Yes, you read that correctly, I said, "kids are like plants" All you have to do is give them sunlight, fresh air, and water. When they are climbing the walls and driving you insane just remember this mantra and it will save your sanity. Throw your kids outside into the backyard, deck, front yard, driveway, where ever you can to get them out for some sunshine and fresh air. It will do wonders for your own sanity and theirs.
When my girls are feeling grumpy, or more likely their mother is...we head out into the yard with chalk, plastic animals, match book cars and explore nature. If it's warm enough (over 80) I'll turn on the sprinkler for a bit to water the plants and my kids. This isn't some great new parenting concept ... my grandmother used to toss all 7 of her kids outside so they wouldn't drive her crazy. My own mother was known to send me outside with a coffee can of water and a paint brush on a warm day to "paint" our back steps while she got dinner started. There is even a name for it now (...no, not child negligence!) the Green Hour is meant to encourage parents to send their kids outside to play and explore nature instead of plugging them into the television, computer, or a video game. The sand and water table on our deck makes a fabulous hand exfoliation spa.
Another favorite activity is making nature bracelets with a roll of masking tape and some awesome hunting and gathering skills. I make an inside-out bracelet on each of the girls with the tape (sticky side out) and we collect leaves, flower petals, seeds, grass, etc. to decorate our nature bracelets. Daddy gets quite a fashion show when he gets home from work!
Even on a rainy day you can put them in raincoats, and flip flops, or rain boots and take them outside to splash in puddles. If it's too cold or gross outside, just make your own inside water table with an under bed plastic storage box with a couple of inches of water. I also do this when it's snowy outside. Sometimes I'll add a bowl full of snow to the mix and we make an Artic wonderland with plastic penguins, polly pockets, and plastic dinosaurs. I'm considering scrubbing out our sand table and hauling it into the kitchen for the winter to fill with water (+ a dash of hand soap) to keep my girlies occupied. Whether they realize it or not, it's a great way to clean their hands during cold and flu season!
If you don't want to mess with the whole plastic tub of water thing you can always go old school with the kitchen sink or your bathtub, they'll have a blast and it will buy you at least 20-45 minutes of kid entertainment and that ladies is priceless!