Surviving winter with small children
If seasons had emotions, winter would be the moody one, writes Erin Reilly.
One second it’s blowing a gale, the next it’s bucketing down, then just as the sun comes out it gets dark at 4:30pm. Add kids with cabin fever to the equation and you’ve got yourself a couple of months of hard yakka.
My first-born is only five months old but already he’s big enough to require solid entertainment. Boredom turns him into a demon child, and it’s only going to get worse as he gets older.
Winter is just on the horizon and parents all over the country are dreading the thought of keeping small humans entertained when they can’t go outside.
Wait. They can’t go outside? Why not? And here’s my first tip: aim to get outside at least once a day during winter, even if it’s just to walk to the letterbox. Hardworking parents need fresh air, and inquisitive children need to play in the rain, jump in puddles and slip over in mud. It’s part of being a kid. Put on a pair of gumboots and a raincoat and you’re good to go.
The TV can be a very appealing babysitter when it’s raining cats and dogs outside. How about limiting screen time to just an hour or so a day and encouraging your kids to use their hands instead? Painting, Lego tower building competitions, making robots out of Weetbix boxes and toilet rolls . . . getting hands-on with your kids will teach them that entertainment can be made out of anything, not just the telly.
My brother and I loved to make forts when we were younger, and I can’t wait for the day I make one with my own son. Fort building doesn’t require many props either – just the couch or dining table, maybe a few chairs, and a sheet or blanket. Go the whole hog and have a picnic dinner fort-style with the whole family if you’re feeling limber enough to climb under the dining table with your kids.
Speaking of picnics, eating outdoors doesn’t have to be limited to sunshine. Mumtook me to the beach in the pouring rain when I was younger. We stopped in at a fish and chip shop on the way and ordered two separate packs of fried goodness. When we got to the beach we tore holes in the tops of our food parcels and munched on our lunch inside the car. I loved eating from my own packet of food rather than opening it right up and competing for the deliciousness with other hands and mouths.
Your local library or other community groups might have regular kid-friendly events – and many of them are free (or very reasonably priced) too. Check out your local council’s website or ask your neighbours on neighbourly.co.nz.
Winter doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom when it comes to entertaining your children. And if all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional Disney movie.
You don’t have to stay cooped up inside just because it’s winter.