It’s that time of year - the end of winter and your going crazy with being stuck inside all winter and then…. March hits. All of a sudden, you’re facing only a few more weeks of stuck inside weather.
Kids really change your perspective. I have always loved winter. Wearing jeans, basketball, not being expected to do things outdoors, my birthday….it was all good until I had small children. Now winter means WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THESE CHILDREN ALL DAY LONG THAT WILL BURN ENERGY SO THEY SLEEP?!?!?! When I was a childless teacher, snow days were a gift from God. Now I’m praying “send the kids to school, send the kids to school…” Snow isn’t nearly as appealing when it means finding snow gear and bundling up four small children, then realizing you don’t have any for yourself but the kids are going to melt if you make them stand around in the house in their snow gear while you look for some so you just head outside in your jeans and tennis shoes and end up soaking wet, frostbitten, and carrying the child who hates the cold so the others can play long enough to make it worth the effort. (It is worth the effort, though. Never doubt that. Kids LOVE playing in the snow and it wears them out and creates great pictures and memories and all the things. Like most of parenting, though, sometimes it’s not quite as fun in the moment as it will be in the remembering) I thought I would round up all of my ideas for what to do with onehanders in the winter and share them with you, in the hopes that you have some to share with me too! (For those who don’t remember, a “onehander” is anyone whose age can be counted on one hand - so kids 5 & under. 3 of my 4 children are currently “onehanders”. The oldest is 6.)
Pay to Play
Locally, the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester (http://discoverymuseum.net/) and Luv2Play in Leesburg are (https://luv2play.com/leesburg/ ) some of our favorite places to go. If you’re willing to drive, you can find places with jump castles, trampolines, all kinds of stuff. We don’t do these things very often because they can be pretty expensive, especially when you have four kids! But if you have a membership or passes, or are willing to do a “special occasion” outing that costs a little more, now is the time to do it! I loved having a membership to the Discovery Museum because I didn’t feel like I had to spend all day there to get my money’s worth. We would pop in for half an hour whenever we wanted to kill a little time, which is perfect for toddlers. When you don’t have a membership somewhere, though, I would suggest planning your day before you go, though - find out if strollers or food are allowed, what’s available for purchase, if you can be re-admitted if you leave, etc. A lot of indoor play places have waivers that need to be filled out that can be done online ahead of time to save time. Try and get the most out of your day, but be willing to “call it” if your kids are melting down or can’t handle it. Some of our most miserable experiences are when I basically say to my kids, “I paid for this, so you’re going to have fun whether you like it or not!”
Go Outside Anyway
Do you know about Tinkergarten (https://tinkergarten.com/ )? Our local Tinkergarten teacher says “There is no such thing as bad weather”. When dressed appropriately, being outside is so good for kids - even when we’re not comfortable. (Yes, I hate this advice. I spend a lot of energy trying to avoid being outside. ;) But it’s so good for my kids - and it makes them sleep better - so I do it. It’s rough, this mom gig!) Having a fenced in backyard is key for me because my kids can play out there while I watch them from the warmth of my kitchen fixing dinner.
You guys. Our local library (Handley Regional Library - http://www.youseemore.com/handley/ ) is AMAZING. They have kids programs at the various branches every day - and they know your littles can’t all sit through storytime! They often have books, but there are also songs, finger plays, playtimes, puppets, dance parties,bubbles, instruments etc. They know what is appropriate and helpful for the different age groups, and aren’t going to stress if your kids aren’t sitting still. In case you don’t know, the main branch is in downtown Winchester, with Bowman Library in Stephens City, and Clarke County Library in Berryville. For mamas who are planners, you can look at the calendar online or pick up a brochure with all of their events at the library, and you can reserve books online ahead of time so all you have to do is pick them up and check them out when you get there (you can even pick books from different branches and they’ll have them all in one place for you!) For mamas who are winging it (likes yours truly), follow the library’s Facebook page. Every morning they post a list of what’s happening at the various libraries that day so you can decide where to go, and all of the children’s librarians are wonderful at helping you select books if you need to. They have movies, CDs, computers for use, even topical bags full of books, rhymes, and projects you can check out. USE THE LIBRARY. I can’t stress this enough. It’s free, it’s wonderful, and they really want to help!
