Things to do on a winter day

Beautiful blue and white

There is a deep-seated urge in many of us to hibernate when the days are short and the wind is howling outside. The winter sunshine looks splendid from indoors, and the bit of heat beaming through the window is a welcome reminder of warmer days to come. We try to get out at least for a while every day, unless it is a snowstorm or bitterly cold.

However, since we became parents, it has become imperative to find ever-changing activities to do indoors on those cold, snowy days. It is so alarmingly easy to fall back on screen time as a way to keep everyone happy, whether a television screen, a computer or other device. Everyone loves television, don’t they? The only problem is that sometimes we have noticed that giving our girls even an hour of television time seems to just make the situation worse rather than better. Often they are a little belligerent when we turn it off, because it is never enough time, plus it seems to make them a little “hyper,” shall we say. It certainly does nothing to exert their abundant energy or to harness their boundless creativity and imagination.

Crafts and art are a big part of our week. Since the girls were tiny, we have done crafts, from the toddler’s simple colouring, finger painting, glueing random things together to make more random things to today’s more complex projects like sewing, pretend-knitting (haven’t gotten the real thing yet) and detailed paper projects. There are so many really wondrously entertaining ideas out there, on blogs and assembled on Pinterest.  Below is one I discovered on Pinterest, from the absolutely  irresistible website Made by Joel. The “about” page states that artist and designer, Joel Henriques, has devoted himself to making arts and crafts both accessible and meaningful. There are a lot of sites out there that have printable paper crafts, but this one stands above, with wonderful hand-drawn paper toys (like a paper Paris!) you print, colour and cut. Like really DELUXE paper dolls, only more fun. Here are the Dressy Cats, made by Ava and Mama one wintery day:

The Dressy Cats

18 no-screen winter indoor activities to do with kids

  1. Paper crafts- like the Dressy Cats! Another great site is DLTK’s Printable Crafts for Kids.
  2. Get a stack of books and read as many as they want, all in a row. Skippyjon Jones is one of our silly favourites, as is Geronimo Stilton, and we love Shelley Moore Thomas’s Good Knight books.
  3. Bake. It’s MUCH harder to bake with children, but they love it so much it’s a shame to leave them out. Plus they are more likely to eat something (even bran muffins) if they helped make it. Even the littlest can get in the act, with bowls and wooden spoons to bang on.
  4. Home reno! It sounds crazy but kids love to help with everything. Give them a paint brush and let them paint a spot that isn’t really noticed anyhow. Or pass over some bits of leftover wood for them to “build” something.
  5. Family board game night. This sounds more fun than it sometimes is, but it is worth it just to have an activity that everyone takes part in. Make popcorn and be sure to bring lots of patience. Blokus and Sequence for Kids are great for all ages.
  6. Open a restaurant or a jewellery store or whatever kind of store they can imagine in your playroom. Use buttons for money and bring out all the play food and dishes, tablecloth and flowers, or all the costume jewels in the house, display them nicely and open up shop. Be sure to be a good repeat customer.
  7.  Have a spa night. Get out the hair doodads, kids’ nail polish and lotion for a hand and foot massage. I know this is girly to the extreme, but everyone can use a little foot massage.
  8. Put on some music and dance. Everyone says to do this, I know, but it really does make the kids SO HAPPY. It also makes the adult crankiness fly away.
  9. Do yoga or stretches together. Get the wiggles out.
  10. Have a dance or gymnastics recital, complete with posters, programs, costume changes and chances for everyone small to be on “stage.”
  11. Fill up the sink with warm soapy water and have the kids do the dishes. Doesn’t that sound like a fabulous idea? For some reason my girls think this is a huge treat.
  12. Have a bin filled with random recyclables and leftover craft supplies for free craft time. Paper tubes, scraps of fabric or ribbon, plastic

    toilet paper owls

    containers of various shapes and sizes, tin cans, milk jugs, cardboard cereal, cracker or tissue boxes, whatever. See what can be created with a little free time and imagination.

  13. Let the children loose with a camera. It is kind of fascinating to see what they think is interesting and photogenic. Last week my eldest decided to emulate the wonderful author/illustrator Barbara Reid, whose books are illustrated with these gorgeous plasticine pictures. So Kat made little “pictures” from playdoh, photographed them and wrote words to go with each picture, thus creating her own book.
  14. Give them a stack of paper, a can of pencils and leave them alone.
  15. Lose yourselves in uninterrupted playtime. That means forget the laundry, vacuuming, blogging, social networking, cooking, and every other grown-up pursuit. This is especially necessary for those who have one child in school and one at home. The little one at home sometimes feels lost without her little companion, and even 15 minutes of concentrated, truly present play time with mom or dad will make her SO happy.
  16. Give them a job to do. Watering plants, pairing socks, sweeping, washing windows with their own spray bottle of plain water and a rag, feeding the kitties. Everyone likes to feel needed.
  17. Play dress-up! Nothing better than a dress-up trunk filled with costume stuff, old grown-up clothes, lots of hats, scarves and jewels.
  18. Leave them to their own devices. Free play time, without adults instructing or entertaining, is the best way to help children learn to entertain themselves. It is so wonderful to hear what they come up with on their own, and they will never get bored.

