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

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