Play the Winter Months Away

Libby Snyder, former Manager of Exhibit Interpretation, Chicago Children’s Museum, shares ideas on how to keep your kids busy during these colder months.

It’s January. The sky is gray and the wind is frigid. You’ve been cooped up in the house for what feels like a decade. Your kids are cranky; they can’t sit still for more than thirty seconds. Ever hear of cabin fever? You’ve got it. And your kids do too. So what’s the cure? Physical activity!

Visitors at Chicago Children's Museum skate in their socks!

Visitors at Chicago Children’s Museum skate in their socks!

We know that physical activity is essential for developing strong, healthy bones and muscles, but studies show that physical play also has many psychological, social and intellectual benefits. Active children are shown to be happier than those who spend their free time in front of TV or video games. What’s more, they are more likely to remain active throughout their lives. By encouraging your child’s physical play now, you are giving your child one key to a healthy adulthood.

” Hold on,” you say. “My children will be happier if they engage in regular physical activity? It’s the dead of winter, it’s sleeting outside and the baby has a cold.”

With a bit of creativity, there are lots of fun, physical activities your whole family can enjoy without zipping up snowsuits or yanking on boots. Here are a few ways to get moving—without leaving home:

Hold a dance contest: Have each family member pick a favorite tune to jam to. Or take turns inventing new dances!

Play parachute games: Use a flat bedsheet as a parachute, and get your hearts pumping by shaking the sheet vigorously. Throw some rolled socks into the center and watch them pop like popcorn.

Create indoor badminton: Make rackets from bent hangers covered with old nylon stockings. See how long you can volley shower puffs, cotton balls, rolled socks, or all three together!

Stage a play: Get the whole family to act out your child’s favorite story. Let your child be the director.

Build a fort: Use dining room chairs, blankets, boxes, and whatever else your children can think of. Make it an all-weekend project and let the kids remodel repeatedly.

At CCM, we’ve found that silliness is key to making indoor physical activities fun. Our exhibit, BIG Backyard lets kids shrink to the size of a bug in a wondrous, oversized garden that’s full of surprises. One of our programs encourages them to make wings and run around like giant moths—and don’t think they won’t!

So don’t be afraid to get silly. The whole family will feel invigorated when you boogey-down to the Beach Boys. Whatever idea you initiate, follow your kids’ lead, and soon you’ll all be feeling a lot less grumpy!

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