Are you buried up to your ears in snow in Norway or wondering if the rain will ever stop in not-so-sunny California? We all get feeling a bit cramped in wintertime and children may be feeling especially constrained, their abundant energy pent up from being inside all the time. Here are five suggestions for fun and purposeful activities you can try to turn a dreary day or two into the stuff of happy memories.
1) Pick A Culture – Any Culture
Grab a book or encyclopedia, or simply use the Internet to do a little research on an interesting culture. Look at photos of native dress, listen to a sound file of someone speaking the language, learn about a special monument in that region of the world (the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall). Use YouTube.com to see if you can hear some folk music from your chosen country.
Find a recipe for one or two simple dishes that kids can make. Maybe the children could color appropriate flags or make animals from that region out of clay. Be sure to share any positive stories (or firsthand experiences) you have with that particular culture.
Benefits Of This Activity: Increases appreciation of other peoples and teaches that differences are interesting; promotes the idea of research being enjoyable.
2) Get In Motion, Indoors
One of the big contributors to ‘cabin fever’ is lack of exercise. You may not have access to a place where children can run and jump during the day. There are some fun things you can try that don’t take up too much room: you can make a hopscotch court by taping numbered squares of paper to the floor. Blow up a balloon and play Keep-It-Up, a non-competitive game where everyone is simply rushing around a room trying not to let the balloon fall to the ground.
With very young children, a game of imitating the motions and sounds of different animals and trying to guess who everyone ‘is’ can be both fun and active. Older children are very good at the old-fashioned parlor game of blind man’s bluff. Or, if space allows, have the children join you in watching and following a beginning Yoga program on tape. You can check these out of most libraries, or find them on the Internet.
Benefits of This Activity: Finds an outlet for surplus energy, relieves the fatigue of inactivity and gets everyone laughing and feeling cheerful again.
3) Bring Order Into Chaos
The ominous cupboard, the catch-all drawer, the don’t-open-that-closet! In every classroom or home, there is some chaotic cabinet or repository that could be made so much more serviceable with a little dedicated organization.
Maria Montessori understood that children’s desire for order begins in infancy, and it’s easy to get kids interested in cleaning or straightening area that needs some work. You might want to assign a classroom shelf to each child, or have some of them dust while others straighten. If they find any “treasures”, like misplaced craft materials, let them use those when the cleaning is over.
A divided tray or handy containers made from empty oatmeal boxes or coffee tins can be a big help in finding orderly places for all kinds of loose objects. Whatever the task may be, make sure the children are a part of it and let the activity revolve around puzzling out the best use of a given space. By choosing a project you know you can complete, you’ll be teaching a valuable little lesson and letting children have the pleasure of contributing to the classroom.
Benefits of This Activity: Helps children discover just how capable they are of improving the usefulness of their environment.
4) Take Advantage Of The Early Nights
Though most of us love the long days of summer, they have one drawback for children – bedtime is likely to occur by or before the hour when the stars come out. This means that winter is the perfect season in which to give young children their first lesson in astronomy.
Teachers, you can encourage parents to have everyone bundle up in their very warmest clothes and step outside for a peek at the night sky in the early evening. Parents, you can help the children look them up before going outside to aid recognition, and then record the constellations that they see (white crayon or paint on black paper).
Benefits of This Activity: A hands-on lesson in the sciences like this is extremely memorable and gaining a feeling of comfort with the night sky is something that will follow children through life.
5) Going On Field Trips
When weather permits, visit a local, indoor place of interest. The nearest large town to you is likely to have a museum of some kind. Perhaps it’s a train museum, a natural history center, or a Native American artifacts display. You don’t have to live in New York City to take advantage of the exhibits that different interest groups have assembled for public benefit.
Some topics may be of more interest to children than others, but don’t underestimate just how fascinating an old ship, a fossil or a collection of curious mixed-media art may be to a child. Even if the trip isn’t the greatest thing the kids have ever done, it will have exposed them to something new.
Benefits of This Activity: Teaches children that communities have unique histories and features they take pride in, and, of course, gets you all moving around!