You look outside; it’s cold and dreary. That cup of coffee in your hand is only doing a mediocre job of getting you moving. Your kids, however, are already at a 100% and are running through the house playing tack.
“What am I going to do with them today?” keeps running through your head.
I get this question a lot during the winter months.
Now, I could just give you a long list of ideas on how to keep the kids busy, wish you ‘Good luck’ and send you on your way.
But I think it’s a good idea to pause for a moment and take a closer look.
Why is it more challenging to keep everyone happy during the winter than any other time of the year?
On our calendars, winter doesn’t really look any different. We generally keep up the same schedules and have the same responsibilities.
In Nature, however, winter is quite different. The days are much shorter and life slows down dramatically.
Why? Because less hours of sunlight are available.
Think about it…on long summer days, we feel energized and keep going for hours on end. In the winter, we are more likely to lack energy and it can be much harder to get through the day.
The amount of sunlight also effects our sleep pattern. Sleep is regulated by the hormone melatonin. The pineal gland in our brain begins to release melatonin when the sun goes down and signals our body to get ready for sleep. In the early morning hours, melatonin levels drop again and we wake up.
Does that mean we should be sleeping A LOT more during the winter? Sort of like a mini-hibernation? Not exactly.
However, the idea of slowing down and resting in the winter is a worthwhile notion to consider.
Listening to our bodies
Just like nature is full of life during the rest of the year, we are more active in the warmer months. So, why not rest during the winter and recharge ourselves?
The idea of embracing winter and allowing myself to do less is very appealing.
Our body uses periods of rest and sleep to repair muscles, consolidate memory and regulate hormones responsible for growth and appetite. Winter might be the ideal time to really give our bodies a boost and get them ready for warmer and longer days.
While we can’t slow down completely and hibernate (though some of you might want to), we CAN adjust our lives to a slower pace.
Here are three steps that might help you achieve a more suitable rhythm for the winter months.
Step #1: Tell yourself that it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to spend a lazy afternoon snuggled up on the couch with your little ones. It’s okay to say ‘No’ to requests for your time, whether that’s a party or volunteering at your child’s school.
Step #2: Reduce screen time. It’s a good idea in general but can make an especially big difference in the evening. All the artificial light in our lives, including screens, can actually override the production of melatonin in our brains and signal our body that it is not time to go to sleep.
Step #3: Aim to create a daily rhythm that includes calming and relaxing activities as well as activities that allow the kids (and yourself) to burn off some energy.
Here are some ideas that have worked well for us and other families.
Relax and get cozy.
- Playing Games – I sometimes feel bad during the nicer months of the year that we never touch all the wonderful games and puzzles we have. But then the winter creeps around the corner and suddenly we spent many afternoons by the fire playing games. It’s a wonderful way for the kids to spend their days but also for us adults. My husband and I have been enjoying the occasional game after the kids are in bed.
- Reading and Telling Stories – Most likely you are already spending time reading with your child. But after the 10th book, it can start to feel a bit draining. So, mix it up from time to time and tell stories….made up stories, stories from your childhood, or make up a sequel about your child’s favorite book together.
- Building Mini-Worlds – Wooden blocks, train tracks, houses, animals, small figures, and pieces of fabric. They all are perfect for creating little worlds. My kids often end up building castles, towns, fairy and gnome villages, zoo’s and farms. And the stories that emerge out of them are either beautiful or over the top silly. And the real beauty for me is that it keeps them busy for hours.
Get out some energy (without overstimulating your kids).
- Get outside – Even thought it can get rather cold sometimes, most days are nice enough to enjoy the outdoors. Layering up is the key. And thin layers are better than bulky sweaters because it allows kids to move easier and not feel like a giant marshmallow.
- Build a fort – This all-time favorite doesn’t need any explanation. Though, you can add on a fun picnic lunch on the floor next to it. You can even turn it into an indoor camping adventure and set it up for everyone to spend the night.
- Dance and Sing – Dancing has become a favorite at our house after we took our daughter to see the Nutcracker Ballet. She now spends her days as the Sugar Plum Fairy twirling through the house. This can also become a fun activity the entire family and a great opportunity to introduce your kids to a variety of music genres. Play some classical pieces, music you enjoyed as a teenager or your favorite movie soundtrack. And have fun dancing to it. Maybe even show your kids how to waltz.
Take a look at your schedule for the next few days, maybe even weeks and see if you can cross some things out and replace them with more relaxing and enjoyable activities.
And I’d love to hear your experiences. How do you get through the winter? Is it rough or smooth sailing? Do you have an approach that works especially well for your family? Let’s hear it.