things to do on a frigid day (or week)

The great polar vortex has descended on the Midwest and you’re hunkered down at home with the kiddos for yet another day so cold that school’s cancelled and outdoor play isn’t a real option. Make a list of all the household chores you’ve been procrastinating on and allow everyone to choose a task or two that they’d most like to do. This is how we got snow shoveling done right quick – my boys clearly prefer outdoor work to the indoor stuff. (Of course, they also took the opportunity to roll around in the snow before coming back inside.) Once you’ve got the work done – or at least made good progress on your list – go ahead and enjoy the rest of the day.

1. Make some aqua rocks. Just add a few drops of food coloring to a balloon, fill it with water, and set it outside. Once frozen, remove the balloon and enjoy the pretty shapes and colors (from the window).

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2. Write a good old-fashioned letter, and have your kiddos write one too. My boys wrote their one out-standing thank you note, and I filled up the rest of the space in the card. A letter a day is a good goal.

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3. Use this as an opportunity to bake. Choose one of those baking projects you never seem to have time for in a typical week. For example, make some soft buttered pretzels. (Ours were tasty, though not as photogenic as the ones on the King Arthur website.) Then, pull out those canned cherries that have been neglected in the back of the cupboard. Mix in some cornstarch and sugar and place them in a pie crust. Bake until your home smells wonderful.

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4. Play board games for as long as you like. Then make up your own games. If you’re so inclined, use your Lego bricks to inspire some intense role plays. Or just admire your kids’ Lego creations.

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5. Read. Finish up all those library books that are in your to-read stack. Then check out your library’s online resources. If you’re blessed with a library like ours, you may have even gotten an email touting their “Top Five Resources for Snow Days.” Read it in its entirety and choose one option to explore in depth.

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6. Put on some fun music and move to the beat. Everyone needs to get their wiggles out somehow.

7. Put everyone to bed early and let them sleep late. Wake up, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and repeat.

time to unplug?

According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, American preschoolers spend an average of 32 hours a week in front of a TV, computer screen and/or hand-held electronic device. For older children, it is even more. This pattern has been linked to attention problems, poor school performance and obesity.

During Screen-Free Week, which starts today, families are encouraged to make some adjustments to their routine to reduce time spent in front of a screen. Ideally, this will serve as a catalyst for long-term changes. For one thing, it could free up a significant amount of time.

So, what should you do if your family cuts back on your media intake? Consider the following suggestions for quality “unplugged” time.

Get moving. Enjoy the outdoors by taking a walk, kicking a ball around, learning a new sport, gardening, playing tag, biking or simply hanging out at the playground.

Reconnect face to face. Invite grandparents, cousins, or friends over and cook a special meal. Then, clean up together. Many hands make light work.

Volunteer. Pick an organization that your family would like to support and find out how you can get involved. Serving in your community offers rich dividends. Often, it provides an opportunity to interact with people of different ages, races, classes, languages, and religions.

Read aloud. Even children who know how to read for themselves enjoy hearing a good story read aloud. Choose an age-appropriate book to enjoy as a family. If it’s long, try reading a chapter each evening after dinner.

Make music. I lived for a time in Mongolia, where the entertainment was provided by the guests. A common dinner party activity was to give everyone a chance to sing a solo or duet. You could include the option of playing an instrument. If this isn’t something your family has done before, it might feel awkward at first, but give it a chance. You might be surprised by how making music can lift the spirit and bring people together.

Tell stories. Give each person an opportunity to tell a story of their choosing. Last year my sister held a pioneer party and one of the activities was storytelling. Many of us told stories from our own lives. One person told a folk tale. Some were rather short. All were entertaining. And we learned new things about each other.

Create something. Pick out a project that everyone can participate in, collect the needed supplies and then get busy crafting.

Rediscover your library. With more than just books, libraries offer hours of mind-enriching activity. (Yes, even if you bypass the computers.) Find out whether your library offers any special programs – some libraries offer a wonderful array of book talks, workshops and/or special events. Or simply find a cozy spot to read something new. (Near the magazine racks is often a good bet.)

Play games. Card games, board games, word games – whatever your like. Pick an existing game or make up your own. With so many choices, it shouldn’t be hard to find a game you can enjoy with family or friends or by yourself.

Whether it is one of these ideas or something else your family enjoys, hopefully, you’ll find an activity or two that you’ll want to continue because they improve your family’s quality of life.

In our home, I’d like to make everyday “turn off the TV” day. We typically limit our boy’s screen time to less than a half an hour per day, and I try to keep our toddler away from it completely. But once they’re past two years of age, my husband firmly believes “no exposure” is not the answer. I have to admit it is better to teach them to make careful choices about what to view. Still, this week we’re aiming for less screen time than usual. That translates into more time for creative play.

What, if anything, are you going to differently this week?

Play therapy

We made a snowman this afternoon. Soon after we came indoors, my son and I were a little sad to look out the window and note that it had toppled.
I’m out of practice, but we’ve probably got a good month yet to refine our craft.