Activities to Beat the Winter Blues

By Sarah Tomlinson

As the short days and long nights of winter roll into Febraury, both parents and kids can start to feel bored by the old standbys for family entertainment. If you can quote the lines to all your favorite videos, and your best games feel like work, it's time try some new activities to turn winter into your new favorite season. Here are some ideas for beating the winter doldrums.

HandprintsDesign Your Own Fun
One of the best ways to pass whole afternoons in a blur of focused fun is a new art project. Many household items can be creatively employed, or stock up on special supplies at art and toy stores. Jan Whitted, owner of ArtBeat in Arlington, MA, has firsthand experience entertaining her own stir crazy kids, so she's got plenty of advice, including a tip for controlling the chaos. "Make sure everything gets put away before you go onto anything else," she says.

Here are some of her tried-and-true favorites:

  • Let kids redecorate something in your home, such as a wall or their bedroom door. For less commitment, decorate a large poster and use it to change an area's appearance. Or paint a floor cloth, lampshade or placemats.

  • Kids love collage. Suggest they pick their favorite color, then look through magazines and catalogs, and cut out pictures or words in that color. Glue the images on a piece of poster board, or use collage board, which has a self-adhesive side. After pressing the images onto the sticky side, sprinkle with glitter or sand, which sticks to the bare spots.

  • Create self-portraits. Whitted recalls her mother tracing her outline on pieces of butcher paper. Kids can decorate their self-portrait with paint, markers or crayons. Yarn makes great hair.

  • Make stamps by carving designs in potatoes or erasures, and then print using acrylic paint. Or do nature prints with leaves from trees our houseplants. (See Fruit and Vegetable Printing)

    Angel Simmons-Santiago, a parenting educator and family support specialist, suggests these entertaining endeavors, all of which are easy enough to try in your own home:

  • Make your own bubbles by placing dish detergent and water in an unbreakable bottle. Use pipe cleaners or straw to make bubble wands in unusual shapes.
  • Create three-dimensional collages by pasting elbow macaroni, spaghetti or oatmeal onto paper and then painting over them with watercolors when they dry.

  • Blend your own face paints from six tablespoons of cornstarch, three teaspoons of water and three teaspoons of cold cream, divided evenly into a six-cup muffin tin. Color each portion with food coloring.

    Drown Out Boredom

    When kids go stir crazy, they often need to shake things up and make some noise. Lorraine Lee Hammond, a music teacher, has tips for inexpensive and easy ways to make a joyous sound. Here are some favorites:
  • Make your own harp by stretching rubber bands over the open mouth of a coffee can. Rubber bands of different sizes will create different tones.

  • Fashion a simple shaker from a water or soda bottle, filled with rice, dry beans or corn. Lentils will sound different than kidney beans, and adding cornmeal changes the tone, too. Tape the lid down to prevent spilling, then add percussion to your favorite song.

  • Play some festive music, use a spoon as a baton to conduct the music, and cut loose, dancing and playing along with your harp and shaker. Plan a parade route and march around to the music, or invent your own songs.

  • Make up your own songs. If you have a simple xylophone or keyboard, pull it out. Parents can suggest a topic, from airplanes to ice cream. Record the songs for years to come. "To hear that voice 20 years later is a wonderful thing," Hammond says.

    Is night time the only time you have to spend with your kids?

    No worries -- the night is made for adventure! Just use your imagination and all of your senses to find a whole new world of fun and adventure.

    Sarah Tomlinson is a freelance writer.