Where were you when the lights went out?
August 22, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

It looks like we are going to have a tropical storm pass by where I live tomorrow. From my experience this means a couple of days without electricity. Could you suggest activities that will help keep my five year old son (and wife and mother-in-law and myself) engaged if there is going to be no television, internet, kindergarten, and lights?

I am thinking mostly of the aftermath, but maybe activities during the actual storm may be helpful, to deflect the notion of the harsh winds at an age when my son can still get scared easily. We will have candlelight at night, occasional flashlights if the lights go out. Depending on how the storm hits it could be no lights for a couple of days or several. (Typical Puerto Rican turnaround for electrical outages.) I am suspecting we can go to the beach or park in the day, and reading will be easy but night is going to be more difficult. I want this to an adventure for my son, not a torment. There is a good chance that neighbor kids will be there for my son to play with but, sometimes with the extended families in Puerto Rico, they all disappear to other relatives' houses.
posted by dances_with_sneetches to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Will there be cloud cover? There's some excellent stargazing to be had during blackouts.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2012

Our kids actually love blackouts, for some reason... we try to make them feel "exciting" and novel rather than scary and threatening.

- Do you have a gas stove? There are plenty of fun recipes to make (Rice Krispy treats, fudge, etc.) that are entirely stovetop-based.

- You can set up flashlights pointed towards the ceiling as "lanterns" and drape a blanket over furniture as a "tent" and go indoor-camping!

- So long as your routine is shaken up by the storm, you could shake up other things, too - breakfast for dinner, wear your pajamas all day, etc.

- If your kid is amenable, whole-family wordplay games are always fun, as are board games (by flashlight, of course).
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2012

Board games are great during power outages. I know your kiddo is a little on the young side for that, so you may get incredibly sick of Candyland.

Also, just getting stuff done can be pretty interesting when the power is out/after a storm. Like, will you have cooking facilities? I also have fond memories of cooking stuff on the camp stove in the garage. Obviously a five-year-old shouldn't be cleaning up broken glass or anything but some yard- or house-tidying could be fun.

Walks around the neighborhood to look at the damage are also fun (if it's safe to do so).

I have super-fond memories of power outages. My parents remember the same events as terrible slogs with either no heat or a refrigerator full of food going bad. But my sister and I were totally entertained. All I remember is cooking and board games. I think maybe part of it was that it was nice to just have some unstructured time with my family where none of us was running off to do something.

Last year I was without power for four days and I did a lot of reading. I wore a headlamp at night. It wasn't as much fun as when I was a kid.
posted by mskyle at 8:14 AM on August 22, 2012

The beach should be... interesting at times (yikes!) as long as no one goes swimming.

In storms like that, it's fun to read to each other. Also it's a good time to learn new card games. (We can play cards for hours and HOURS when the power is out.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:16 AM on August 22, 2012

My kids also love blackouts! Some activities we enjoy:

"Mozart" -- playing the piano by the light of a candelabra
reading books on iPad/Kindle (charge it up before you go)
stargazing (awesome when all the ambient/city light is out)
posted by apparently at 8:17 AM on August 22, 2012

We had this happen to us last year when a hurricane rolled through (Pennsylvania, USA). No power for three days.

- Cookouts! We have a charcoal grill and had delicious BBQ every meal!
- Definitely walks around the neighborhood. My boys were fascinated by the wrecked trees.
- Card games like UNO, Old Maid, Go Fish, and so on.
- Reading books together. All five us would lay down on the bed together as my wife read from books like Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: He just turned five and we haven't gotten any board games. I think card games are still a bit beyond him. We do have Operation as long as the battery lasts.
We are kind of unprepared. I'm not much of a cookout barbecue guy so we don't have that option. Stove is electric.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:41 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Art projects by candlelight, which then lead to games. You can make a deck of Old Maid cards and then play.

Or you can make props for telling stories. Make hats for firemen, pirates, chef, etc and then tell stories about each one. Or assign each family member to be one of those roles and have them hide in another room of the house. You team up with child and flashlights to hunt around the house and find the relatives. Use lots of exaggerated walking styles - big stomping, little quiet baby steps, act like various animals, with appropriate movements and noises. When you someone, let them tell a story or act out a scene, or let them be the child's companion in the search for the next relative.

Be careful in this type of play-in-the-dark that you are not trying to scare the child - don't let relatives jump out from behind stores and shout in child's face. But just have them sit in a dark room, or with their own flashlight/candle and just let the child open the door to discover who is in that room. And it's all about the narrative - secret chambers of the nautilus holding all kinds of treasures and fascinating people. What/who can we find? What can we point our flashlight at which is now fascinating to look at?

For mealtimes, whatever food you have available to eat without heating is fine, but make up stories about being pirates in the hold of a ship and the mean soldiers are only letting us eat these crackers. But we are going to LOVE these crackers because we have a secret jar of peanut butter that the captain didn't know about!!! Then you have to eat them in a secret way and maybe keep the peanut butter hidden from the mean soldier who walks by to check on the prisoners. And aha!! we also have jelly beans and he'll never catch us eating those. because we are so skillful as captive pirates.

posted by CathyG at 10:16 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just one suggestion: build a fort made of pillows and sheets! You are now sailing the turbulent seas with your five year old. It's an age of great imagination and infinite willingness to play.
posted by Temeraria at 10:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get a battery powered radio, both for entertainment and as a means to stay informed about current conditions.

As a kid, I loved roasting marshmallows over a candle during blackouts. My own kids failed to be enthused about this. YMMV.

In the category of "if you cannot be a good example, be a terrible warning", when I ran out of other things to do one night during a blackout, I indulged my mild pyromania tendencies and taught my kids to melt candles, build match stick chains, etc and generally play with fire. They had permission to then do this at other times, provided they followed all safety rules and safely and properly cleaned it up afterwards, which was a meticulous, boring procedure that rapidly cured them of any fascination with playing with fire. The unintended innoculation against them catching their mom's pyromania is the only reason I think it is appropriate to share in this discussion. (My oldest was between 5 and 7 at the time, his brother was between 3 and 5.) YMMV.
posted by Michele in California at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2012

Being read to in a pillow fort during a long power outage is one of my fondest childhood memories.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:15 PM on August 22, 2012

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