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Six Cheap Ways to Keep the Kids Busy This Winter

Written by Ed Avis - One Comment

Six Cheap Ways to Keep the Kids Busy This Winter

Cabin fever might not be diagnosed in medical textbooks, but any parent knows it can be a serious illness on cold winter days! When the shine wears off the holiday gifts and the bored kids start bouncing off the walls, everyone can go crazy. Here are six ways parents can battle cabin fever while barely opening their wallets.

1. Winter Picnic

Most people think of a picnic as a warm-weather activity, but who says you can’t get the family outside for a wintry meal, too? There will plenty of room in the picnic area, that’s for sure!

The same food you pack for a summer picnic is equally fun in the winter — chips, sandwiches, cut fruit, cookies, etc. If you have a portable stove, such as those made by Coleman, bring it along for the added fun of making hot food on a cold day.

Dress the kids warmly and load the clan into the car along with some winter sports gear — sleds, ice skates, extra dry clothes, etc. — and venture into the wild!

2. To the Hills!

Think sledding is old-fashioned? Maybe in these high-tech times it is, but wow, there is no better way to get the kids revved up and then worn out than by taking them sledding. Giant groomed hills are not necessary — your kids will have just as much fun on the gentle slopes of a golf course or school playground.

Two tips: Dress the kids warmly so the cold doesn’t end the fun prematurely, and insist that they carry or pull their sleds up the hill themselves. When they collapse in exhaustion afterwards, you’ll marvel at the calming effects of winter sports.

3. Old-fashioned Game Day

Some winter days are just too cold for outdoor events, but that doesn’t mean you need to suffer with unabated cabin fever. Rather than let the kids veg out in front of the TV or video games, pull those board games off the shelf and have an old-fashioned game day.

The kids might think games that work without plugs or batteries are quirky, but chances are they’ll love the interaction that classic board games provide and that video games just can’t match. A few great group board games that are truly fun for adults and kids include Pictionary, Monopoly, Tripoley, Sorry, Yahtzee, and Clue.

4. Winter Gardening

What? Gardening in winter? Yes! Give your cabin-feverish kids a blast of spring by making a terrarium or starting some plants that can be transplanted into the garden in the spring. Depending on what you have around the house, this project may not be free, but the few bucks you spend will be worth it.

Terrariums can be made in many vessels, from a clear plastic water jug to an unused fish tank. There are scores web sites that offer guidance for creating terrariums — the basics are rocks for drainage, decent soil, and plants (such as moss) or seeds that won’t grow too big.

For plants that can be transplanted in the spring, a visit to any garden center will reveal how inexpensive — and easy — starting plants indoors can be. This project will occupy the little ones for a few hours the day you start it, but will provide them with many more hours of fascinated observation in the weeks following.

5. Winter Hunt

Everyone loves the excitement of a treasure hunt. Make a list of ordinary things your kids might find in your yard — a leaf, a toy, a stone, etc., depending on the age of your children — and send the kids out.

Consider avoiding the sibling rivalry by making it a team competition against the clock — if your kids together find everything on the list in 20 minutes, they all get hot chocolate, or something like that. A variation on this theme would be to hide “treasures” and create a map with clever clues.

6. Scrapbook

If you have a digital camera, you probably have hundreds of photos that you barely ever look at. Sit down with your kids in front of the computer and select a summer’s worth of photos (or some other time period or event).

Many retailers offer one-hour photo processing, so order some prints of the chosen photos; while you’re at the store, pick up a photo album. Track down related paper items, such as receipts from fun outings, tourist brochures, postcards, etc.

Now the fun part: Let your kids choose which photos and related items to place on each page, and have them write little captions. Encourage humor! Put the pieces together and your family will have a new heirloom. The project will burn a couple of otherwise boring hours, and cost you remarkably little money.

Winter can be a struggle for any family, but don’t think you need to spend big bucks on a fancy vacation to keep the kids happy. Try some of these tips to make those cold days easier.

Published on February 14th, 2012
Modified on February 19th, 2012 - One Comment
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a writer and editor in Oak Park, Illinois. He specializes in personal finance, parenting, and small business topics. He is married and has two sons.

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