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My parenting style so far seems to revolve around the magic of protein and a good nap to keep behavior in check with our two young boys. (To be honest, those tenets work pretty well with me, too!) But when winter creeps in, and the two weeks of Winter Break settle around us, we need a little more than peanut butter and an afternoon snooze to keep our wildness at bay.
The beauty of northeast Ohio (besides being, you know, beautiful!) is that there are many, many wonderful things to do and see in the area. (If you’re looking for ideas, here’s a great roundup of winter activities around Cleveland and beyond.)
But on those days you’re stuck at home, some inspiration is needed to get you through. Staying active this winter is fun with these ideas. Here’s what works best for our family:
My husband and I can be pretty uptight about order in our home, so when we declare a snowball fight, the kids are giddy with the promise of chaos. Sure, there are pretend snowballs you can purchase that include the satisfying crunch of snow and all, but socks work pretty fantastic too. (Bonus points for “kids versus adults” matches.) Just try not to worry too much about where the errant socks have gone. Let’s be real: they were going to get lost eventually anyway.
Enjoy a day in which no one gets out of their pajamas and pretend it’s night time all day long. Bring all your pillows and blankets to the living room and make forts. Add some flashlights. Tea lights are fun too, for reasons I can’t explain. Dig on popcorn and hot cocoa and read wintry stories. Allow the kids to watch 80 episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates if they want to. Let them live the night routine they’ve always wanted if only bedtime didn’t get in the way!
There’s nothing better than a play date to make a long winter day go smoother. But more than a couple hours can be tough on the host family. (Where’d all the Doritos go? Who poured all the Legos down the stairs?) If your neighborhood is like ours and operates through the power of texting chains, coordinate a “progressive play date.” Have each home take a time slot, and at the transition the host parent can parade the gaggle of kids to their next destination. It’s so great. Parents get a break. Kids get to play with someone else’s toys. It’s a win-win.
Again, yours truly is super uptight about something: food in the living room. But the other night I didn’t want to cook, and I didn’t want to do dishes, and I knew I’d been too long a boring mom, all business with my rules and such. And so: picnic in the living room. I put a blanket on the floor to catch any crumbs, I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with oranges and a banana on the side, drinks went in sippy cups, food went on paper plates, and voila. I just didn’t expect my laziness to parlay into such a big hit. I mean, you would have thought we were at Cedar Point or something, the kids had so much fun. And so did I!
When I was a kid I was a nerdly sort who read all the “Little House on the Prairie” books one winter break. Now they’re reading them at my child’s school, too. Heaven! So at home, we experiment with ways to live like it’s “way back when.” We turn off the lights and turn on the candles. We brush our teeth with frayed sticks and baking soda. We melt snow to wash our faces with. We cook our food by fire (OK, so we roast hot dogs on sticks into the toaster oven, but still: roughing it). No TV allowed. No iPads, no cell phones. We sleep altogether in one big bed, including the dog.
No, really. Teach the kids how it’s done. Help them safely lift weights. Show them the proper form for a lunge. Lead them through some yoga and let them laugh over “downward facing dog.” Go for a jog. Take a little rest. Do it all over again.
Bundle up, take a snack, and don’t forget the tissues and ChapStick. Bring some hot lemon water for a warm up—something about fruit in the dead of winter makes your senses zing. Grab a bucket to collect nature’s treasures. When you get home, turn your discoveries into ornaments for a tree in your backyard.
Me and the not cooking, right? What can I say—sometimes I’m just yearning for my 7-year-olds’ version of salsa with Earl Grey Tea. Or my 4-year-old’s frozen corn and pretzel concoction. The pride on their faces is worth it, really.
My last advice is advice I never seem to take myself. So hopefully I read this blog soon and remember this perhaps most important of things: Take photos. Just keep clicking away. Don’t worry about taking too many. Don’t worry about not living in the moment because you’re taking photos. Just, for once, don’t worry. Enjoy capturing this space and time with them, and later, look at the photos together and enjoy the moments again.
And here’s a crazy thought: instead of letting those great images languish forever in digital form, go that next step and actually print them.
Yes, print those photos. Not all of them, just the great ones.
It won’t be expensive, because really, there are only a few great photos for every moment. So print them, frame them, and display them in your home. On the mantle, by the coffee pot, and in your kids’ rooms. Fill your home with the joy of each other, and thank yourself for being so, darn, smart for taking the time to do so. Happy holidays, everyone. Wishing you all the joy of the season!
Erin Gadd is the director of public relations for the Parma City School District and writes the “Mommy Wars” column for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. You can connect with her on her blog at erinlgadd.wordpress.com.