Winter can be cozy but at some point, we’re left with cold, colds, and cabin fever. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can banish the winter blahs this season by finding fun - indoors and out!
Even if you avoid actual fevers and colds, cabin fever can be a problem. When your kids ask, “What can we do?” be ready with fresh ideas and materials for inside or outside.
Jennifer Hemphill keeps a winter kit handy that includes games, puzzles, craft projects, and toys her kids don’t usually get to 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 out a set of clues that lead your kids around the house - or even outside if weather permits - and finally back to where you’ve hidden their prize: something unexpected from your winter kit.
Go beyond building snowmen and going 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 wintry scenes.
Exercise helps raise serotonin levels, which helps keep us happy. Work around winter chill and ice to keep the whole family active.
If it’s too cold or icy outside to get in some physical activity as a family, 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 some energy in her kids, and get them all laughing. Let your kids lead you! My kids love dancing to videos on YouTube they did in health class (and are amused watching me try to keep up!).
Does your family have a favorite winter outdoor sport? If not, try something new. Think sledding, skiing (downhill or cross-country), snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, or tubing. Many ski areas, skating rinks, and outdoor centres rent equipment, so your family can try a new activity without a big investment. 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.
Brighten up your house by growing something green. Some 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. Nutritionist Sara Bradford recommends mushrooms as one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which most of us need more of during the winter.
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 Audubon 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.
Visit the library and pick up some books on animal tracks and what animals do in the winter. Then take a winter 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!
When darkness falls, pop some popcorn and have a family movie night. Keep the lights off and let kids play with glow sticks.
Look at everyday activities in a new light. Eat dinner by candlelight. Build a fort and tell bedtime stories by flashlight.
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.
Sara is a freelance writer whose favorite winter activities include snowshoeing, making snowmen with her daughters, and reading in front of a fire.
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