“Every winter when the ice and snow hits, it quickly loses its novelty, and we’re left with cold, colds, and cabin fever. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can banish the winter blahs this season by finding fun indoors and out."

BANISH BOREDOM

Even if your family is able to avoid actual fevers and winter colds, cabin fever can be a problem. Be ready with fresh ideas and materials for inside or outside when your kids ask, “What can we do?”

The Ins
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 a set of clues that lead your kids around the house, or even outside, and finally back to where you’ve hidden their prize—something unexpected from your winter kit.
 

The Outs
Go beyond snowmen and 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 wintery scenes.

GET MOVING

Exercise helps raise serotonin levels, which can help keep us happy. Work around winter chill and ice to keep the whole family active.

The Ins
If it’s too cold or icy outside, crank up some music 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 to rev up her own energy, burn off some energy in her kids, and get all of them laughing.

The Outs
Does your family have a favorite winter outdoor sport? If not—or if a long winter has you tired of even that— try something new. Think sledding or winter walking. Just 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.

The Ins
Brighten up your house by growing something green. Some good options include flowering bulbs for color and fragrance, and other options include things you can eat, like bean sprouts, 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 mushrooms “garden” daily. Nutritionist Sara Bradford recommends mushrooms as one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which most of us need a little more of during the winter...
Another idea is to set up a bird feeder outside a window so that 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 flies in to visit.

The Outs
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!

The Ins
Instead of turning on the lights some evening, try one of these activities. Pop some popcorn and have a family movie night. 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.
 

The Outs
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 close to nature. 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. •


Break up the monotony of winter. design a party to forget the cold or embrace it.

INDOOR BEACH PARTY

To set the scene, make your home extra bright and warm then play surf- inspired tunes. Have everyone dress in shorts, T-shirts (or even bathing suits), and flip flops. Add some warm weather fun:
• Give kids some water play in the tub or sink. Add buckets, toy boats, and fish.
• Hold a sand castle contest. Give each person a pan or plastic bin filled with damp sand. Use bowls and cups instead of buckets.
• Lay out towels or a blanket and have a dinner picnic. Serve lemonade or tropical drinks. Offer summer favorites —sandwiches and chips, hamburgers and hot dogs, grilled chicken and potato salad.
 

OUTDOOR BLOCK PARTY

A block party can be fun, even in the winter. Plan a mid-day gathering to benefit from any sun and warmth the day may bring. Bring extra blankets to help people stay warm. If you can, light a fire in an outdoor fire pit—don’t forget the marshmallows. Be sure to check on any area burn bans first.

Chilly? Hold a neighborhood chili cook-off. You can use slow cookers to keep your chili warm throughout the party. Add sides of sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips and corn bread. Insulated pitchers and bottles keep cocoa or hot cider ready to warm everyone up. Moving warms you up, so hold races, a dance contest, or a “parka parade.”
Bring people together this winter and have a blast!

Sara Barry is a freelance writer who enjoys snowshoeing, making snowmen with her daughters, and reading in front of a fire.