As the daylight hours get shorter and temperatures take a nosedive, parents begin to brace for that dreaded family illness that sometimes accompanies the colder months of the year: cabin fever. Fortunately, this is a completely preventable condition, and, with a little planning, the days of winter can be every bit as fun as the summer months.
Start by thinking about what interests your children, then plan indoor activities they’re likely to enjoy—before the cold days arrive. For those kids who like arts and crafts (Asset #17: Creative Activities), you can have your children help you make “busy boxes” with art and activity supplies to be used only during “indoor” days. Kids will look forward to those days when they can bring those boxes off the shelf and dive into some engaging play.
If your children like pretend play, help them choose a favorite movie scene or sports event to act out, or gather their stuffed animals and dolls to conduct a pretend story time at the library (Asset #25: Reading for Pleasure). If they need to be moving, keep some things on hand—jump ropes, balls or pillows for building forts—that only come out on indoor days.
Remember that it’s healthy for kids to be outdoors, even on cold days. Challenge your children to come up with creative things to build in the snow such as snow bears or snow cars. Sledding and ice skating are also great ways to warm up while getting some good exercise. As long as kids are dressed warmly and limited to short periods of time in the cold, they should be fine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children dress in several thin layers covered with a waterproof coat, boots, mittens or gloves and a hat when venturing outside. When properly dressed, 5‐8 year-olds can tolerate temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees for about 15‐20 minutes; 30‐40 minutes for older kids. After warming up inside, they can get back outside for more fun.
When your children are indoors, remember that sometimes when they misbehave, they’re really looking to get your attention. Indoor days offer a great opportunity for you to intentionally engage and connect with your children. And it doesn’t have to be all about playing. You can encourage your children to help you with chores or cooking (Asset #20: Time at Home).
You don’t need to feel responsible for keeping your children active and entertained nonstop. All kids need to learn to entertain themselves and be comfortable spending time alone. Encourage them to come up with their own ideas for down time and suggest quiet times several times per day, for 15‐30 minutes at a time.
Finally, stick to established routines while also reiterating and enforcing proper Boundaries and Expectations. Children need routines, boundaries, expectations and good self-care to grow and thrive, and sometimes parents let those go by the wayside on indoor days. Stick to regular mealtimes and sleeping times. Try to ensure that your children drink plenty of water, avoid junk food, stay active and get 8‐9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
With some preparation, you can avoid cabin fever in your home and actually begin to look forward to spending fun times with your kids during the cold days of winter.
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