Yesterday we got word that here in our corner of Minnesota, school is cancelled for the next two days due to the extreme cold, windchill, and continuing snow. In other words, winter has decided it’s time to start acting like winter.
First off, I don’t have a frame of reference for how cold -50 is, so I’m thankful that now we won’t have to leave the house to do anything other than the usual farm chores of hauling wood and feeding the animals. Even those two things will be questionable the next few days.
But across the Midwest, I’m guessing mothers like me are a mixed bag of YAY! SNOWDAYS! and CRAP! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TO STAY SANE?!
I’ve been brainstorming what we’re going to do with our kids (ages 7, 5, 5, & 2), and with no further ado, here are a few things we’ll probably be up to in our next couple days of hygge.
- Indoor exercise
This one’s for you, parents. Exercise is important, and endorphins are a must on days like these. So, got a treadmill? Or are you a Pinterest workout pinner? Or how about live streaming video workouts? Now is a great time to shred your abs, bump your booty, or tackle any other ridiculously named set of exercises. If you need a place to start, here’s a link to my favorite 10 minute ab workout.
A quick note: your kids may want to join you. In the spirit of family togetherness, let them! Now’s a great time to teach them how to plank, do a proper bicep curl, or master the jump squat. I mean, what else are you doing today?
- Exercise for the kids
Little bodies need to move too. Did you know you can stream how-to beginner lessons in ballet, taekwondo, and other activities from Youtube? Just cast them from your phone/computer to your TV and turn your living room into a miniature gym – no membership required.
If your kids are smaller, there’s also a fun TV show on Netflix called Bo on the Go. The main character Bo invites viewers to accompany her on missions and move their bodies in the process. It’s a great way to get them off the couch but still stay generally contained in their activity.
- Get a head start on Valentine’s Day
Full disclosure: This is totally an original idea from my preschoolers, so don’t go thinking I’ve suddenly become good at planning ahead. The twins are making homemade valentines for their classmates today. They are coloring hearts, cutting them out, and writing names on them. It’s a great activity in dexterity, counting, writing, coloring, and spelling, and they have been at it for the last hour and a half. Frankly, I’m amazed.
- Snow Tray play
Got a fresh pile of snow but don’t feel like bundling up in 80 bajillion layers to go play in it? Me either. Enter, the snow tray. Grab a bowl, gingerly step outside far enough to fill it with snow, and then slam on the door on that madness and get back inside. Dump said snow on rimmed baking trays and let your kids make miniature snowmen, or race tracks for cars, or tiny snowballs. Bonus points if you put towels under the trays so they can periodically wipe their hands.
- Compromise on music time
I love listening to calm, mellow music during the day… but my 7 and 5-year-olds do not. We compromise by listening to their music for an hour, then my music for an hour, then daddy’s music for an hour, etc. Music has the power to change all sorts of cranky attitudes and spur on spontaneous dance parties, so be ready.
Now might also be a good time to introduce your kids to audio books or podcasts. We’ve had varying results with these, because they have to be pretty closely matched to your children’s interest and attention span, but you can find them on streaming music sites like Google Play and Spotify.
- Go ahead. Marie Kondo the toy room.
Last weekend I headed downstairs to watch a play the kids were putting on. Two hours later, I emerged victorious with two bags of garbage, a fully organized play room, and a great haul of stuff to give away. No need to be judicious here. If the game doesn’t have the pieces anymore, it goes. If the plastic McDonalds toys aren’t bringing anyone joy, dump them in the recycling. If no one has touched the giant bin of Little People toys in the last year, contact your local gym or church nursery and see they if they need any donations.
- Plan an extravagant meal
You know. The one you never make because you don’t have time. Check out your local grocery pick up service, order online, and don’t get out of that car whatever you do because staying alive in this freezer is basically your JOB now. Better yet, poke around in your pantry and use what you have. Remind yourself that you always wanted to try making homemade gnocchi, or roasted chicken, or someone’s Nona’s five hour tomato sauce. Then go for it. Involve the family to the extent they can successfully contribute. Set the table. Light the candles. Use fancy glasses. Let them make a centerpiece out of legos, dragons, etc. Bon Appetit!
- Bake something
Anything. Cookies. Bread. Sweet potatoes. Granola. Firing up that oven will bump up the temp in your kitchen just that much more, and most kids love a special kitchen project (and the promise that they get to lick the beater.)
Not into baking? Let the kids make their own snacks. Turn bananas into mice with chocolate chips and spaghetti whiskers. Make marshmallow snowmen with mallows, stick pretzels, and raisins. Let them make faces in their yogurt bowl using trail mix, fruit, or whatever else is on hand.
- Pull out the puzzles
We are just arriving at the stage where ¾’s of our family can handle doing a 300 piece puzzle. The collaboration, patience, and victory is mostly worth the accompanying whining, misplaced elbowing, and frustration. *Mostly*
- Have a reading competition
See who can read (or digest the pictures if you have pre-readers in the house) the most pages in one day. You can go all crazy and make a chart online, or just draw a few columns on a piece of paper and write in books as you go. Winner gets any manner of positive reinforcement you’re in the mood to offer up. Mom and dad should play too.
- Skype with family
When was the last time you did a virtual video call with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins? Never? Or just yesterday? Whatever your schedule of video chatting, setting aside some time to talk with family can be a great way to offer a new activity. Google Hangouts and Facebook Video Calls are two pretty reliable and free platforms to try.
Feeling less techy? Try reviving the lost art of writing letters. That’s right. Use STAMPS. Put actual envelopes in the MAILBOX. Teach your kids what the little flag on the side of the box is meant for. I know. It’s crazy, but it just might work.
- Embrace the mess
Kids love using props to be creative. In the spirit of fostering that, don’t hem and haw about getting out the Halloween costumes, or gag when the Legos go skittering across the floor. Toys are meant to be played with, messes are easily cleaned, and the hour or two of probable entertainment is worth the chaos. Just remind them that cleanup afterwards is mandatory, and make sure it actually happens.
- Allow boredom
We’ve all heard the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention”, right? Oftentimes, we don’t allow our kids to be bored because they pester us to no end in the process. However, boredom is a necessary step in getting the brain to think of something new to do. So go ahead. Endure the whining, or make them whine in their rooms until suddenly, they’re quiet and somehow engaged in something new. It’s worth it. I promise.
- Look at family pictures or videos together
Our kids LOVE watching videos of themselves when they were younger, and it can be incredibly cozy to sit together at the computer and remember how much fun you all had together last summer, or when the kids were babies, or when they took that special road trip. Go ahead. Pop some popcorn and watch family movies like Clark in the Griswold Family Christmas, minus getting locked in the attic.
- Enjoy being close
As families we often spend our days doing things apart. Make this time special by consciously sitting together, snuggling, giving backrubs, braiding hair, painting nails, or laying close to one another while you read, journal, watch a movie, etc. Extra credit for involving blankets to further ward off the chill
Whatever you do to survive the great Midwestern chill of January 2019, be intentional about loving your people the best way that they receive love, and take advantage of the opportunity to grow a little closer as a family. Also, if you want to close the curtains and pretend that -50 and the outside world just doesn’t exist for the next two days, no judgments here.