Winter can be a really tough season for moms of young kids. I myself spend most of the winter indoors, because I have a very narrow (i.e. wimpy) temperature range that I can tolerate for any length of time.
While I miss the outdoors and the warmer weather (warm weather, not hot!), I personally don’t struggle too much in the winter. I love being home, and getting out for errands, activities and my part-time job is enough to keep me from getting stir-crazy. In the 4 years that I’ve been a mostly SAHM, I’ve come up with some strategies that have helped me and might help those who find this time of year more challenging.
Incorporating structure into my day has always been something that has helped me when working at home, particularly in the winter. I’m sure that this is partly temperamental, and I acknowledge that I probably have a higher than average need for structure. But even for people who are more laid back, having some degree of structure can be beneficial during long days at home with small children, particularly in a small space.
It can be something as simple as having regular meal/snack times, and alternating play areas in your house, and alternating quiet activities with active ones. Anything that adds some variety and, conversely, predictability can help to reduce potential chaos and boredom.
Physical activity is a must for young children. Brave moms, unlike myself, can address this by taking the kids outside to play for a minimum of 30 minutes/day. If you’re a wimp like me and can only handle this when the temperatures are above 30 with no wind, some indoor alternatives are in order.
My son loves to get rid of excess energy by dancing to a CD or using his instruments to do a band or a parade. He also uses his sit&spin, and we play ball, practice his jumping and hopping, etc. Indoor playgrounds are a big help, and now that he’s in preschool he has even more opportunities for exercise, which has let me off the hook a little in this area.
Unless it’s dangerously cold outside or bad driving conditions, I have always tried to take my son on at least one outing per day. Sometimes the outing will be a playdate or Story Hour, sometimes it’s just grocery shopping. Still, there are times when we can’t go out (due to weather or illness), and those are the days where I devote more time than usual to structured activities, such as crafts, board games, cooking or puzzles. We also do a lot of manipulatives, reading and math activities. As I mentioned previously, I try to alternate quiet activities with active ones, and structured with unstructured.
Sensory activities are also great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. If I’m too wimpy to take my son outside to play in the snow, I bring snow inside so he can play with it in the kitchen sink or in the bathtub. Playdoh is another favorite. He also loves “washing dishes” at the kitchen sink. Just recently I set up a sensory bin with him, using a shallow plastic tote filled with pebbles, and, at age 5, this can still keep him busy for hours!
Good luck this winter, moms! And please share any additional suggestions for making indoor play more fun with kids.
Claire is a regular writer on Catholic Mothers Online.