Help kids turn winter blues and blahs into big, fun and learning hoorahs!

The end of January means winter is officially just one-third done. Shy of the halfway mark, even for those who love the season, gray days can get old for both grown-ups and kids, and it seems that some parts of the country experience more than their share. Boost kids’ enthusiasm--and your own--by changing things up and getting creative.

Sarah Tomlinson, writing for Parenthood.com, shares great ideas for blah-busters in “Activities to Beat the Winter Blues.” For example, she suggests letting kids redecorate something, for example, “a wall or their bedroom door.” She adds, “For less commitment, decorate a large poster and use it to change an area's appearance. Or paint a floor cloth, lampshade or placemats.” Among her other fun ideas (and a couple from Lorraine Lee Hammond, a music teacher) are face paints made from corn starch, water, cold cream, and food coloring; shakers made from empty plastic bottles and filled with rice, dried beans, or corn (pointing out that lentils and kidney beans sound different!); and making up songs to record, with parents contributing topics ranging from “airplanes to ice cream.”

The No Biggie blog posted “25+ Indoor Winter Activities for Kids,” gathered from many sources. Snow temporarily melting? Help kids build String Cheese Snowmen! Or add a pretty little garnish to cups of hot chocolate with Cool-Whip snowflakes. You’ve never seen a cuter use of cardboard tubes than polar bears (from Crafts by Amanda), and gooey, colorful Snow Day Sparkle Slime (from Teach Mama) will be a surefire hit.

In a veritable winter garden of great ideas, the Artful Parent posted “89 Indoor Activities to Keep Your Kids from Bouncing Off the Walls,” again, linked to various sources. While some involve multiple ingredients or materials, are more appropriate for older kids and/or definitely require parental supervision, some are pretty straightforward. They include “6 Kids’ Playhouses, Forts and Tents for Creative Play Indoors,”  “Colored Ice Sculptures,” and “Melting Ice Science Experiment with Salt and Liquid Watercolors.”  

Of course, not everything is all rainbows and ice crystals in wintertime. While almost everyone has the occasional down day during wintertime, according to New York University School of Medicine, NYU Medical Center Child Study Center, “approximately 6 percent of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),” a form of depression that “follows a predictable course,” worsening in fall and improving with the longer daytime hours of spring. It’s more common in adults, but kids and teens can experience it, too. The NYU article, “Seasonal Affective Disorder:  Help Kids Beat the Winter Blues,” offers a list of symptoms as well as ideas for shaking its effects.

On the one hand, the NYU team urges parents and kids to “Get out of the house whenever possible. Bundle up and take a brisk walk to get some fresh air and a little sunlight,” but given that’s not always possible, they also suggest that “Being productive and accomplishing goals can also elevate our mood. Take advantage of having to stay indoors by tackling chores or projects you don’t usually have time for.”

Another advantage of staying inside is the higher probability of family members being in one place, at one time, so why not pull out some classic card or board games and fire up a bit of friendly competition to warm the winter afternoons and evenings? Take a look at this 11-pack Flash Card & Game Card Collection Grades P-K that includes Old Maid that helps teach numbers and a Go Fish that teaches the alphabet. Another 11-pack Flash Card & Game Collection Ages 6-Up includes Math War Addition & Subtraction and Math War Multiplication. For a number of gaming and learning options in one take-anywhere package the whole family can enjoy, explore one of six great boxed learning sets:  Spelling Words, Telling Time, Counting Money, and Making Fractions.

Make it, shake it, or play it—show kids that a little creativity and togetherness can turn the grayest of winter days into smile-worthy moments.