4 Ways to Turn "Cabin Fever" Into Teachable Moments

Try these simple activities to lift your family's mood on a long winter day.




January and February are "inside jobs." In many parts of the country, young children must spend more time than usual inside, which can lead to some serious cabin fever! All that togetherness is great but sometime we all need our s-p-a-c-e.
Magic Mood Changers
Doing short activities can grab children's attention, engage them in teachable moments, and quickly change the mood of the day. Here are a few favorite mini-activities you can try to fight cabin fever.

1. Music and movement games. Can't play fair outside? Do it inside! Put on some of your favorite music and do a cooperative version of musical chairs. The object of the game is to get as many friends and family on the chairs as possible. Nobody is OUT! Each time one chair is removed, everyone has to work together to get each other on the chairs. More indoor games to try include:

  • A kitchen utensil marching band
  • Simon Says
  • Two-minute aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Jumping rope without a rope

2. Winter picnic. Is the wind blowing outside your door? You can still have a picnic. Collect the picnic basket, the beach towels, tablecloths, and folding chairs and spread them out in the living room. Involve your child in planning, preparing, and sharing the sandwiches and snacks for the event. Set everything up, put on some warm music, and invite the entire family. Don't forget your sunglasses. The best part: no ants!

3. Art projects. Art is always a great calming activity for children. If you are willing to get a bit messy, you and your child can share some fun moments together. Try these ideas:

  • Make food-coloring ice cube paints to share on a roll of paper: Fill ice cube tray with different colors and place a Popsicle stick in each for handles. Freeze. Your child can rub the ice cube "brushes" on the paper and watch as the colors "paint" and mix together!
  • Or, try this in reverse: Instead of freezing the paint, freeze the paper. Wet plain white drawing paper and place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Place in the freezer overnight. Have watercolors ready to paint on the paper as soon as you take it out of the freezer. It will melt fast and create some interesting designs.

4. Quiet reflection. We are such an active culture, and children's lives are getting more and more crowded by after-school activities that require them to be on the go most of the time. Taking a moment to not do is almost unheard of. Yet, it is an essential part of creating peace both inside and out. Through quiet perception games, children can learn to calm their minds and bodies quickly and easily.

Try this: Invite your child to sit in comfortably. Then say: "Without talking, I want you to look around the room and notice something that interests you. Look at it carefully and notice everything you can about it without touching it." (Pause). "Now pretend you can touch it. Think about how it would feel if you could touch it."

You can do just one object or invite your child to find something else to look at this way. This game is not only successful at home but is wonderful in a crowded waiting room or in line in the grocery store!

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