100 ways to brighten up your January

100 ways to brighten up your January

Need some ideas to brighten up boring old January? Gurgle comes to the rescue with a bumper list to thrill the troops

Cinema copy

1. Watch a movie

Go on, download a classic. Nothing beats snuggling up in front of a movie on a dismal day. Don’t feel guilty about it, go all out.

2. Host an afternoon matinée

Transform your living room into a matinée lounge. Invite the NCT troops and give in to yet another Frozen sing-along, or introduce the little ones to films you loved as a child. Maybe even give them a chorus of 'A Spoonful Of Sugar'!

3. Hire a cinema

Whether it’s for a birthday party or just because, hiring a cinema for a private screening will add a bit of showbiz sparkle to any day. Many cinemas – including Cineworld and Everyman – have screens available for children’s parties and some do deals on popcorn and drinks, too.

4. Build a dinosaur

You don’t have to be a nimble-fingered domestic goddess to knock up a cute stuffed toy. Just follow the instructions on this Diego dinosaur craft kit and wow a pint-sized palaeontologist.

5. Show off at teatime

Make mealtimes fun by playing a game with benefits. You shout out a colour, they have to find it on the plate and gobble it up. Genius.

6. Dig the hot diggity dogs

This cute cardboard hotdog stand should lure even picky eaters to the table. It comes with stickers and a mini chalkboard – and flips to be a popcorn stall too. But best of all, there’s no washing up.

7. Recycle your Christmas cards

Wander no further than the recycling bin for this crafty project, cutting up old cards into gift labels ready for next Christmas. Add glitter and invest in a cheap packet of children’s craft scissors to get those nice wiggly edges – just don’t forget to let the children have a go too.

8. Master some impressions

If your little one’s favourite characters are worthy of a standing ovation, why not wow them with a few impressions?Just pick a character with a catchphrase or distinctive voice, copy the key mannerisms and practice in front of the mirror.

9. Make ’em laugh louder

Want to make your act perfect? Record yourself on your phone and play it back until you’ve nailed it. We suggest an easy Upsy Daisy, followed by a Captain Jack Sparrow and a hammy Daddy Pig.

10. Five fab new books

Noisy Dinosaurs by Sam Taplin and Lee Wildish
Maisy's Wonderful Weather Book by Lucy Cousins
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin
What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Schwartz
The underwater fancy-dress parade by Davina Bell

11. Recycle some toys

A toy clear-out is almost as satisfying as having a good Facebook cull. There are plenty of places where old toys in reasonable nick are needed – ask at your local playgroups and hospitals or choose a favourite charity shop. Get the kids excited about the children they’ll be helping – and then a new toy as a reward won’t go amiss...

12. Paint the town

Prise those little fingers off your tablet and introduce them instead to the real-life joy of a painting book.

13. Host Britain’s Got Talent!

You’ve got your legendary Macarena, your husband is the master of armpit blow-offs, the four-year-old knows all the words to the Ben 10 theme tune and the baby can blow big raspberries... but who’s best?

14. Now up the ante

Invite friends round, make the kitchen table into a judges’ platform and let everyone do a turn. The winner gets to perform for the Queen at the Royal Variety Show – well, a teddy in a plastic tiara, anyway.

15. Add a professional touch

Make it even more fun with a set of four very loud and magnificent Light & Sound Answer Buzzers (£18, funlearning.co.uk).

16. Have fancy dress fun

Extra points are to be had for silly style, so go to town with your talent show outfits. Think crazy hats, oversized sunglasses and something daft for daddy too. Don a wig and your giggly kids will just about forgive your awful singing voice.

17. Go on, pimp their little trainers

If you’re struggling for creative inspiration, chances are your bookshelf or desktop needs a reboot. The simplest idea in Home Made Simple for Kids is also one of its best: customised plimsolls.

18. Stay unplugged for 24 hours

Tech detoxes are all the rage. Chuck the family’s gizmos in a biscuit tin and enjoy some real-life facetime in all its snotty, grinning, yoghurt-smeared glory.

19. Remember prancing around like kylie?

Stick on some pre-tween pop and work out your moves as a family ensemble.

20. Shake a tailfeather

For an easy-to-follow routine for very little ones, The Hot Dog Dance from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is just a click away and comes complete with easy moves and instructions from none other than Donald Duck.