Chick-Fil-A is basically the only restaurant I’m willing to take my kids to because it’s so kid-friendly. Locally, I think it’s the only restaurant with an indoor playground (correct me if I’m wrong). I often go mid-morning or mid-afternoon when it’s not busy, buy a snack for the kids and a Diet Coke for me, and let them play while I sit and enjoy the free wifi. If you don’t have the app yet, get it so you can get free stuff!
Make A Mess
I want to say something like, “If you’re stuck inside, make the most of your time and tackle an organization project on your list”, but that’s not really the Sarah Way. One day I declared a “messy morning” and let my kids get out all the messy stuff - we finger painted, played with bubbles in the sink, made slime or some sort of goop, whatever. I just put down a cloth and cleaned it up when we were done. Then everyone took a bubble bath for an extra treat! I follow a mom called “Busy Toddler” on Instagram (and you should, too!) and she recommends having a Bad Decision Playdate where you invite friends over for a project you would never tackle alone so you have extra hands to manage and clean up. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t hosted one yet but I really really want to! Even if you’re not making bad decisions, don’t wait until your house is clean to host a playdate. Everyone wants out of the house and adult conversation and no one is looking at how clean your house is!
Making “forts” out of cushions, chairs, and blankets or giving a kid a box to crawl into and draw on are always winning activities as well. This is a great time to bust out your art supplies - you don’t have to have a “project” lined up. Just give them paper, markers, paint, scissors, TAPE (they looooooove tape!), whatever and say, “Have fun, kids!”. Don’t call it “lazy parenting”. Call it “inspiring creativity and building independence”. I like to cook with my kids and being stuck inside is a great time to give your kids a chance to cook for themselves. I’ve discovered that when I call it “make-your-own______ night”, whether it’s tacos, pizza, baked potatoes, or whatever, my kids put a much wider variety of toppings on it than I would have thought to do for them. So if you’re trying to get some more vegetables or variety into their diet, give it a shot!
Look to Pinterest
We all know I’m not a Pinterest mom, but a lot of you are! If you prefer projects to free-form messes, there are so many good ideas out there for things you can do inside - making tape roads on the floor, using boxes to make car ramps and garages, art projects, etc. You know what I learned from Pinterest? You can throw glow sticks (I get the $1 package at the Target dollar spot) into the bath, turn off the lights, call it a “glow bath”, and your kids will be entertained for an hour. #winning I like Busy Toddler (https://busytoddler.com/ ) and Toddler Approved (http://www.toddlerapproved.com/ ) on Instagram for TONS of simple toddler activities.
Parks and Rec
Get the parks and rec catalog (you can pick them up around town or go to the parks and rec website and click on “program offerings” or “guide” and find a digital copy - they put out a new one several times a year) and check out their offerings, both for you and your kids - there are a lot!! My favorite winter activities are PB&J and Wee Gym. Both are really geared for crawlers and toddlers, and are just open gyms filled with toys, slides, blocks, etc., for your kids to run around and play with. PB&J is offered by Winchester City at Jim Barnett on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays ($3 per child for a city resident, and $3.50 for a non-resident), and Wee Gym is offered by Clarke County at the Berryville rec center by Chet Hobert Park every Tuesday and Friday in January and February. ($3 for the first child, $1 for each additional child).
What do you do with your kids in the winter? I would love to hear some great new ideas! Good luck out there, fellow mamas. Spring is coming!!
Sarah O’Dell spends her days taking care of her four small people (3 boys and 1 spoiled rotten baby girl) and trying to come up with creative responses to “You sure have your hands full!” As an extrovert who spends most of her time at home with little people, she is frequently found on Facebook sharing the details of her less-than-Pinterest-worthy days to make other moms feel a little more normal.