Warding off the Winter Blues

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Winter is my least favorite time of year, partially because I am literally allergic to the cold (I break out in
hives), but also because it puts so many limits on what my family can do to have fun. Now that my
children are school aged, I work from home while they are at school. This works out great until a snow
day comes along. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep an arsenal of ideas at the ready this time of year.
It keeps my kids happy, which keeps me happy.

Indoor Activities

One of the key components to the success of winter time activities is doing things we’ve never done
before. I keep a Pinterest board full of indoor activity ideas. From that, I usually try to pick a theme for a
day/weekend if I know we are going to be stuck at home. Picking a broad theme like art, science, or
even super heroes helps me stay focused as I’m planning what to do.

A great time to pick up supplies for selected activities is when you’re doing your “bread and milk”
grocery run before the weather sets in. That way you’ll have food and fun! Here are a few activity ideas
that don’t require much in the way of store-bought supplies:

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  • Art Prompts: There are tons of creative art ideas online for kids of all ages (and parents
    can have fun with them too). This list is a great place to start: 75 Creative Drawing Ideas
    for Kids
    .
  • Obstacle Course: Use items from around the house to create an obstacle course that is
    age appropriate for you kiddo. Older children can build their own, or do some
    rearranging to make this activity last longer.
  • Blanket Forts: There is something magical about blanket forts. Doing a regular activity
    like eating, reading books, or playing with toys takes on new life in a fort.
  • Phone a Friend: Snow days are a great time to call or skype with friends and relatives
    both near and far. It breaks up feelings of isolation on both ends of the line!

Fun Food

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Cold or not, we still have to eat, and food can be another venue to introduce something new and
entertaining. It can be as simple as picking out a new fruit or type of cheese to try. This year the kids
and I made snow cream for the first time. It’s a simple recipe:

  • 4 cups snow
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

When my kids were younger, we often used finger foods to make “Healthy Happy Meals” – using the
food to make a smiley face on the plate. Bonus points if you can tie your food to your theme for the day!

Time Travel

Once kids are old enough to have an opinion, you can use your time with your captive audience to plan
ahead. This can get your mind off of the dreary winter by envisioning the future of warmer, sunnier
times. My son and I planned his March birthday party on a recent snow day. My daughter helped me
catalog the seeds I have for this spring’s garden so that I could make a list of what I still needed. She
also plotted out what she would like to plant in “her” raised bed. You could also get the kids involved in
planning future vacations, or perhaps just a future playdate or a visit to a fun place near you.

Home Projects

Even toddlers can help with projects around the house. If your kitchen cabinets are out of control, have
your little one take everything out of a bottom cabinet (assuming the contents are safe for a child to
handle). You can come behind them to sort and organize while they unload the next cabinet. You can
also use this method to purge and organize dressers and closets. Older kids can also help make a list of
clothing they will need for the next season.

Happy from the Inside Out

No matter how much energy you put into keeping the kids happily fed and occupied, the winter blues
can still creep in. Battling these feelings from the inside out is important. As a work at home parent, I
have found that simply taking a shower and getting dressed can vastly improve my mood as compared
to staying in PJs all day. I also try to position our activities near a window so that we can soak up as
much vitamin D as possible. Recent studies have linked brain health with gut health and have found that
anxiety and depression can be decreased by eating foods with prebiotics and probiotics. Foods heavy in
prebiotics include artichoke, asparagus, leeks, and onions. Foods containing probiotics include live
cultured yogurt, soy products (milk, edamame, tofu), and dark chocolate. I try to use winter time to
refocus on taking good care of myself so that I can take good care of my family.

Fawn Warner-Rechkemmer

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Fawn is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media consultant. She writes about motherhood, frugality,
healthy living, and travel. Fawn enjoys working with small businesses and family-friendly brands in their
efforts to make life easier and fun for parents and kids. She is the mother of a six year old boy and a eight
year old girl. Her husband is a children’s dentist, so she can answer all sorts of questions about kids’
teeth! Fawn loves traveling, reading, exercising and making connections (whether it’s people or lost
socks in the laundry room). You can catch up with her latest shenanigans on her blog, Instead of the
Dishes
.