Do you know those days when it’s never gets really light? The sun can’t make it through the thick soup of clouds and mist and you wonder all day whether it’s still early morning or already early evening. This and a disgusting combination of icy rain, hail or sleet. You crave for some energy- and Vitamin-D-giving sunlight and it doesn’t matter how many oranges, lemons or pineapples you eat, you feel just low. Well, that’s how life treated me last week.
I normally enjoy winter and the cold season. It’s great because I love watching the leaves turning yellow, red, orange and brown. It’s nice to get the woollen winter coat and my flat cap out again, and there is nothing more magical than seeing icy, glittery cob webs and frosty sparkle flowers on a winter’s morning. And, snow! Of course, snow. Well, the last time we had snow was in … nope, can’t remember. (Oh yes, we had half an inch for exactly three hours; then it melted… that was three weeks ago!)
So, the nice winter days are awesome. Bring them on, now. I wouldn’t mind. Then I could just grab the kids and we could spend all afternoon outside making snowmen or having snowball fights. But the other side of the cold season, the dark and miserable one, can go away. Because I’ve noticed how this darkness effects my children as well (yes, I have no idea how parents and children in Finland or Sweden survive their long winters).
Sometimes it can turn a bit funny, especially when my 3-year-old informs me at breakfast “Oh, it’s time for bed. Dark outside!”. But at other times they just pick up on the weather and become grumpy and miserable. So do I.
That bad mood expresses itself in tantrums (yep, that’s me included), boredom, arguments or the kids decide to burn their energy by strangling each other (gosh, did I say that?). Or they demand permanent entertainment, e.g. reading books (no, not only a couple of books, a dozen at least). Many parents might think ‘well, just turn the telly on. That’s what it’s for. Right?’ Nope. Wrong. Firstly we don’t have one (yes, you’ve heard right: we do not own a television. And yes, we are fine). And secondly I don’t wanna kill my kids’ creativity and my own sanity by turning them into fast-food-entertainment-junkies, who then believe they must buy every single commercialised product they would see on TV. Forget it.
So, in order to stay calm and relaxed about such grim winter days, I came up with a list of things you and your children can enjoy. Personally I printed my list and I keep it visible as my personal back-up plan when I feel the need for pulling a little joker from my sleeve.
Here we are:
-Time for rough-and-tumble. Especially over the winter months we burn far less energy and calories than in summer. So, turn your lounge into a roughhousing go-wild-area. Take cushions, pillows, mattresses, duvets, blankets and soft fluffy stuff to cover the floor and remove all sharp, hard or dangerous objects. Then invite your kids for a good and fair session of roughhousing. Make rules beforehand (e.g. “We don’t hurt each other” or “Stop means STOP!” and don’t overpower your kids. Let them ‘win’ or at least let them be in charge. This way their physical energy gets burned, while their glass of emotional needs will be filled up. Need more inspiration? I can warmly recommend Larry Cohen’s book ‘The Art of Roughhousing’. My boys love to roughhouse (and me, too. I always feel ten years younger after)
-Invent a new evening meal: Who cares for cookery books? Especially when your kids aren’t able to read yet. So, create something new in your kitchen by raiding the cupboard and fridge. See what your kids come up with and invent a brand new recipe. Let your children help. They can chop veggies or beat some eggs. As you don’t stick to any measurements, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s too sticky, runny or hard. Again, maybe agree on some rules (“Yes, only one teaspoon of salt.”) The result could be more than inspiring. It actually could be quite yummy. If it’s not edible (never happened here… ok, well, maybe once or twice), your kids might get hooked in trying it again. Wow, lessons for life.
– Make up a story. No, not from a book, it all starts with your own imagination. Make yourself comfortable on the sofa and snuggle up together with your children. You start telling a story by introducing a couple of characters and a scene of action. (Keep it simple. It could start like this: One beautiful morning a farmer called Joe opened the door to his barn. In the barn lived a cow, a horse, and some pigs…) Then at a crucial point (well, it doesn’t matter so much if there’s a crucial point, but hey ho let’s assume we need one: Joe opened the barn door and then he suddenly saw… Pause) ask one of your children to take over and to carry on with the story line. Depending on age and abilities, the story could be ‘passed on’ from one to another. This can go on for hours… or days. (Until Joe very sleepily and tired went to bed)
– Have a good sort-through: Gosh, how much stuff do we need actually? The answer is always the same: less than we think. But cleaning or decluttering aren’t fun. Well, you would think so. The thing is, you can make them fun. Yep, it doesn’t help much when you shout with a grumpy face “For goodness sake, clean your bedroom now or I’ll scream my head off.” Have you ever tried to turn the ugly cleaning into a little party? Get the vacuum cleaner out, turn the music up and invite your kids to a dance. The dishcloth becomes a magic towel and everyone home joins in the who-can-pick-up-the-most-books-and-toys-and-puts-them-away-in-three-minutes-race. Everyone is a winner. Make a pile of toys and things you and no-one else in your home need. Take the stuff to the charity shop or give it away.
After the cleaning party you settle on the sofa with a nice mug of tea or coffee. Awesome.
-Last one: No snow but frosty cold nights? Make an ice ornament. What you need is a plastic plate or an old Frisbee disk. Collect some natural objects (leaves, sticks, feathers) and let your kids arrange them on that plate or disk. Add some water and leave overnight. Next morning you’ll be surprised! Promised!