For every parent out there who’s over being stuck inside with their kids, here are a few ways your winter doesn’t have to suck.
When COVID first appeared, we were thankful we were heading into the warmer months so we could get outside. At that time, we thought COVID would be long gone by the time the cold, dark winter months hit. Unfortunately, COVID is still here, AND winter has arrived. And “going stir crazy” is an understatement.
Fewer activities and friend dates combined with cold, wet weather outside can make for a long hard winter. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can lead your family to love or at least reduce your feelings of “stir craziness” during these cold winter months together.
In Scandinavia, where some of the longest and darkest winters on earth happen, their population is consistently ranked at the top of the world’s “Ranking of Happiness.” Some of these Scandinavian countries only get a few hours of sunlight in the middle of cold winter days. And they’re happy! So apparently, we don’t need sun and warm temperatures to feel good.
After years of leading thousands of kids and families, here are some tips we, or other families, have found helpful to actually enjoy the winter months together:
Change your mindset.
Instead of talking about how horrible the winter is (because negative self-talk will negatively impact your mood), focus on what’s good. We’ve passed the shortest day of the year, so through the rest of the winter, we’re going to get more daylight every day. More sunshine is something to celebrate, so track when it gets dark or when the sun comes up with your kids. Celebrate the extra minutes of daylight we’re gaining each week. Look for the beauty in winter. Indulge in the seasonal perks you can only do when it’s cold. Commit to thriving this season, not just surviving. And if committing to thriving seems unattainable, commit to complaining less, especially in front of your kids. It will benefit you and those you live with.
No matter the weather, get yourself and your kids outside. A wide range of research shows that getting outside improves our moods and mental health. During a difficult winter with three small kids, my daughter instituted 15 minutes of outside time every day, regardless of the weather. On particularly cold or wet days, they sometimes spent their time on the porch, but it was still outside. It went so well that the following year she increased their outside time to at least 30 minutes a day. Now years after doing this, she’s learned some tricks.
- Invest in some cold weather clothes cause the old saying is true: “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER, ONLY BAD CLOTHING.” There are great finds on kid’s winter clothes and boots at thrift shops. Or find a friend with kids a bit older and bigger and barter with them.
- Be clear: it’s not a punishment to go outside every day—it’s FUN! Make sure your face and words are communicating that to your kids. We GET to go outside and play in the rain. Also, be OK with messes.
Make staying inside more fun.
After months in my home, due to quarantine, I started gradually doing a few things to make my home more comfortable. With colder weather and more time indoors, it’s even more important. Even though we’re almost thru January, I’ve left up some Christmas lights. Why? They make me smile. I’ve also invested in candles when they’re on sale—smelling an apple pie, even if it’s a candle and not the real thing, lifts my spirits. What is it for you? Fuzzy blankets, a new wreath for the front door, or white lights on your deck? What will make you smile as you wander around your home? What little things can you do to make your home cozier and more comfortable for the whole family?
Helping others helps us too. Come up with a plan as a family. Don’t know what to do? Ask these two questions:
- What do we love to do?
- What do we care about? Do your kids love to draw? Buy sidewalk chalk and draw some artwork on sidewalks to bring joy to neighbors. Love to write, or talk, and have grandparents who are shut-in? Call them and interview them. Find out about their childhood, their favorite vacations, or food. You get the idea. Then create a memory book.
While we may prefer sunny skies and warm weather, there are still plenty of things to be thankful for, regardless of the season. First, show thankfulness in front of your kids. Thank God regularly for your warm home, food, friends, and other blessings. Thank others for the way they support you. Celebrate when your child is grateful—practice gratitude as a family. Put a gratitude jar on the table or use a chalkboard and write down things you’re thankful for as you think of them. Then once a week celebrate those things. Pray, thanking God for a new day while on the way to school, whether it’s during a car ride or walk to the kitchen table. Be creative and get your kids involved in how you as a family will practice gratitude.
Create an activity drawer or box.
A friend, who is not particularly crafty and loves order, rarely has any kind of crafts available for her kids. She’s recently found that crafts can keep her kids occupied for long periods of time. So throw some glue, markers, construction paper, and other random items in a drawer or box. Establish a craft corner for your kids where they know they can spread out and create. Throw loose buttons, empty containers, pieces of aluminum foil, string, and other things you may have thrown away into the drawer or box. This can be a go-to activity when kids are bored. By adding new things, that you would have recycled or thrown away anyway to their supplies makes it more fun. My granddaughters recently created snowmen out of used yogurt and sour cream containers. They tied an old piece of ribbon around the neck and used sticks for the snowman’s arms. Old buttons were glued on the front. The only investment was glue and googly eyes. Everything else would have been thrown away. Establish clear expectations of what permission is needed to start crafting and what clean up looks like. Then watch them entertain themselves.
Make a plan.
As the days got shorter, my daughter-in-law said she needed something to look forward to. So we scheduled a monthly girls’ night in. Dinner at my house with a fun activity (play a new game, everyone pot a new plant, write cards to friends). Create a rhythm where you and your kids have something fun to look forward to. It could be as simple as a movie night every Friday or visit a new park on the 3rd Saturday of every month.
Establish a routine.
Kids love to know what’s coming. So create some routines within your days and weeks. Maybe Friday night is a game night where you bring out the cards and board games. How about a 5-minute dance party every night before bedtime? Even if you’re not especially crafty, there are tons of ideas floating around out there. Kids love to create. How about one evening a week where you create as a family? You could bake some cookies, make stamps with potatoes, or draw with erasable markers on your windows.
We’ve still got some wintery weather and short days left to change our relationship and our kids’ relationship with winter. We don’t have to love the cold, but we can look for the good in the midst of things that aren’t our favorites. Helping your kids see the best in dreary situations is one of the best gifts we can give as parents.