Got any more ideas for indoor no-screen activities with kids? Please add them in the comments and feel free to link up to your own blog to share more ideas. I am always looking for new ones to keep us busy…

Happy Christmas…

It snowed! Call me old-fashioned, but NOW it really feels like a Prince Edward Island Christmas.

I wish all of you a very happy holiday, and to each of you peace and contentment in the new year.

Things I’ve learned about Christmas

Finishing that last little gift...

It has been a different kind of Christmas season so far this year, and I find myself wondering exactly why that is. Yes, we have been focusing more on homemade gifts. We have embraced the idea of an advent calendar with a festive activity for every day instead of a cheap chocolate. Family time has been the focus, and we haven’t gone out to a single event that cost anything. We have not gone to any staff parties, which as far as I am concerned is a true Christmas blessing. And yes, we have avoided the malls as much as possible. But really, what does it all mean in the grand scheme of the season?

Well, I don’t really have any big pronouncements about holiday miracles or waking up to the true spirit of Christmas, but here are a few small things that I have learned for sure in these weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. They are in no particular order.

1. Homemade things are just as good. They might not be aesthetically perfect, but they are more interesting.

2. Cookies are even better if you bake a double batch and give half away.

3. We can still find a bit of extra money to drop in the Salvation Army kettles, even though times are tight.

4. Children embrace ideas like sharing with others who need help, if only their parents lead the way.

5. Local turkey tastes SO much better. As do local carrots, potatoes, turnips, cranberries, and yes, even parsnips, especially if you add butter and brown sugar.

6. Recycled, upcycled and second-hand gifts are cool. Hip, even. Does anyone still use the word “hip” other than me?

7. A letter back from Santa makes a four-year-old light up like a Christmas tree.

8. Taking a few moments to just breathe can slow time down a little. But Christmas is STILL only a couple of days away and I don’t have all my presents made or wrapped.

9.  I still love satin mix. You know, those big plastic buckets of brightly-coloured, assorted-shaped sugary hard candies like we used to get at Grammy’s house? Still good.

10. There is nothing on my Christmas list. And that is okay.

11. One Magic Christmas is still my favourite Christmas movie. OH, that moment when Ginny Grainger comes down the stairs and sees Santa Claus, and realizes that even though she’s a grownup and life is hard she can still have the Christmas spirit, I still tear up every time.

12. If you don’t go into stores, you won’t buy anything. Or really care about buying anything. (it’s a REVELATION!)

Still no snow...

except the dandelion fluff kind.

Winter comes every time

Last winter

Winter and I have a relationship that is just a little bit strained.

When I see the first snowfall, I do feel a certain sense of reckless joy, perhaps a remnant of childhood that has not yet been beaten down by adult practicalities. I see the flakes falling down from a leaden grey sky, and I still feel intense anticipation. Snowmen, snowball fights, skating, sledding and of course the pinnacle of a kid’s winter joy, Christmas.

Then the snow honeymoon ends, and I remember what it is like to drive to work in winter weather, the roads that wind across the open, snow-driven fields of Prince Edward Island. The drifts that I am not quite sure the car will go through, and the absolute white-outs of blowing snow that blur the edge of the road. I whine and complain a fair bit when I attempt outdoor fun and festivities in cold weather. What can I say? I just don’t like to be cold.

When we thought the snow would never leave...

Now that I have children of my own, I marvel at their fortitude in the face of winter chill. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember when I, too, embraced the season.

As children growing up in P.E.I., my brother and I spent many hours outside in the snow every day. We would tie our skates together, sling them over our shoulders and walk a mile or so across the fields to the pond. Along with other kids on the road we would clear the snow off the ice and lace up our skates. That feeling of flying across the ice, the blue sky above and the air so crisp and cold it burned the inside of our nostrils. We would drag our toboggans and crazy carpets out to the hills and go coasting for hours, until all of our layers of clothes and wool socks were soaked.

My grandmother was an avid cross-country skiier. I loved to go out on the skis with her, schlussing along the trails though the pine woods behind her house. It was profoundly quiet, except for that sound of the skis and the song of the birds. There was the smell of the pines mixed with juicy fruit gum that she always chewed. Sometimes we would take inner tubes out with us and slide down the hill back in the woods, barreling down at terrifying speeds, my grandmother right out there with us.

I think of those days of winter glory often. My grandmother’s days of skiing came to an end years ago, when Alzheimer’s disease took her memory and her abilities away. Does she remember those bright cold days when she looks out her window? I dearly wish that.

So, I feel like I must honour those memories. I drag my freezing cold self out into the snowbank, I strap on the snowshoes and set off across the fields. I want my daughters to experience the winter as I did, with miles of untouched snow calling their names, with hot chocolates and deep, dreamless exhausted sleep that can only be brought on by hours of freezing fresh air and exercise.

I love winter. Really.