Beating the winter blues

How to keep the kids (and yourself) from going stir crazy during the winter months

When it’s nice outside and the kids start getting a little rambunctious, the easy solution is to send them outside to run and play. Yet on very cold or snowy days, finding ways for them to exert energy and arrange entertainment can be a challenge. How do you maintain your sanity and keep the kids from bouncing off the walls when you are all stuck indoors?

Here are a few ideas to help make the most of your time indoors:

Build indoor forts.

Rachel Talkington, a Lee’s Summit mom of three, purchased two construction fort sets from the Discovery Kids brand. These products allow one to build a wide variety of structures and are something she says keeps her kids entertained all day.

“There is something about being under the tent that is so cool,” Talkington says. “Sometimes we let them eat a picnic lunch under there.”

She says sometimes her kids pretend their forts are a grocery store or a drive-through restaurant. Talkington only brings the fort sets out on days when a special indoor activity is needed, so the fun remains something to relish. The family now has neighbor kids wanting to come over and play with the sets.

Of course, old-fashioned forts with sheets and blankets draped over furniture are always sure to provide long hours of entertainment. 

Bring bikes, roller skates and other similar outdoor toys inside to the garage or unfinished basement.

Kids may not have as much room to enjoy these activities in more restricted spaces, but on a cold day, they still can burn off some energy with these toys.

Have bins of toys and activities you bring out only on cold days.

Lee’s Summit mom Christina Larson created bins of activities to help entertain her son on cold, boring days. She included toy figures, animals and vehicles, as well as blocks, arts and craft supplies, sorting and stacking items, playdough and magnets. She bought most of these items at a dollar store and sorted them into shoebox-sized plastic containers.

Larson also set up sensory tables or kiddie pools with things such as water, shaving cream, dry oatmeal, noodles, rice, corn and beans. As her son has gotten a little older, she has begun including more puzzles into the mix of activities. Story tiles, flannel and felt story boards and flash cards are other activities she has used. Overall, she says these ideas have helped keep her son engaged even when the weather was nice outside and they just needed more options of things to do.

Create personal space for your kids.

Independence mom Kyndal Costello has taken into account her children’s unique personalities in providing ways for them to find entertainment inside.

Her son has autism, and his space is all about providing him with sensory input. They started with a personal-sized trampoline, and they now even have a swing for his room. The family currently has plans to loft his bed to give him more room to play below. They also have decided to build a rock wall up to his bed instead of using a ladder.

Costello’s daughter has a reading nook in a small space in their house. The cozy spot consists of a little decorated house in which she can sit, relax and read. Her personal space also includes chalkboards on the walls so she can write, draw and express creativity.

“Our kids get to have their own spaces that reflect who they are,” Costello says. 

Cook and create together.

Develop a list of recipes to try with your kids and reserve them for a cold day. Cooking together can be a great opportunity to teach your children skills in the kitchen while keeping them entertained at the same time.

Similarly, look up different ideas for art projects or perhaps even some good indoor science experiments you can do together. Keep all supplies on hand and ready to go when needed.

Free or nearly free indoor activities

  • Burr Oak Woods and Lakeside Nature Center are two places for kids to go to learn about animals and possibly even listen to a program.
  • Not many indoor malls are left, but Independence Center and Oak Park Mall have play areas and offer space to walk around.
  • In addition to offering some sports activities, many local parks and recreation departments offer inexpensive gym classes or other indoor sporting options.
  • For older kids, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art offers both educational enrichment and the chance to do some walking.

Make a Crown Center and Union Station visit.  

For a low-cost excursion, start out in Crown Center at Kaleidoscope for some crafting. Then walk over to Union Station and check out the free model train exhibit. Consider topping off the outing with riding the street car to the Kansas City Public Library to read some books. If your budget allows, Legoland Discovery Center, Sea Life Aquarium and Science City are always options at Crown Center and Union Station.

For more ideas, see Winter Fun on a Shoestring Budget in Kansas City.

Allison Gibeson is a mom and freelance writer from Lee’s Summit.

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