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Cures for Cabin Fever

As the days get shorter and winter weather takes a turn for the worse, children spend more time indoors. Without fresh air and opportunities for vigorous outdoor play, kids can get that cooped-up, bored, restless feeling we call "cabin fever." Stuck indoors, too many children spend long hours watching television or playing video games, neither of which help them release excess energy or use their time creatively. Here are some ideas for reducing cabin fever and curing the "I'm bored. There's nothing to do," blues.

1. Provide opportunities for vigorous physical activity.
Bundle up children for cold weather and let them play outside for short periods of time. When that isn't possible, allow them to play actively indoors. Parents and children can dance or practice aerobics together. Parents may designate a space in the house where it is ok to wrestle and roughhouse. Furnish the space with old rugs and cushions and set limits on how rough kids can get. When you're changing the sheets on a bed (and you're in no particular rush), take a few minutes to play with your child. Drape the sheets over furniture and pretend it is a cave to explore.

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2. Drop everything when it snows.
Unless it's bitterly cold outside, let kids play in the snow. They can build snowmen or snow forts, make snow angels, go sledding and throw snowballs (at safe targets only, please).

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3. Look for fun winter sports - outdoors and in.
Ice-skating is a great winter sport, providing lots of challenge and vigorous exercise. Many rinks are open to the public. Bowling is a terrific indoor activity that offers friendly, fun-filled competition.

4. Put together a creative arts and crafts kit.
Get a goodsized plastic storage box and fill it with some or all of the following items:

  • Crayons
  • Construction paper
  • Washable markers
  • Felt and fabric remnants
  • Pencils/pens
  • Ribbon/bric-a-brac
  • Scissors
  • Yarn or string
  • Hole punch
  • Beads and buttons
  • White glue/glue stick
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Tape
  • Plastic drinking straws
  • Glitter
  • Lunch bags
  • Tempera paints
  • Wiggle eyes
  • Paint brushes
  • Popsicle sticks

Bring the kit out when your child is looking for something to do or when you want to do something interesting with him.

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When found objects are dipped into paint and stamped onto cloth or paper, they can be used to create amazing works of art full of repetition and pattern.


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Copious quantities of simple items, particularly when combined with appropriate go-togethers, are synergistic.

5. Help children start a hobby.
They may want to build model cars or rockets. They may want to start a card, comic book, coin or stamp collection. Or they may want to learn a skill, like playing the guitar or dancing. Hobbies can sustain children's interest in activities that foster learning, creativity and a sense of competence.

6. Winter is a good time to see those places you usually don't think about on warm, sunny days.
Visit the library, local historical sites, a museum, art galleries, a university and other places of interest. Check out other community resources like indoor play/amusement centers, craft centers, indoor pools, school recreation programs and church activities.

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7. Check out the local library or your own bookshelf for reading adventures.
Many children's libraries host a variety of craft, science, reading and play activities. Kids can often enroll in reading enrichment programs and receive stickers, prizes or certificates for reading a number of books. Look for books at the library or at home that offer armchair adventures.

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By reading aloud, children develop their reading, language, and vocabulary skills and learn to express emotion as they portray the roles of characters in a book. This experience is further enhanced when they adapt one of their favorite stories into a play.

8. Unleash your child's inner composer.
Children and music go together like peanut butter and jelly. Children can take their natural enthusiasm for music one step further by actively participating and making their very own music, becoming composers themselves. Creating original music is not only empowering, it can be a wonderful springboard into a world of creativity promoting self-expression, problem solving, good communication skills, teamwork, and an appreciation for the arts. Make homemade instruments with pots and pans, plastic cups, thimbles and washboards, rubber bands, whistles, and other music makers you can find around the house.

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Found Sound
Create a composition of interesting sounds you collect in your everyday life.

Soundscapes
Choose a story to tell in sounds. Create your own soundscape with instruments and objects, clapping hands, and weird voices.

9. Turn off the television and use the time for family games and activities.
Play board games together or put together family photo albums. Share your family's history and your own childhood experiences with your children.

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10. Let children participate in household tasks of their choice.
Children who never seemed anxious to do household chores before may be willing to help out when they have nothing better to do. Cooking with kids is a great family activity. Teach kids how to bake and decorate a cake. Spend a chilly, rainy Saturday afternoon preparing meals together. You'll not only have fun doing something constructive, you'll find that the workweek is less hectic because of the meals you prepared in advance.

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In the Kitchen with Kids
Kids love to watch and help their parents cook and bake. Cooking together is not only a great way to spend time with your kids, but can serve as an ideal opportunity to teach kids valuable skills and lessons about health and nutrition.

Your family doesn't have to be stricken with the winter doldrums. A little imagination and a lot of flexibility are all that's needed to pass the time until spring. By encouraging children to pursue creative alternatives to television and expecting a degree of indoor activity and messiness, parents can reduce their children's cabin fever.

 

Article reprinted from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Parent Page, written by Tim Jahn, Human Development Specialist.

 


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