Help the Kids Beat the Winter Blahs


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The cold weather that felt festive in December has lost its novelty, and we’re left with colds and cabin fever. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can banish the winter blahs this season by finding fun indoors and out.

Banish Boredom

Even if you avoid actual fevers and colds, cabin fever can be a problem. When your kids ask, “What can I do?” be ready with fresh ideas and materials for inside or outside.

Inside: Mom Jennifer Hemphill keeps a winter kit handy that includes games, puzzles, craft projects and toys her kids don’t usually play with. To make your own box, pick up some fresh craft supplies, activity or coloring books, and a new game or puzzle. Add some games or toys your kids haven’t used in a while or do a neighborhood toy swap to round out your kit.

Intrigue kids — and keep them busy — with a treasure hunt. Make a map or write a set of clues that leads your kids around the house — or even outside — and finally back to where you’ve hidden their prize — something unexpected from your winter kit.

Outside: Go beyond snowmen and sledding. Challenge kids to race up snow piles or create obstacle courses through the snow. Bring out water-based paints or squirt bottles of water tinged with food coloring and let kids make pictures in the snow.

No snow? Pull out off-season favorites like bikes and balls. Use sidewalk chalk to draw snowmen or other wintery scenes.

Get Moving

Exercise helps raise serotonin levels, which can help keep us happy. Work around winter chill and ice to keep the whole family active.

Inside: If it’s too cold or icy outside, crank up the tunes and get dancing. Put together a playlist of favorite upbeat songs.

Encourage your kids to imitate you as you follow an exercise DVD. Fitness coach Selena Moffitt uses 15-minute workouts this way to up her energy, burn off of her kids’ energy and get all of them laughing.

Outside: Does your family have a favorite winter outdoor sport? If not — or if a long winter has you tired of that — try something new. Think sledding, skiing (downhill or cross-country), snowboarding, snowshoeing, or skating. Many ski areas, skating rinks and outdoor centers rent equipment so you can try a new activity without a big investment. Just layer up and get out there.

Seek Signs of Life

Even though winter is a time of dormancy for many plants and animals, you can still grow things indoors and observe nature.

Inside: Brighten up your house by growing something green. Good options include flowering bulbs for color and fragrance and things you can eat, like bean or alfalfa sprouts, or potted herb plants. While they aren’t green, mushrooms are another edible food that’s fun to grow. Mushroom kits are easy to set up, and kids can mist your mushroom garden daily.

Set up a bird feeder outside a window, so you can bird watch from inside. Better yet, make a bird feeder as a snowy day activity. For a simple project, the Audobon Society suggests filling a large pinecone with ground suet mixed with seeds or with peanut butter blended with cornmeal (1:5 ratio). Hang the pinecone from a tree and see who comes to visit.

Outside: Visit the library and pick up some books on animal tracks and what animals do in the winter. Then take a walk, snow or not, and look for signs of animal life, like tracks, scat, and signs of gnawing or burrowing.

What else looks different in winter? With foliage gone, notice the shapes of trees or views that are otherwise hidden. See what colors you can find in nature even in this muted time. Bring a camera and let kids take pictures to compare favorite spots throughout the seasons

Play with Light

Instead of grumbling about the early darkness, make the most of the dark days.

Inside: Instead of turning on the lights some evening, try one of these activities. Pop some popcorn and have a family movie night. Let kids play with glow sticks.

Look at every day activities in a new light. Eat dinner by candlelight. Build a fort and tell bedtime stories by flashlight.

Outside: Shorter days can make it hard to find enough time to get outside, but don’t let the dark stop you. Grab a headlamp or flashlight and some reflective clothing and take a walk in the dark. Bundle up to check out the stars in the winter nighttime sky. Inside will feel extra cozy and bright when you come back.  

We’ve still got a lot of winter left, but don’t worry. Just keep things fresh inside, and don’t forget to think outside the box (or the house) to banish those winter blahs this season.

Winter Party Ideas

Break up the monotony of winter with a party designed to forget the cold or embrace it.

Indoor beach party. To set the scene, make your home extra bright and warm and play surf-inspired tunes or something with Caribbean flavor. Have every onedress in shorts, T-shirts (or even bathing suits) and flip flops. Add some warm weather fun: 

  • Give kids some water playtime in the tub or sink. Add buckets, toy boats, and fish or other sea creatures. 
  • Hold a sand castle contest. Give each person a pan or plastic bin filled with damp sandbox sand. Use serving bowls and cups instead of buckets. 
  • Lay out towels or a blanket and serve dinner picnic-style. Serve lemonade or tropical drinks. Offer your summer or beach favorites — sandwiches and chips, hamburgers and hot dogs, grilled chicken, and potato salad. For dessert, how about a popsicle?

Outdoor block party. A block party can be fun, even in winter. Plan a midday gathering to benefit from any sun and warmth the day may bring. Bring extra blankets to help people stay warm.

  • Light a fire in an outdoor fireplace or firepit — don’t forget the marshmallows.
  • Chilly? Turn to a hearty chili to keep you warm. Hold a neighborhood chili contest. You can use slow cookers to keep chili warm throughout the party. Add sides of sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips and corn bread.
  • Insulated pitchers and bottles keep cocoa or hot cider ready to warm everyone up. Add mitten- or snowflake-shaped cookies to for an extra wintery theme.
  • Moving warms you up, so hold races, a dance contest or a “parka parade.”

Sara Barry is a freelance writer who enjoys snowshoeing, making snowmen with her daughters and reading in front of a fire.

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