Turn up creative play to chase the winter blues away

Weary of dreary? Sure, the nights are longer (but getting shorter!) and the days are colder. And yeah, cooped up kids can lead to amped up kids. Channel that pent-up energy--theirs and yours--into playful productivity. When thermometers drop and winds pick up, let imaginations run wild.

During the post-holiday, mid-winter slump kids and grown-ups alike can benefit from changing things up. Sherri Osborn, writing for About Home, lists 50 stellar “quick and easy winter crafts and activities for kids.” They’re all virtually free and oh-so-much fun, including making a bear cave out of a draped blanket and pretending to “hibernate,”  gathering friends and neighbors for a snow sled parade,  having snowballs for a snack, going for a walk to spot animal tracks in the now, and putting on music and pretending to be snowflakes flying around!

Once kids have burned off some energy, steer them toward some quiet-yet-creative learning fun. (Offer up some heavy-on-the-marshmallows hot chocolate as incentive!) For example, the Vocabulary Puzzles workbook helps first and second graders learn dozens of new words and also enriches math, science and social studies skills. Imaginative activities and charming picture clues introduce and reinforce a wide range of category-specific vocabulary words. Word searches, codes, crosswords, and other kid-pleasing puzzles keep it moving, and silly riddles combined with quirky trivia add to the mix.

Similarly, Word Search People & Places expands vocabulary, while knowledge of geography and history also grows. Learn and reinforce new words with word searches, critical thinking questions, and other activities. Handy reference maps will help strengthen world geography and map-reading skills. The easy-to-read descriptions introduce third or fourth graders to intriguing places, remarkable people, and fascinating animals.

To get younger kids started on problem-solving as a fun quest, try the My First Codes & Puzzles book. With clever art and simple instructions it helps little ones build critical thinking skills, as they master the challenging games. Activities such as completing patterns, circling the words in a puzzle, identifying 10 things wrong in a picture, or using codes to solve riddles keep kids focused, and  these creative strategies build and develop think-it-through skills.

Older kids and adults can improve math, logic, and critical thinking skills with sudoku puzzles that sharpen the mind. In this particular pair each book contains over 300 puzzles arranged by easy, medium and hard skill levels.

Save money on a ticket to Aspen or Sanibel. Add a big blast of sunshine to stay-home time through creative play and learning activities.