For many mamas, even the mere mention of winter raises apprehension. How much longer can we stay home before cabin fever hits? How can I keep the kiddos interested and engaged indoors? When we are prepared to bundle up and face the cold air, what are the best outdoor activities for cold weather? We partnered with our friends at Bumkins to interview three intrepid #MINDRMAMAs about their tips and tools for keeping her little ones happy and occupied for fun-filled winter days ahead. First up this week is Denise Stephen, a stay-at-home mama of two, doula, wellness advocate and writer.
What are your go-to strategies for keeping the kiddos entertained at home during the chilly winter months?
When it’s cold out, we tend to spend more time indoors — which means mama has to get a lot more creative!
We read a lot of books. Our current favorites include Please Baby Please, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series and the Olivia series. My son just started getting into the Magic Tree House books which we enjoy reading together. We also read non-fiction and tend to choose a different theme each week. There is often snacking involved in these activities.
We also do puzzles, play board games (recent favorites include Candyland, Perfection and Sequence for Kids), not to mention science experiments and art projects, usually inspired by Pinterest. My kids love making slime and creating exploding volcanoes. We reuse cans, plastic bottles, wrapping paper and other items that would usually be thrown away and turn them into works of art. Snacks never hurt either!
When you venture out of the house with them in winter, what kinds of activities do you focus on?
We visit the library a lot, where we really love connecting with our community and other families, taking the time to pick out really interesting books, reading together and attending some of the playgroups and offerings provided. I love shopping local and supporting small businesses, so we go to local cafes for tea and hot cocoa (plus, mama has to have her matcha!) and the local staff and owners there are always so friendly and welcoming. We also love taking walks and creating lists for dinner and then going grocery shopping together. Sometimes just going on a walk through Brooklyn or a visit to the grocery store can be exciting. We love our city, meeting new people and having even the simplest and smallest of adventures.
What physical items are in your winter toolkit, both for play time at home and for heading out and about?
My winter toolkit is simple but effective: always a variety of books, small travel puzzles and most importantly, snacks, lots of snacks! Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I will add on crayons and small notebooks, play dough and bubbles.
On those really pent-up, cabin-feverish winter days, when nothing seems to keep them happy, what's your secret weapon?
My kids love going outside, so we do experience cabin fever during winter. However, I have found that a dance party and baking cookies or muffins always does the trick! We mix up our batter together, pop it in the oven and dance while we wait. Just when we need a break from dancing the goodies are usually ready and we enjoy a nice treat together! This combo takes up a good amount of time and always leaves us smiling.
Baking together is a tradition in my family. Some of my earliest memories are of my sister and me in the kitchen baking delicious treats with our mom, which we would later enjoy together as a family. My mom is famous for her banana bread which she always loved baking with us. I’m so happy to be able to share her banana bread recipe and this experience with my kids now.
We also love to create new recipes, such as adding zucchini to cookies or making sweet potato and oatmeal bread. My kids enjoy being involved in all parts of the process, from coming up with ideas to the measuring and mixing.
What's one thing you miss about winter once the warmer weather rolls around?
When it’s warmer out we usually get up and out early to enjoy the weather, whereas in the winter slow mornings are a bit more acceptable. I miss the slow mornings and soups and stews we enjoy cooking and eating together in the winter. Living in NYC we don’t get a lot of snow but when we do it’s always magical and my kids really love it! The magic of waking up in the morning and seeing the city blanketed in snow is something we definitely miss on warmer days.
How do you keep the kiddos entertained during the winter months? Drop us your best suggestions in the comments.