Oldies-but-goodies to play on a winter day

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

When winter sets in, so can the ''nothing to do'' blues. With an abundance of toys around, that may sound ridiculous to adult ears, but is it so different from our own cries of ''nothing to wear'' - even if the closet's full of clothes? The real plea is for a change from what's always there.

Many parents are looking for alternatives to hours spent in front of the TV. Some of these suggestions may jog a memory from your own childhood.

Boxes. Cartons can be made into many wonderful things. Lined up in a row, they become a train ready for cargo or passengers. One large enough to hold mom or dad in the caboose always brings a smile. Boxes can be used as hiding places with peepholes cut out for spying. Little children love to nest and unnest in different-size cartons or build a tower that topples. Shoe boxes make great garages for toy cars and trucks. Oatmeal boxes become spaceships, cradles, or silos.

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If you have the means to get them home, large appliance boxes become houses, stores, or post offices. (Plan on these being a part of the furniture for a while; our ''post office'' was the hit of the neighborhood for months.) Doors and windows that open and close can be easily made with a sharp knife - strictly an adult's job.

Tents. A card table with a blanket or sheet over it is a private haven. Add two tables, and it becomes a condo! A tunnel entrance can be achieved by using chairs or TV trays to hold up the covering. If the day is dark and rainy, a flashlight makes it especially cozy inside. And how about a sack lunch? If a parent drops in, it really becomes a party.

Clothespins in a bottle. Remember this one? Since most households use dryers, a small investment in clothespins may be necessary. The game is to stand up straight over a wide-neck bottle or jar, squint, take aim, and drop the clothespins in. Not as easy as it looks.

Tissues and straws. This is another oldie-but-goody, requiring two bowls, straws (preferably plastic), tissue-paper cutouts, and a timer. Object: By sucking in through the straw, use it to move the tissues from one bowl to the other - usually at opposite ends of the room - in a designated amount of time. Dropped tissues must be picked up before going on. Whoever transfers the most tissues wins.

Special toy box. This is brought out only on nothing-to-do days. The box can contain forgotten old toys, ''surplus'' items from a birthday or Christmas that produced an overload, and small items added by parents from time to time as a surprise.

Water-glass music. Fill eight or 10 glasses with different amounts of water. A gentle tap will produce different musical tones. This one's good for hours of fun for the whole family. Make it an orchestra!

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