21. Taylor made

Kids always love Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and the video (parental advisory: contains mock-twerking) features her mucking about as a ballerina, cheerleader and breakdancer. Dress up and dance along.

22. Bake a batch of biscuits!

We’re intrigued by Victoria Glass' chownies, sneezecakes and tiramuffins in her book, Baking Mash-Up. But our favourite has to be the Short Baldies. Seriously.

Baldies copy

23. Beach bums

There’s no better antidote to being cooped up indoors than lungfuls of salty air, miles of flat sand to run around on, and fish and chips at the end of the day.

24. Go on a Welsh nature trail

Broad Haven on the Pembroke coast has rock pools to delve into, shallow waters and nature walks nearby as well as acres of sand. If you’re taking a pram, Benllech’s long promenade on the Isle of Anglesey is perfect.

25. Stage a Scottish scene

Get your little ones to recreate the famous opening moments of Chariots Of Fire at its film location – West Sands beach in St Andrews, Fife. The historic town is a 15-minute walk away.

26. Spot wildlife in England

There’s more than just miles of sand at Formby on Merseyside, there’s also a red squirrel trail, and Neolithic footprints have been found. Down south, West Wittering beach in West Sussex is a haven for water birds, and the café stays open in winter.


27. Make a whole lotta dough

Make a ciabatta family with cookie cutters and introduce the kids to the magic of dough. Start the night before and they can see how much it’s risen by morning.

28. Make a speedy pizza 

When you need a meal pronto and the kids want to help, we've got some great, easy recipes. But why stop at cheese and tomato? Let the children design their own toppings – Nutella and strawberries, anyone? We've got recipes for a Pizza Bianco, a vegetable and salsa verde scone pizza - and even a healthy alternative, a roasted vegetable wrap pizza.

29. Arrange some winter foliage

Spring’s riot of colour may feel like a long way off, but there are still leaves, twigs and seed pods to be gathered up on a family tramp though the woods. Then let everyone help arrange them back at home.

30. Get crafty

The humble egg box can be transformed into so many things with scissors, paint and glue: ladybirds, frogs, angels, spiders, even Angry Birds! If you need inspiration, just check out Pinterest (and find us on Pinterest here!).

31. It’s a wrap

As if bubble wrap wasn’t already brilliant enough... Save all that packaging from your late-night Amazon impulse buys, paint swirls on it and press it onto paper for some seriously dotty patterns.

32. All sewn up 

Designer Rebecca Danger's crafting book Baby Says Sew is made for mums; approved by babies.

33. Hire a cleaner

You’ve Calpoled through winter colds, survived Christmas and endured a 5am showing of Peppa Pig with a 1 January hangover. Do you really feel like scrubbing the loo again? Treat yourself and hire some help.

34. Have a hoot

It’s easy to lose a couple of hours of your day knocking up this wild bunch. The biggest challenge? Allowing tots to help.

35. Book some time away

It’s hardly surprising that Christmas-addled viewers are targeted with sunshine-filled TV ads in January – but why wait till summer to get away? Grab a last-minute family deal now.

36. Grown-ups only

Sleep deprivation and the faint smell of milk sick are not, let’s face it, aphrodisiacs. Offload the baby, book a hotel, order room service, tear each other’s clothes off – then sleep for eight hours straight.

37. Ask who wants to be a pirate today?

Few things beat piling into the fancy dress box on a rainy day. Pirates Of The Caribbean and Frozen princesses are all the rage so hit eBay and update your collection. Or let them chose their own from the massive selection at elc.co.uk.

38. Create a costume drama

Don’t send the kids to nursery wrapped in foil claiming to be the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Ozagain – when World Book Day rolls around. Get plotting now and feel super smug about the fabulous outfit on 3 March.

39. Five new movies to pop in your diary

Kung Fu Panda 3 - 11 March
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip - 12 February
Norm of the North - 18 March
Zootopia - 25 March
Peanuts - already out!

40. Roll up, roll up

There’s no need to run away and join the circus when you can set one up in your own back garden. This big top-themed waterproof tent can be left pitched outside all year round, or used indoors instead.

