Beating the winter blues with toddlers

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring has finally arrived and just in time, because we were starting to go a little stir crazy over here (me especially).  Spring brings mud and mess in the house, but also makes for tired, happy children.  My kids are the go-all day sort.  We have to wrestle them into naps or quiet time while the rest of the day is fast paced mess-making, running, and destroying.

So we try our best to pass the winter attempting to get our children's energy out in lots of different ways.  This is how we did it with a toddler and pre-schooler this past winter.

20 Ways to Burn Pre-schooler Energy in the Winter

1. Put them in the Bath.  There is no other place that our children are so confined while also content.  We take regular baths, bubble baths, themed baths, baths with special toys, painting baths, music baths, and raining baths (with the shower on).  When Mumma needs a break from the crazy - it's bathtime.

bubble bath plus jacuzzi jets make for a hilarious (albeit huge mess to clean up) bath.

2. Move and make sounds like animals.  If you're feeling ambitious, paint faces appropriately.  Use this pinboard for inspiration.

3. Pretend the floor is made of lava and you can only move around jumping from couch to couch.  Pillows on the floor make for safe rock pathways.

4. Cook something together.  Knead bread, tear apart ready-made cookies, mix pancake batter, have them put the muffin liners in the pan, make popcorn in an old-school popper, etc.

5.  Go to the mall and don't shop.  Ride the $0.25 machine rides, hit the playground, and cough up $6 to jump on the indoor trampoline.

7. Let them jump on the bed.  Our bed jumping usually starts with Grey jumping and then requesting to be tripped and then tackled and then usually we end up in a huge tickling battle.  Sometimes when he starts losing control over his body from being so restless, I just say, "Honey, go jump on the bed.  I will tell you when you can stop."

8. Get out the magnetic books.  My kids love Magnetic Funny Families and On the Farm Magnetic Story & Play Scene both by Top That! Publishing.

9. Consult Pinterest.  We found lots of fun activities to do - like bubble blowing, indoor snow exploration, painting with evaporated milk, putting puff balls into containers, and dropping food-colored vinegar into baking soda to name a few.

10. Keep in mind all Pinterest ideas are not created equal.  I tried to have the kids play with a "shredded paper texture bin" at the suggestion of pinterest.  Oh, they had fun alright - but it was the hugest mess ever and I find shredded paper to this day (3 months later) in nooks and crannies.

11. Make forts.  We use pop-up tents, traditional rope and blanket styles, and for the quickest set up and clean up:  a fitted sheet over the top of the crib.

12. Taped roads and toy cars.  We had a packing tape road mapped out on our kitchen carpet for over 5 weeks this winter.  We sometimes used legos for buildings and tunnels or paper towel rolls for car chutes.

13. Sleepover in a local hotel for the night, especially one with an indoor pool if possible.  The kids, my sister, and I had a little mid-winter 'summer' vacation at our local Comfort Inn.  I was able to get a room for under $100 and the kids were so happy to put on their swim suits in the middle of winter.  Grey loved being in the pool and Gem loved the warm bath afterwards.  They even got to eat donuts in bed while watching tv after a morning swim.  It was a great mini vacation when we had major cabin fever in the dead of winter.

14. Pay attention to the moon.  Since its hard to have interaction with nature during the winter months, we try to stay connected to the outdoors by watching the moon.  We have our awesome 2013 Phases of the Moon Calendar from EarthSky and we spend good portions of our conversations wondering if the moon is waxing or waning on any particular day or attempting to draw the moon phase for the day.

15. Have mini celebrations for any and every holiday.  We sprinkle surprises throughout the winter months with tiny parties and activities in honor of all sorts of holidays ranging from Lunar New Year, to St. Patrick's Day, to Mardi Gras, to Earth Hour.

16. Bring small playgrounds indoors.  Luckily, our small playground fit easily through the doorway to come up from the garage where it was stationed throughout the winter.  The kids loved having it moved into our living room (near their toys) to climb and slide indoors.

17.  Seek out local indoor play spaces.  Our indoor play spaces are limited here in town, but we got to play in one on our way to visit Aunt Kitty in Pittsburgh.  The kids loved running around going bananas and playing with all sorts of new toys.  Check out this website:  Family's Day Out for a quick search in your zipcode to view local spaces for family fun.

18. Take them outside.  Bundle them, duct tape gloves on (but seriously), and bring a hankie for snot noses.  Build a snowman, throw snowballs for the dogs to catch, teach them why we don't eat yellow snow, and catch snowflakes.  When sled riding  encourage them to pull their own sled and walk back up the hill themselves.  Nothing makes for tired kids quite like walking uphill in a snowsuit and snow boots.

19. Go old school on them.  Play the games that you remember from your childhood - before technology ruled the land.  Hide & Seek never (ever, ever) gets old.  Tag (or 'Chase Me' as its called in our house).  Pull them around in a laundry basket.  Dance party to The Contours- Do you Love Me.  Sing songs that have body movement too (our favorites:  Itsy Bitsy Spider, If you're Happy & You Know It, 5 Little Monkeys, the Hokey Pokey, and Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee).

20. Facetime with friends and family.  If we are starting to unravel and things are getting out of control and destroyed - I go to facetime.  The kids love seeing and talking to family and friends, especially their best friend and our favorite cat, Miles.  But then it usually turns into putting on some sort of show (via dance or ninja moves) for the screen - which in the end, burns energy - win, win.

How do you keep the little ones from climbing the walls in the winter months?  Hmm,  actually how can I get them to climb the walls?  Seems like a good energy-burner now that I think about it!  Do you spend your nights searching pinterest for solutions?  Or maybe your kids are not feral and destructive like mine?  Oh, lucky, lucky momma if that is the case. 


  1. Do you always take baths with clothes on? Or are those just for the pictures? I ask because, as you can see from the link, I make a non-irritating bubble bath, but it's non-irritating under conditions where the users are naked and are exposed to the materials only while in the water, and although I did use it some in kiddie pools & hot tubs, it was with the expectation that the users would remove swimsuits immediately after use rather than let them dry on them. But if wearing clothes in the bathtub is becoming common in families, maybe I need to add an explicit instruction to that effect. What I don't know is whether photos & videos online accurately reflect practice when there's no audience.

    1. hi! I only use bathing suits when I get in the tub with our kids. actually, the kids wear bathing suits too in our big bath (jet tub) because we treat it like 'indoor swimming' instead of bathtime - to make it more fun. So, yes - the pictures reflect practice even when we don't take pictures of when I'm in the bath with the kids.