Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Survive Winter with Young Kids

I live in Minnesota, the polar tundra of the U.S.  Today, it reached a lovely -1 degree, with windchill in the negative teens.  Needless to say, I have some experience taking care of children in cold weather.

I sometimes dream about living in a warmer climate which would enable me to play in the yard every day with my kids, take them for more walks, and go to parks more often.  When it gets this cold, you really can't play outside much (at least, I don't, and my kids certainly don't enjoy it).  Winter can feel isolating.  Cabin fever sink in.  The days start dark and end dark.  Blah.  Winter can be rough.

Why don't I just move?  It's not much of an option, due to my husband's job, so I'm determined to find ways to enjoy being a SAHM to young children even here, where it can be colder than the North Pole (seriously).

So what are some activities you can do with toddlers and preschoolers without leaving your own home?

My favorite Cold Weather (Mostly Free) Survival Ideas:

Travel around the house.  Perhaps this is obvious, but sometimes just initiating a change of scenery within our home helps stop any meltdowns/fights/tantrums.  I might say, "let's all go to the basement!" or "have we been in the living room today?"
*Note: Our house is extremely kid-friendly.  There are no fancy off-limits rooms, and this helps immeasurably when we are inside all day.  I highly recommend abandoning your pre-kid sense of orderliness and cleanliness for everyone's sanity.

Facetime (or Skype).  Is this lame?  My sister and mom live in North Carolina, so Facetime is the only way we see each other on a regular basis.  I can't tell you how often a quick Facetime chat with my sister and our kids is the highlight of my day.

Art Time.  I don't put hours into preparing crafts for my kids, so don't worry, there's no high level skill involved here, but sometimes I like to announce, "it's art time!" and try to make it sound really exciting for us to run into the kitchen and create.  I get out stamps, crayons, markers, whatever, really, and the kids have some creative time.  Bonus: turn on some music.  At times, this can be a magic combination in my house.

Embrace shows.  I know, I feel guilty too if my kids have too much screen time, but sometimes a show for the kids is your only respite during a home-all-day period.  Truth be told, one of my simple joys is when my kids are curled up next to each other watching something while I get a snack or meal together in the kitchen (separate but together downtime!).

Obstacle courses.  If I can muster a tiny bit of energy, I might set up an "obstacle course" in our house where the kids have to race, climb, and jump around.  I get out those foldable tunnels, throw pillows on the floor they have to circle around, and gather up balls they have to bounce.  You get the idea.  The 2 y.o. kind of just follows her older brother, but they always have fun with this.

Scavenger Hunts.  I promise this is easier than it sounds, and my 4 y.o. loves it.  I simply grab a marker and a piece of paper and jot down a list of things for my 4 y.o. to find or do around the house.  He loves speeding through a good "mission," and he can read some of the simpler words (I was a reading teacher in my past life, so I'm all about exposing him to simple phonetic words!).   Examples of items on the lists:  Bring me a red car.  Do 10 jumping jacks.  Color a circle and a square.

Extra Credit for exiting the house in sub-zero temperatures:  YMCA Programs.  Starting at age 3, our local Y offers affordable, low-key, once-a-week sports options that suit my son and are close to our house.  Once or twice a week, it is worth the effort of bundling everyone up and driving there so that he can run around and kick a ball with other kids (while my 2 year old drives me nuts running around the entire gym with me chasing after her.  See?  We all get some exercise.)

Now I'm tired just thinking about all of this, but I hope I've inspired you to find a little fun on a dreary, cold day.  When all else fails, remember, there's nothing wrong with cracking open a cold one that evening.  You deserve it.

Let's help each other out.  What EASY activities have you employed to survive winter with little ones?  Add them to the Comments!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S.  I recently changed my blog address from www.FranticMama.blogspot.com to www.FranticMama.com  in case you want to update your bookmarks!

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  1. Hi there, I love your ideas. I think they are great ideas for really hot and humid indoor weather too when I don't dare go outside. I love making a music band with the kids and have a pretend concert. Perhaps we should swap, I would love some cooler weather :-)

    1. A music band! What fun!
      I really wish we could swap weather for a bit... You live in Australia, right? Ever since I was little, Australia has been my absolute dream place to visit. It looks so amazing!

    2. What we need is a teleportator for instant transport to faraway places :-) lol. I live on the north coast of Australia. You will have to come visit. we could go horse riding on the beach :) Minnesota looks pretty amazing too. I googled it.

    3. I have always said that if I could have one superpower, it would be the ability to teleport! Horses on the beach in Australia sounds dreamy. Add to that the chance to hold a koala, and I'm in! :)

  2. I love the travel around the house idea. Mostly we stay in the living room as it's the only "safe" place for Elf to hang out in. There's too many small toys in Munchkin's room and I really need to get the last of my things out of Elf's room...

    Oiy, what do we do. Um... Munchkin loves to run parkour so almost nightly we'll put on the Assassin's Creed parkour youtube videos (a couple of them have a violent part in them, one we don't watch at all, but if you try this make sure you preview them!) and let Munchkin run back and forth through the house like a crazy person. We have an old foam mattress that we pull out and he does somersaults and cartwheels over it as he's running. We also do a "dance party" where we'll play favorite dance music. This is fun for both of the kids.

    We have "piano play time," where both of them get to sit at the piano and "play." (I do make the caveat that the "rule" is it has to be a "song," which means no key-smashing.)

    And yes, this time of year I embrace shows more than I care to admit. :P It's also hard because while Munchkin and I might go outside, Elf is still pretty little and taking him with us is a challenge.

    Great list though... I am going to try some of these ideas here!

    1. First, I had to Google "parkour" b/c I had never head of it! Sounds perfect for little kids! Haha :).
      Funny you mention an old mattress b/c I thought we were the only ones who did that!! We get out an old blow-up mattress that has somehow withstood hundreds of leaps and jumps from my kids. They call it "crazy time." And it is.
      Love your piano idea. Do you play? If so, you should put a video on your blog of you playing!
      Yes, taking both of my kids outside is hard for me now too-- either the older one wants to do something the younger one can't do, or the younger one wanders off and I have to go chase after her, etc. I feel bad b/c I often just avoid it!


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