41. Start a band! You know you want to

Make shakers out of plastic cups, dried beans and sticky tape, rain sticks from rice and kitchen roll tubes, fashion ‘guitars’ from old ice-cream tubs, pipe cleaners and rubber bands, assemble a cardboard box drum kit and have a family jam session. The neighbours will be thrilled!

42. Have more fun with cake

We’re not suggesting you overload your little ones with sugar, but if you take a leaf out of Jodie Levine’s Candy Aisle Crafts you’ll feel you’ve earned a sweet treat by the time you’ve finished. There are loads of ideas for arty little things to do with sweets.

43. Turn a bathroom into a playzone

Whingy, fractious, tired – and that’s just you. Reboot bathtime to funtime – it is nearly wine o’clock! Make a Splish Splash playlist, and invest in lovely bubble bath plus cute hooded towels to tempt them out of the water – cuddledry has cows, giraffes, bunnies and dragons.

44. Toytastic 

We rate JoJo Maman Bébé’s duck fishing game, cupcake squirters, bubble blowers and water-colouring fizzy tints.

45. Hair-raising

Have a crazy hairstyles competition. Of course, there’s the classic shampoo mohawk, but how many more can you muster in under a minute? Take a daytime dip together
Tots relish a splash morning, noon or night and they’ll just love that you’re in the tub too.


46. Go out and brave the elements

When the sun shines, get bundled up and grab the opportunity to explore a park or playground that you’ve never visited. We love the flashy new undercover one at McArthurGlen in Swindon. And the shopping too!

47. Make the silliest sarnie ever

Sometimes the best ideas are born out of total silliness, as in this Smartie sandwich featured in Ms Marmite Lover’s Secret Tea Party. Yes, yes, it’s a gobsmacker on so many levels, but how could something that looks so right be all that wrong?

48. Try out a new club

If you’re going stir-crazy, sign up to a new club. Your little one gets to try something new and you can have conversations with local mums – even if they are peppered with, ‘Holly! Please stop chewing Lewis’s shoe!’

49. Go clubbing

Find something that you’d like to do. Check out your local WI branch – it’s cast off its old ‘jam and Jerusalem’ image – or NCT group, for classes, outings and other events for mums.

50. Curate a gallery

Your kids’ Pollock-inspired paint splatters are delightful but for some fridge-worthy bits of art get help from Jackie Bahbout’s Make Art With Your Hands And Feet (£8.95 Thames & Hudson) – they’ll love the fun templates.

51. Chalk it up

Slap some blackboard paint onto a spare wall to create an instant canvas. Then get down and show tots how to doodle their name or count up to ten.

52. Stick up some animal art

If your tot is totally into tigers or can’t get enough of elephants, seeing them on the walls will thrill. Use huge wall stickers and simply swap them when their next obsession hits.

53. Go gloebtrotting

Ever sailed the high seas from your sofa, flown over islands on a pillow plane or travelled in a cardboard box train? If not, you haven’t lived. Find a map, pick a place to visit and use your imaginations to get you there.

54. Feast on far-away foods

Children love learning about countries via their tummies. Taste Italy with mini pizzas, slurp bowls of noodles and get to know China, or show the flavours of Spain with an easy seafood paella. They’ll devour the knowledge with their dinner.

55. Raise the bar with a mini Olympics

Keep the 2012 spirit alive by turning a dull weekend, play date or NCT meet-up into a sporting extravaganza. Hand out medals to everyone too.

56. Turn them into track stars

If the weather’s dry, take them outside and try to emulate Yorkshire’s amazing Brownlee brothers with a scoot, bike and run triathlon around the park.

57. Get inventive indoors

Don’t let rain or snow stop you. Dish out prizes for running on the spot, best forwards roll, hopping down the hallway and throwing a beanbag in a bucket.

58. Stage Silly Olympics

If your kids aren’t inspired by trad sports, there’s nothing wrong with silly categories. How about pretend swimming or hobby-horse dressage?

59.  Weird science

Score cool points by making your own slime, and get little ones thinking about fluids and solids. A basic recipe is double cornflour to water – add food colouring to make it interesting.

60. High voltage

Learn about static electricity by rubbing a balloon on a snuggly winter jumper and applying to a child’s hair. Added bonus: it makes them look very funny.

