Winter’s Hum-Drums…What To Do?

The parents in the Hopkins ECFE classes have been discussing the challenges around keeping their children’s energy channeled into constructive play during the winter months.  This gets so much more difficult as the weeks melt into each other and the activities that started out so exciting during the first part of winter become more hum drum.

Young children are constantly interested in engaging with the people they love most.  Their play is their best way to develop an understanding of the world around them. Children often want us to play with them, set up games for them, act out stories with them, read books to them and pay attention to them as much as possible. As the cold and snowy months keep us house-bound it is tempting to find more passive ways to entertain our children.  High quality screen time, carefully scheduled throughout the day and offered under clearly defined limits can often help parents find a moment of peace during the long hours.

However, it is important to remember that both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have strongly recommended that children under the age of two watch no television and experience no screen time. They recommend children aged three and older experience only 1-2 hours of screen time a day. (Screen time includes television, computer, i-pad, computer games and etc.)

These recommendations make sense to us as parents, we understand that children learn more when they are directly involved with a real person.  We know that children learn best when they are engaging their senses and whole body fully. We know that children learn through imitation and we are often much more comfortable with what we model than what the television models.  But that does not change the fact that in the middle of winter we as parents are just completely, absolutely, undeniably and frustratingly out of creative ideas.  So what to do?

As the Hopkins ECFE staff discussed the winter hum-drums, we also worked together to come up with creative ideas to offer an afternoon’s entertainment.

  • Big cardboard boxes with crayons
  • Long sheet of paper with crayons
  • Make your own sensory table/bin – big plastic storage bin from target filled with snow, beans, cornstarch etc. Bring in SNOW to play with! Put storage bin on plastic table cloth on floor.
  • Dress up in Mom/dad clothes
  • Grocery list treasure hunt – Do we have milk?  sugar? mustard?
  • Create an obstacle course of pillows, blankets, chairs and etc.
  • Make a fort out of blankets and chairs or a table.
  • Have an indoor picnic–have lunch on a blanket in the living room
  • Tie a rope to a sled and pull your children around the yard (or block if you are really ambitious!)
  • Use a cardboard milk carton to make snow bricks, and make a snow fort
  • Mix food coloring and water, and go outside and paint the snow
  • Did you know bubbles blown outside in winter freeze? Try it!
  • Shoveling is actually fun for children–even a summer time bucket and sand shovel will be entertaining
  • Make designs and shapes in the snow–one staff member remembers building snow horses (which were just big piles of snow roughly shaped) and pretending to ride them with her children.  You could make snow dragons, horses, dogs etc. Decorate with leaves or twigs
  • Of course, building a snow person is classic and always enjoyable
  •  Make a train out of your laundry baskets and pull the stuffed animals around your house
  • Collect your paper towel tubes, and use them to make a marble maze
  • Make colored ice cubes with food coloring and water, then go outside and have a scavenger hunt to find them in the snow or “hidden” around the yard
  • Try including your child in a baking project.  They can mix, pour, measure with help, and taste
  • Looking for a book with more great ideas? Kid Concoctions has instructions for science explorations, baking projects and all kinds of activities
  • Check out the Creativity Corner on this blog to find recipes for art materials and projects

These ideas may provide the opportunity for you and your children to have some wonderful afternoons of cozy family play. But what if you are looking for even more?  The Lexington Health Department in Kentucky has provided an activity list entitled 101 Things to Do Instead of Watch Television.  Some of these ideas appeal to older children, but most ideas could be modified to work for younger children. Some of these ideas are also designed for play during the rest of the year–so be sure to have this list handy throughout all four of the seasons.

Don’t forget that Harley Family Center is offering their Saturday Open Gym throughout the winter months. This is an opportunity to share in art time, gym time, circle time and play time with your family.  It is great fun and a nice outing in the morning.  If you are looking to register feel free to call our office at 952.988.5000

It’s cold out – Open Gym starts this Saturday!

We have the cure for the winter wiggles – come to our Open Gym at Harley to move, play and have fun!

Saturdays, January 21-March 24      10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Harley Hopkins Family Center, 125 Monroe Ave., Hopkins

(Note: Feb. 25, no Open Gym session, instead join us at Kiddie Karnival).

Open Gym gives parents and children (Birth to 5 years) a place to move, play and have fun! The entire class is devoted to parent-child activities in the gym and classroom, with time at the end for music and songs. Open Gym classes are drop-in classes in which you can attend any or all of the class offerings.

Two choices are available for registrations: 1. Register for the entire series. 8 spots are reserved for this option. 2. Register for individual classes only.

Registration for the entire series can be made by calling 952-988-5000 or online.

Registration for individual classes must be made 24 hours prior to the date by calling the Harley Hopkins Family Center at 952-988-5000. Please bring check payable to ISD #270 or exact amount to each session.

Cost is $5 per session per child or a special rate of $40 for the entire 9-week series. Cost is $2 for each additional sibling. Sibling care is not available for Saturday classes.

Resources You Can Trust

When we are looking for answers to our parenting questions, we want to know that the information we are being provided is trust-worthy.  The Hopkins Early Childhood Staff takes great pride in being able to offer their knowledge through this web site.  Parents can use the blog to find answers to parenting issues as well as a source for updates on community events and school related activities. The early childhood staff knows that parents have access to a lot of information through the web, and we want to be sure that we are providing you with research-based, parent friendly, solid information.  To this end, here are a few more sites that offer parenting information which has been equally evaluated for quality. It just so happens that all three of us–Hopkins Early Childhood Education, the Early Learning Digest, and the Tufts Child and Family WebGuide–have been made possible through the partial funding of the MN Department of Education!

The Minnesota Department of Education and the Working Family Resource Center (WFRC) have partnered to provide research-based information about the development of children from birth through age five in the Early Learning Digest . The publication provides a snapshot of information about parenting and child-rearing in a concise way that parents will appreciate. In addition, there are options within the e-newsletter to link to further information if you are interested in learning more about a topic.This collaboration is possible through two innovative initiatives of the Minnesota Department of Education: MN Parents Know and Help Me Grow. The mission of the WFRC is as follows: Working Family Resource Center delivers high quality family and wellness education to employees where they work, in order to strengthen individuals, families and communities.

The Tufts Child and Family WebGuide provides parents with answers to their specific questions. Since it’s inception in September 2001 it has systematically reviewed and evaluated articles and web-based information to ensure that what is offered through their directory is supported with a foundation of quality research. The statement of purpose for this project is as follows: The Child & Family WebGuide provides approved links to websites and videos on topics of interest to parents, and it is also by students and professionals in the fields of child development, education, and psychology. All the sites and videos listed on the WebGuide have been systematically evaluated by graduate students. In order to ensure reliability, the evaluation system includes criteria such as the inclusion of citations in peer-reviewed journals.

FInding information on the web is not hard to do–it is wonderfully easy to get access to an almost infinite amount of information. The sites above are certainly not an exhaustive list, but they offer a strong place to start when you are looking for research-based answers about how to best help your children grow.