I am not a fan of winter, but I do enjoy winter break with my kiddos. The weather is typically a nuisance, but the low key mornings and non-rushed breakfasts are wonderful. We are usually so busy bustling from one family gathering to the next that our winter break from school always goes by way too fast. Even though it is a busy and cold time of year, I still try to find things that just my husband and I can do to enjoy our time with our children and also allow them to burn off their indoor energy.
The last three years I have made it a priority to do something fun with just my kids and my husband during the cold dead of Winter. We travel to a nearby city and usually go over holiday break or later on in the month of January. My kids love the water and they don’t really need the bells and whistles of a big aquatic park or splash adventure. Plus getting to stay over night in a hotel and jump on beds makes the whole experience extra fun.
I try to pick a hotel with a decent swimming pool and a good continental breakfast. My family also tries to travel mid-week of Winter break, so that we are not running into any weekend crowds. This past break we stayed at a downtown hotel on a Wednesday and Thursday, for a very reasonable rate. We had the entire pool area to ourselves, and were even able to invite Tessa’s family to join us for swimming one of the days. As a mother, getting into a swimsuit in December is never a top priority for me. However, the fun my kids have splashing each other and doing somersaults underwater are worth the trauma of seeing my pale white body and goose-bumpy legs in a tankini and water shorts.
The quick getaway is usually a good recharge for me and my husband. It also better prepares me for putting up with the months of Winter that are ahead. A lot of our daily activities involve taking advantage of the children’s museum and local library’s story hour. I also have a few “go to” games and activities for when we are holed up inside of our house for hours and hours.
Hide the Sock
This game is parental dream. A mom or dad or any supervising adult can literally lay on a couch while overseeing this game as the hider of the sock. (It doesn’t have to be a sock, but my parents played this game with my brothers and me a lot when we were young, and we always used a clean pair of wadded up socks. I mean, it could be a rolling pin, stuffed animal, etc.) My crew usually plays this in our finished basement or living room. The adult in charge hides the sock (not too high, as a child has to be able to get to it) and hollers to the kiddos, who are waiting patiently in the next room, to come out and find it. As the kids start wandering around in search of the sock, the only clues they receive are shouts from the adult if they are HOT (getting close to finding the sock’s location) or COLD (way off course and no where near the hidden sock).
The game gets very funny because you can say things like “lukewarm, cold as ice, hot tamales, volcanic, hot lava, freezing, frigid, etc.” in order to describe which kid is close and which kid is far away from the hiding spot. It builds a sense of urgency and usually starts a healthy round of giggles and tip toe running. My daughters and son love the search and retrieve concept of this game and it can often be good for many rounds of play. Sometimes a single game goes really fast and other times it can take awhile. My husband and I have been known to stretch out on the couch, relax, and be entertained as we watch our children play this game to exhaustion.
Homemade Pizza Making
Cooking and baking are pretty special treats for kids, and I need to be better at including my children in this activity. I typically worry too much about the need to keep the mess to a minimum in the kitchen, so a lot of my meal work-up is done solo. However, I make an exception for homemade pizzas. Every year around the holidays we do a huge pizza making night at my house and invite extended family. Everyone helps create the pizzas from rolling out dough to cutting toppings and sprinkling cheese. This year we made seven pizzas and had a fruit cookie pizza for dessert. My husband and I have been doing this holiday tradition since we got married, and this fun night is usually the kick-start to many more winter evenings of homemade pizza for my crew.
Sometimes we do flat bread pizzas, and we have even tried pizza muffins in a cupcake tin. My son and daughters feel so important when I let them help, especially if it involves cutting or chopping. I typically arm them all with a plastic knife that has just enough uumpph to cut through cherry tomatoes, green peppers, and pepperonis. I know pepperonis do not require cutting, but it keeps my children entertained and seriously focused so that I can get the table set, salad made, and fruit dish assembled. I also read an article once, from NPR, that described how letting young kids do food prep by using a serrated (but, not super sharp) knife will lead to great things. The article stated that kids are more likely to try veggies that they get to cut themselves and it also fosters independence, which is a huge deal for my children. My three-year-old wants to be a big boy and is so happy when he can cut up black olives with his very own plastic knife.
Homemade pizza night is also fun because we can be creative and try new things. My husband has shown me that sour kraut tastes delicious on pizza. He and I can also have our own mini pizzas with lots of jalapenos without the risk of contaminating any slices that are being claimed by our kids. My oldest daughter has learned that she likes taco pizza with cold lettuce, raw tomato, and hot sauce even more than her staple pizza order of pepperoni only.
The winter can be long, but it does not have to be boring. Do you have any fun activities or baking recipes that get you through the dark days of January and February? Let us know by leaving a comment or sending an email to email@example.com.