Here’s the news flash: Boring isn’t bad. Kids need to understand that there are cycles and seasons to life, says Dr. Patti Zomber, a psychologist for children and families. Activity and energy levels ebb and flow. There’s not always instant gratification, where fun is handed out on a silver platter or in a bow-bedecked box. On the flip side, there’s value in quiet time, making your own fun, and strengthening bonds with family and friends. It’s also prime time to let kids have small, laid-back gatherings where they can build relationships with classmates. Here are some easy ideas for enjoying the quiet together and with friends.
Just hanging out
Kids ages 2 to 5 enjoy simple family card games, bundled-up winter walks, cuddling on the couch, and other low-key activities.
Even though we tend to think of them as “the little kids,” younger ones love seeing how much they’ve grown. Pop in old family movies of summer vacations and first days of school, then do some laughing and reminiscing together. Measure family members’ heights-as a bonus, your kids will learn how to use a tape measure.
Spend an afternoon baking together, and make a cookie bigger than your head. After the giant cookie cools, take a photo of each family member holding it next to his or her face.
Kids ages 6 to 8 will enjoy laid-back home activities-even cleaning tasks-when you work alongside them.
Try a walk down memory lane-through your kids’ drawers and closets, that is. Winter is the perfect time to sort through toys and clothes your kids have outgrown. As you pick through the piles, tell stories that you associate with the items. (“Remember when our new puppy chewed the laces off this shoe?”) Take your kids along as you donate excess items to a charity. On the way home, use your imagination to create stories about the adventures your old clothes may have in their new lives.
It’s so easy to stash the holiday photos and mementos in a drawer, and so hard to remember the details years later. Set aside a night or two to make holiday scrapbook pages. Let the kids do their own, or have them write out journal entries for the family scrapbook. Dr. Zomber also suggests letting kids use the pictures, papers, and tools to make thank-you notes or decorations for their rooms at the same time.
Kids love to express their creativity, and feel empowered when they get to change their own living spaces. After they’ve helped stow the holiday decorations, let them redecorate their bedrooms or playroom. You can help move furniture around or assist as they choose a new paint palette. (You can repaint later if “Purple Passion” wasn’t such a great choice after all.) One trick for choosing paint colors: Pick up one or two shades from a favorite blanket, rug, or piece of art. Have the kids measure the wall space and do the math to figure out how much paint to buy.
Time to laugh
Winter is a good time for kids ages 9 to 12 to interact with parents and siblings, both at home and at free or inexpensive local venues.
Check newspapers for a dog, cat, or bird show. Go over basic rules beforehand. (Always ask before approaching an animal, keep your voice quiet, and so forth.) Discuss questions, too. Most breeders, handlers, and owners love to tell others about their breeds.
Check out tapes and books from the library and learn a little Spanish. Make up a cheat sheet of food words and phrases. Then go to a Mexican restaurant and try to place your orders in Spanish. Giggles are guaranteed-and the staff will probably be happy to help.
Carry that natural creativity into the kitchen by having a design-your-own-meal night for your preteen kids. Quesadillas, sandwiches, chili, pizzas, and tacos are great because kids love them and they’re easy to make. You can spread out all the ingredients and let the kids invent their own concoctions.