Sur­viv­ing win­ter with small chil­dren

If sea­sons had emo­tions, win­ter would be the moody one,

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER - 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. Mum took 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 neigh­

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.

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