What do you do with kids all day when it’s bitterly cold? We recently moved from LA to the East Coast and I am dreading the days when my three-year-old can’t do his daily running around thing. How do people survive the winter cooped up with kids? – Fair Weather Mom
Dear Fair Weather Mom,
We’re going to help you attack this problem from all sides: namely, inside and outside.
Let’s start with the dreaded outdoors. We do not make light of the transition from your previous temperate climate. Even a week out west makes the value of balmy weather painfully clear to a visiting New York parent. But relativity aside, there is outdoor fun to be had in the wintertime. Folks still go caroling in Minneapolis. The Scots enjoy their curling. Dogs are walked in Alaska.
As you’ve probably already noticed, there’s a common thread in all these activities, and it’s one that can be applied to most cold-weather outdoor fun: movement. One key factor in enjoying your winter time outdoors is not standing still and wallowing in your frozen suffering. Another is clothing. We’re lucky, no longer is the sausage-style snowsuit the only torturous option. Science has generated some amazing lightweight and flexible fabrics, most available in toddler sizes. If kids are adequately bundled and still able to move, they will.
Now, no one is suggesting you spend the whole day outside when it’s below freezing. The point here is to give your son a change of scenery and a sense of freedom. It could be an hour in the park, or a symbolic trip to the corner deli or five minutes in the backyard before you both give up and run for the hot cocoa. Whatever gets your kid out of the house, even just for a few minutes.
But there are times when it just ain’t happening. For those times you can obviously do any number of things indoors: but here are some ideas for specifically replacing outdoor playtime.
- A sporty class of some kind. Swimming wipes kids right out. Tumbling is great. At three, you are not looking for anything too structured. Maybe just padded walls and a little freedom.
- Semi-controlled couch and cushion leaping. We know, we know, the furniture! Maybe you have a rec room - an invention, no doubt, of parents in cold climates - and can let the leaping happen there. If not, can you stand to temporarily allow the couch to become a pirate ship (from which children are permitted to safely dive onto a bed of pillows)? A change of decor inside can sometimes sub for a trip outside.
- Vigorous pretend play: Put out a “fire” in the laundry basket. Pretend to be animals. Kids sometimes need to just writhe like snakes . . .
- Dance Party - the standard “get your sillies out” situation. You get the gist.
- Gymnastics/calisthenics/yoga. You don’t have to go to a class to do this. There are also various toys and tools for movement that can lend extra appeal to the indoor fun: trampolines, wedges, mats, etc.
- Outdoor games indoors: Hide and seek, catch with a very, very soft ball, Duck Duck Goose or some kind of revamped Hop Scotch where kids have to hop from place to place.
- Water. Bath time is anytime when you’re stuck inside. Getting in the water can be a good way for a kid to get out of an indoor rut.
- Going out (inside). We don’t know where you live, but chances are there are places you can take your son to play indoors (most likely for a price). Malls are packed with kids on cold weekends for a reason. Even a big box store with wide aisles can provide a little space, as long as your son doesn’t go totally nuts.
Clearly the change in temperature will take a little getting used to. But winter has its upside: spring comes and your family, along with millions of Americans, will burst out onto the streets and rejoice like you’ve never seen the sun before!
In closing, we’ll leave you with some sage advice a Minnesotan father once gave one of us:
It’s good to get the kids outside in all weathers. Don’t let them lick anything metal, though. My buddy’s daughter did that, and it was as horrible as you’d imagine.