61. More play indoors

If it’s raining out – or if you just fancy staying in your PJs – try your hand at indoor games. Who says you can’t play hopscotch in the hallway?

62. Go on a bear hunt

Bring everyone’s favourite story to life by staging a real-life bear hunt at home. Make it exciting enough and maybe the kids will nod off after hiding under the duvet at the end...

63. Look for hidden treasures

Fire their imaginations with a treasure hunt, or, if they’re too little for clues, have an indoor sweetie hunt. If an older sibling is on hand to run the show, just put your feet up with Gurgle.

64. Sow some seeds and sit tight

Encourage little green fingers and get a gardening project going on. Cress and sunflowers grow fast, or how about Project Maya’s eco line of wildflower seedballs?

65. Four tot-tastic restaurants

Sparks Yard
This is a three-storey shop and restaurant in Arundel, West Sussex. Its restaurant, called The Loft, has fab views, a Californian-inspired menu, plus an emphasis on welcoming little people as well as big ones.
Rainforest Café
With gorillas, elephants, crocs, fish and a starry sky, London’s Rainforest Café is guaranteed to blow little socks off on a trip to the capital.
Whitmuir Kitchen
The restaurant at the Whitmuir Organic Place working farm near Edinburgh welcomes children for a slap-up organic breakfast, lunch or snacks.
Brasserie Blanc
Lucky tots! Chef Raymond Blanc's Brasserie Blanc chain boasts an Henri Le Worm kids' menu, with fresh, seasonal dishes including mini moules from £5.95, plus complimentary organic purée for babies. Yum!

66. Get on-trend and learn to crochet

What is it about having a baby that makes a girl start cooing over crochet booties? For those who can, Vita Apala’s Super Cute Crochet For Little Feet is the book for you. And for those who can’t, well, perhaps it isn’t.

67. Help them make their own album

Print out their digital photos – or go old-school: use ‘real’ film and send it away – then set the kids to work assembling a good old-fashioned family album.

68. Make monster fun

Make your own Gruffalo-style scary beast by asking everyone to draw a monster part or two – horns, tail, scaly body, hairy arms, big ears – then cut them out and glue them together.

69. Frightfully sweet

Create scary biscuits by using plastic creepy-crawlies to make imprints in cookie dough – make sure the toys are food safe and wash them first.

70. Five thrilling apps

CBeebies playtime
The CBeebies Playtime app features favourites including Alphablocks, Octonauts and Mr Tumble, requires no internet connection once downloaded, can be customised by your little one, and some games can be adapted for children with special needs. Wonderful stuff.
A truly mixed-media app – kids put an iPhone or iPad on a sheet of paper and draw the missing bits of an on-screen creature around it.
Toca Boca
Among the many activities on these cute apps, you can cut, curl and comb in the Toca Hair Salon Me or chop, fry and blitz treats for Toca Kitchen Monsters.
Magic Fingers
Sparks fly from little fingers when they touch the screen while this iTunes app plays great music like Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy. Fifty effects to hypnotise babies for at least five minutes. Enough said.
Nosy Crow
This children’s publisher has wonderful interactive stories including classics such as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood as well as educational Franklin Frog and Flip Flap Farm for very young children.

71. Join the library

Choosing books at the library used to be such a childhood treat. Sign up again and get out of that bedtime story rut.

72. Yeah, let’s make some bunnies

‘I don’t like bunnies,’ said no child ever. Create a cardboard rabbit family from Make Your Own Woodland Creatures. Then try the cheery chipmunk, furry ferret and mighty moose too.

73. Find a corner, make a den!

There’s nothing more exciting than a secret indoor hideaway, so why not create an amazing space for your little tyke? You’d be surprised at what you can create with a bed sheet and a couple of chairs.

74. Unfold an adventure

Buy a fold-away den - this one's from MOOD - so tots can get an instant camping vibe without dismantling your entire sitting room. Grab a few toys, chuck in a cushion, chill!

Den copy

75. Do absolutely nothing at all

Sometimes, the most fun times with your child are when you’re not doing very much at all. No plans, no agenda, no dashing about. Make silly faces at each other, lie on the bed and kick your legs in the air, or bundle on the sofa for lots of cuddles. All very free and easy – phew.


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