and muffins. The wild twins love to get in with all four hands to spread the brown sugar for the cinnamon rolls, and it is their special job to make sure that every inch of the dough is evenly covered.

(This is why God made floor mops and vacuum cleaners.)

The boys are a little less thrilled with the making of muffins, but I have discovered yesterday that they love “watching the muffin channel” — strange, but true! They decided all on their own to sit down on the kitchen floor in front of the oven and stare at the oven-door window, to watch the muffins rise and turn brown, and count down (loudly) the last few minutes on the timer. Amazing! I’ve never seen them sit quietly in one position for five or ten minutes before!

Next time this old auntie gets the kid crowd for an afternoon, I think we’ll continue with the kitchen fun — but maybe get into some real food art. An Occasional Chocolate has candy-making recipes that are suitable for kids, very tempting!

Chocolate Candy Making Supplies and <br />Classes

Even easier, though, is the idea of putting melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle for the kids to use like a big paint-pen on sheets of waxed paper. Yummm, food art!

Emma, the budding artist in the family, will probably want to make chocolate butterflies. Jenna can practice her “joined-together alphabet letters” (and eat her mistakes!) — and what a sneaky way to get the homework done!

As for the terrible twins, Caleb and Kyle? Something tells me that we’ll start out with chocolate squiggles and rapidly progress to decorating each other with liquid chocolate… war paint for my little savages!

But a little bit of a mess is a fair trade for an afternoon of creative fun. As we say around here, that’s why God made soap and water…

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