I remember how long the first three months of the year were when I was teaching—trying to keep the kids content while cabin fever raged on was excrutiating. In Chicago, negative temps almost always forced us indoors, for days on end, for all before-school, lunchtime + recess breaks. Everyone was irritable, more reactive + less inclined to be accommodating. And now that I’m a parent, it’s more apparent than ever that families need winter ideas to help move through periods of cabin fever. Which is why I’ve put together 10 activities sure to help you and the kids beat cabin fever this winter.
Cold temps, gray skies + snowy conditions have many families stuck indoors. Which means less mental stimulation + physical activity. When you’re feeling cut off from the outside world while sharing the same space with your family, the days can feel especially hard.
All of this can lead to decreased (yet much-needed) alone time, disrupted sleep patterns, a sense of social isolation + significant amounts of boredom. So let’s tackle some of these head-on with winter ideas that will help your family overcome cabin fever.
The days may slowly be getting longer, but that doesn’t mean that’s enough to be feeling your best. It’s estimated some 14-26% of people experience some form of seasonal shifts in mood + energy levels during the winter months.
Whether you’re reading this from the throes of a polar vortex, trying to get through ‘second winter’ or maybe stuck indoors because of some early-spring showers, you’re likely looking for some ways to bring fun, levity + life back into your home because this experience is real. Which is why we’re going to explore 10 family winter ideas that will help get your household back on track fast.
A lack of fresh air and natural light are certain to lower the vibe in your home. Stock up on winter or rain gear + commit to getting outdoors at least 5 minutes a day. You may not always have sunshine, but fresh air alone is going to give your bodies a quick reset that can instantly lift spirits.
It’s easy to get caught in habits that leave you feeling confined to small spaces for extended periods of time. If you’re sick of playing with your kids in the living room all day, take some of their favorite toys + relocate them in another part of the house. It doesn’t have to be a permanent shift but the new environment can help mix things up in a way that’s refreshing.
Sometimes we have a tendency to hunker down + hibernate this time of year. It’s easy to overlook the fact that you haven’t been socially interacting with others + that significantly contributes to our sense of monotony. So whether you want to set up a Bluey-themed playdate for the kids or invite some friends to share in convo over some wine + a charcuterie board, do something to bring other people back into your world. And hey, if it’s just too cold to be out + about, set up something on FaceTime or Zoom—this is about human connection. It doesn’t matter how you make it happen!
Just because you can’t spend outdoors as much as other months, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep your body moving. If you’ve been feeling restless or anyone has been struggling with sleep, I’d venture to guess that your family needs to move more! Here are some simple ideas to keep your family entertained indoors this winter:
You can set up an indoor challenge course, roll out a putting green, set up an indoor basketball hoop, get a laser tag set, or even invest in some gymnastics mats + a bar. My kids absolutely love watching Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube + sometimes we even do a Peloton barre class together. And if you’re feeling brave enough, head out to your local rec center, trampoline park, rock climbing spot or indoor pool.
Winter cabin fever can bring out the most anxious + stressed versions of ourselves. If you’ve been feeling this way lately, try some activities that feel more meditative. Making time for mindfulness doesn’t have to be a personal, private practice. In many ways, I believe it’s important to model for our kids what it looks like to take care of our wellbeing helps to normalize it so that they embrace it wholly.
You could play calming music in the house, practice breathing exercises with the kids. Choose some activities that are more cathartic like painting or creating with clay. Sometimes in our family we make time to share what we’re grateful for or journal about how we are feeling. Anything to support your wellbeing is going to be beneficial to overcoming the emotional effects of cabin fever.
When you’re spending a lot of time in your home, it’s easy for things to get cluttered. This can make the whole family feel more overwhelmed + stimulated which only further contributes to irritability. To help, one idea would be for your family to do a winter cleaning.
Setting aside some time to re-organize high-traffic areas of your home will help bring some zen to your space. If nothing else, prioritize a 5-minute daily tidy-up time with your kids to make sure that there’s a modest sense of order in your life.
It’s so easy for sleep to be thrown of balance when you’re hunkered down in the winter months—for you and your kids. In addition to keeping your bodies moving (use those muscles!), it’s also important to focus on sleep hygiene. Making small yet intentional changes that promote great sleep will set everyone up for a better mood in the daytime.
Be sure to set an earlier bedtime than you’d expect (most kids should be asleep by 7:30 at the latest). Choosing to make post-dinner activities calmer + relaxing will help set the tone that the family is transitioning to sleep mode. We like to dim the lights, play board games or even read extra books during this time. And don’t forget—your sleep hygiene matter too. Set a reminder to turn off your screen at least 30 minutes before bed + use that time to unwind + pamper yourself. You won’t regret this shift!
As much as it feels important for your family to have ideas for the winter, it’s important for you to focus on yourself as well. When you’re stuck in the same place with the same people for weeks on end, it’s easy to feel cramped + without much privacy. Talk with your partner or a friend about some scheduled me time that is kid-free. Focus on helping you replenish your depleted mom-stores. It’ll not only create a sense of balance but empower you to show up ready to take on mom life with more optimism + confidence.
This can be your time to reconnect with friends. Maybe you want to spend time in your room reading a new book. Or possibly, you’re heading out to a pottery class in town. It doesn’t matter as much as making sure it happens. Don’t skip this step!
I am usually in the ‘less is more’ camp, but sometimes it helps to have a secret stash of new activities to breathe life into a challenging day (or season). Shop sales or even a local thrift store for some new puzzles, games + activities. It’s amazing how these help pass the time on the days when you really don’t want your kids in front of any more screens but also can’t find the energy to entertain them yourself.
To make this extra easy, I’ve put together some of our own favorites to make this even easier for you, just click here to visit the Cabin Fever Shop.
As much as the winter can be challenging for families, it’s equally important to shift your mindset away from what you don’t have access to + even consider the gift of time that you have with your kids while still young. Some of your best memories can be made in the closeness of space + time together. I’d love to hear from you in the comments—what are your favorite ways to connect with your kids during the winter months?
If you’re feeling especially frustrated by your child during these challenging winter months, just know that’s entirely normal. It’s hard to feel compassionate + patient when you’re constantly over-stimulated + managing everyone’s needs. While it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes the antidote to this is to prioritize meaningful connection with your child.
Download this free, PDF guide for some simple ideas to help you turn off mom mode + have meaningful interactions with your child that help shift from frustration to calm in just a few minutes a day.
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