Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Surviving Snow Days

photo by flickr user bensonkua

We’ve already had three substantial snowstorms this winter in Boston, and my brother in Chattanooga, TN has gotten measurable snow twice.  I think it is already safe to say it’s an unusually precipitous winter.  (Yes, I know that’s not the proper use of the word precipitous, but sometimes I like to be silly with words.)  During last year’s ridiculous mid-Atlantic dumping of snow, I talked with a friend in the DC area who was at her wit’s end cooped up with two little boys under 3.  I made some suggestions that she liked, and I thought I could share some here, too. Most of these tips are geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, partly because that’s where a lot of my experience lies, but also because those age groups tend to have the most challenging cabin fever.

Get active! Gross motor activities are a big part of most kids’ school or daycare days, and without that activity, they may be restless, whiny, and have trouble napping.  Getting the kids out in the snow, sledding, fort-building, or snowball-fighting, is a good way to burn off energy, but sometimes that’s not an option.  When I was a preschool teacher, we’d survive days without outdoor play by designing movement games, like hopping about like frogs on paper lily pads taped to the floor.  Play Twister or a high energy version of Simon Says with jumping jacks, log rolls, sit-ups, etc.  Make an obstacle course.  (My DC friend tried this and she said that the parents spent more time setting up the course than the kids did completing it, but you can extend the play by asking kids to help create new portions or by timing them and encouraging them to try to beat their best time.)  As a nanny, I enjoyed creating scavenger or treasure hunts for the kids, trying to ensure that they’d have to scurry around a lot to complete them and would be tired (and quiet!) after.  Play paper plate frisbee or just put on some music and let the kiddos dance.

Bend, but don’t break, routines. A snow day can be a great excuse to do special things with your kids, like watching movies, drinking cocoa, baking cookies, and staying in PJs all day.  Relaxing or ignoring all the usual rules, though, can be confusing or even scary for kids, especially toddlers and preschoolers, which might lead to behavior issues.  You may want to stick close to your child’s normal weekday schedule or enforce the same cleanup, mealtime, and/or naptime rules as school.

Make it a theme day. With plenty of toys, games, and art supplies, it can be shocking when kids whine to you that they’re bored.  They might have too many options or need a little play inspiration, and a theme is a fun way to channel ideas.  Declare that you are going to have an indoor beach day and play balloon volleyball, draw colorful swimsuit designs, and have a picnic lunch on the floor.  You could have a theater theme and color tragedy and comedy masks, play charades, and see what kinds of costumes you can come up with using things around the house.  Your kids may come up with some great ideas once you start brainstorming.

Be prepared with novelty. I think it can be a lifesaver to have a stash of new toys, crafts, or games.  You can pull out one or two to keep your child happily occupied on a snow day, a plane flight, or other situation where you’re trying to avoid boredom or meltdowns.  Toys and activities don’t even have to be brand new to do the trick; digging something out of the back of the closet or bottom of the toy box that hasn’t been played with in months can have the same effect.  My very favorite novelty items, though, are big boxes.  Appliance boxes are ideal, but smaller ones will do.  They can be turned into a boat, rocket, castle, race car, playhouse, or whatever your little one’s imaginations come up with.   Have the kids decorate the box inside and out and help them come up with pretend play scenarios to get the action started, “Where is the rocket going to land?  Will there be aliens there?”

photo by flickr user supernerdz

Turn chores into games. You may want to get some things done around the house, since you’re stuck there, and with a little creativity, the kids can be helpful, instead of getting in the way.  Need to sort through papers or junk mail?  Let the kids do the shredding or cut or rip up catalogs for collages (or just for the fun of snipping – what is the preschool fascination with scissors?)  Turn figuring out which food storage containers are missing lids into a matching game.  One of my preschool classes had a ton of fun one day scrubbing the classroom’s chairs.  The grown-ups did the majority of the real cleaning, but the kids were happily involved the whole time, and the job got done.  That’s not a great option for when you are stuck indoors (and don’t have 18 grubby plastic chairs), but your child might want to use the Dustbuster while you vacuum, or try to fold towels while you do laundry.

photo by flickr user Pinot & Dita

Engage their senses. Sensory play often captures kids’ attention and imagination better than other activities, allowing them to have fun, and you to read the paper, answer some emails, or do the dishes.  Playdoh and clay are tried and true options, but by no means the only ones.  A big plastic tub with some dry rice or beans along with some basic kitchen items (measuring cups, spoons, funnels) or figurines to bury and dig up is like having an indoor sandbox.  If you squirt some shaving cream on a counter or table, the kids can sculpt it, smush it, and draw in it (and it might get out some old marker or juice stains!)  A simple mixture of cornstarch and water is a messy but really cool preschool teacher fave, sometimes known as goop or oobleck.  It’s weird stuff that feels solid when you squeeze it in your fist and resists when you stir it, but will dribble right through your fingers.  Or bring some snow into the bathtub and let the kids shape, scoop, and build mini snowmen.

Any other tips or ideas? I’d love to hear about other great strategies and activities for dealing with snow days in the comments.  What helps you keep your patience and sanity when a long day inside stretches ahead of you?  Do you have any fond memories of snow days from your own childhood?


Read Full Post »