It’s that time of year.
The kids are back in school, the days are short, and unless you happen to live in the tropics, it’s probably cold and wet outside.
Winter is hard enough to get through as an adult. You wake up in the morning, leave for work, and it’s dark. You head home at the end of the day, and lo and behold, it’s just about dark again. Throw a few kids into that mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
So what can you do this time of year to keep the kids engaged, entertained and not have them bouncing off of the walls? My kids have taken to sprinting from one end of the house to the other, and typically that results in someone falling, tripping or slamming into something.
I don’t need an ER bill right after Christmas, and neither do you.
So back to the question at hand: how do we survive the winter months with our kids? Here are a few ideas for getting through these dark days.
1. Family Game Night
We’re big board game people in my house. Sorry, Chutes & Ladders and Hungry Hungry Hippos– you name it, we’ve got it.
The nice thing about a family game night is that if you need to, and both parents are in the home, you can assign one parent to each age group. For instance our 2-year-old is too little to play Clue, but our 9-year-old and 6-year-old LOVE it.
So we’ll put one parent on Clue duty, and the other on Hungry Hungry Hippo duty with the 2-year-old. It works out great because every kid is doing something appropriate for her age, we’re not trying to keep a 9-year-old interested in a 2-year-old’s game, and we’re not trying to corral our 2-year-old while we try and play Clue.
2. Good Old Fashioned Dance Party
I’m not above dragging the coffee table out of the living room, opening up YouTube, and playing one ridiculous video after another, letting the kids go crazy dancing.
We let the kids take turns picking songs, and the only rules are that they have to be safe, and they have to keep dancing.
Our current favorites are the new Mary Poppins soundtrack, Frozen Fever (because my 2-year-old is now old enough to be interested and God help me if I have to hear “Let it Go” again) and The Greatest Showman.
Whatever your songs of choice are, get everybody up and moving. And if videos aren’t your thing, no problem–just open up Spotify or Apple Music.
3. Groupon is Your Friend
The city I live in, Portland, Oregon, is full of cool things for kids to do inside during the colder, wetter months. The problem is with three kids, that stuff starts to get really expensive really quickly. Who can afford to go pay $20 per kid to let them play at an indoor gym for two hours?
I can’t count how many ½ price bouncy house passes I’ve purchased with Groupon. They always seem to be available, and at our local bounce house, they never expire, so we just keep a stash in our wallets for whenever the kids are going insane and need to get some energy out.
One word of advice: save the bouncy house trips for shower days. If your kid can get out of one of those places without looking like they just stepped out of an Orange Theory, you didn’t get your money’s worth.
4. When All Else Fails, Take a Walk
Sure, bouncy houses and movie theaters are fun, but sometimes nothing beats getting bundled up in warm coats, rain or snow boots and getting outside for a little fresh air.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a park, or within walking distance of a school, even better. We are fortunate enough to have two parks and our elementary school within a half of a mile of our house.
Of course, not everybody lives near a park, so if all else fails, get bundled up, hop in the car, and drive to the park. Then walk around before heading to the playground. We like to make a game out of who can find the biggest puddle to stomp in.
Yes, the kids inevitably end the trip whining because they’re cold and wet, but much like bouncy house day, if you can get them home and into a warm bath, the complaining will be short lived– and at the end of the day, you’ll be happy to have clean, tired kids.
It may sound simple, but winter doesn’t have to be a bummer. I know my kids can only watch so many movies before we’ve got to get out of the house, or at least put on some good tunes and dance the energy off.
So get out there and embrace the cold, snow and rain.
Unless you live someplace where it’s always sunny. In which case, I hope you’ve got space for my family of five, because we’re on our way.