Top 10 Ways To Survive The Winter Blues (AKA: You Can’t Play Outside and Everyone Is Sick and You’ve Had It Up To Here and What Can You Do With These Children?)

By: Abby Plambeck

10. Read 🙂

9. If everyone is home sick and your to-do list is on hold, use the day to sort outgrown toys. One sick day, we brought up four big bins of old toys from the basement and dumped them all over the house. My kids loved making a mess, it kept us occupied all day, and I felt like I got something done. And if your kid pukes on a pile of toys, like my Miss Twin did, well, they need to be sanitized before you can donate them anyway!

8. Soak up sunshine whenever you can. We all feel the effects of too many gray days in a row. Check the weather forecast and plan ahead to get outside or go for a drive in the sunshine. It’ll perk up everyone’s mood!

7.  A drive with the music turned up can revive spirits too. If it’s too cold or kids are too sick to get out of the car, plan a drive-through errand to the bank or to pick up prescriptions or dry-cleaning. (Lollipops are a bonus at the bank, and you’ll feel better having accomplished something on your to-do list.) I’ve always assumed music in the car meant Wheels on the Bus, which does more to kill my spirit than revive it, but I learned recently that my kids are pretty excited about hearing my music too. Score! Our last car ride was spent headbanging to Chris Daughtry, which made us all giggle and restored our goodwill.

6. If your door is closed to visitors because of illness, look at it as a license to make a mess! Get out the fingerpaints and Play-Doh (or Crayola’s window markers:, have a picnic in the living room on fun dishes the kids aren’t usually allowed to use, get out some big boxes and make a train, or let the kids get creative with wrapping paper and duct tape. We’ve found those days are good for tackling our (seemingly endless) garage-full of boxes that need to be broken down and put out for recycling. Again, it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something and keeps the kids occupied at the same time!

5. Have a pajama day and bake lots of decadent cookies and cakes. The aroma of baking makes a house feel cozy and kids love to help in the kitchen. You can even make it educational by teaching them math skills with measuring cups and spoons. My kids all started helping in the kitchen at age 2, and I’m continually amazed by what they can actually do. My 4 year old can crack eggs better than I can some days! For easier baking, keep a few box mixes on hand or use an Easy Bake Oven. We’ve had some pretty good things turn out from ours, although we’ve had better luck with using two packages of mix for thicker cakes. There are also recipes online for Easy Bake recipes from scratch, which taste even better ( The bonus with baking is that you can follow it with a tea party!

4. Go camping inside. If you have a tent, set it up in the living room, or make one with blankets and chairs. Get out sleeping bags, make S’mores in a fireplace or microwave, and tell camping stories by flashlight inside the tent. If you have family camping traditions or special foods, introduce your kids to them now so they’ll be ready for real camping in the summer!

3. Look around your area for unusual places to have fun. Did you know that Home Depot has a free workshop for kids ages 5-12 on the first Saturday of every month? ( Check with your local Recreation Department, fitness centers, craft stores, libraries, police and fire stations, and music stores/schools. We even have a furniture store in Southeastern Wisconsin (Steinhafels:, which has an indoor play area, free cookies and coffee, whimsical animal home accessories to look at, and car-shaped strollers that hold two kids. If you can find a reason to shop for furniture or home decorating, it’s a great alternative to McDonald’s playland!

2. This sounds like an awful suggestion, but it can actually be fun. Clean your house! There are always closets to be reorganized, or deep dusting needed behind appliances, or paint touchups, or pictures to hang. My kids might be crazy, but they love to help with those things. My 4 year old tackled giant dust bunnies with me for an hour one day when I got manic enough to pull out the fridge and stove. Mine also like to help measure and draw lines on the walls whenever I hang a picture. It’s a great way to accomplish something and teach your kids math and life skills at the same time. Depending on your house, paint touchups might be a grownup job. We’re lucky to have orange peel-textured walls, which are constantly bumped and scraped. If my kids get messy at slapping the paint back on, it actually looks better with the texture!

Here’s the bottom line to all the above suggestions: Kids love anything out of the ordinary. Even if it feels like work to grownups, kids think it’s special and want to be included. It takes discretion, but instead of feeling annoyed at their pestering to help, consider that they might actually be able to. I bet you’ll be surprised at how much even a toddler can do. I know I’ve been!

1. Do whatever it takes to get some alone time. That’s when you recharge yourself, so you have something to give to your family. Moms are great at being longsuffering, but if we do that too much, we and everyone else will suffer long! I get pretty snarly when I constantly take care of others without addressing my own needs, but just a little time away gives me perspective and I come back eager to give again.

A bubble bath after the kids go to bed is always an option, but sometimes you need more than that and it might take some creativity to find it. If a daddy, babysitter, or grandparent isn’t immediately available, look around your area for any place that offers childcare. That could be a health club, the YMCA, or a Moms-Day-Out meeting (like MOPS:

My most desperate moment happened one September day when our daycare was closed for 2 weeks due to flooding, our grandparents were away on vacation, our babysitter had gone back to college, and Daddy had to work long hours. Our YMCA has childcare for a couple dollars an hour, so I packed up the kids and a book, stopped at Starbucks on the way, dropped the kids off in the playroom, smiled when the staff told me to have a good workout, and sat in a quiet corner to read for an hour! It was just one hour, but it restored my sanity and made me a much better mom for the rest of that week stuck at home. Of course, guilt tried to creep in, but I kicked it back by remembering that the kids had fun, the YMCA made some money off of us, and we use the Y for its intended purposes often enough to justify that one sanity-saving moment.

Parents use plenty of creativity to keep our kids content. Let’s use it to keep ourselves well balanced too, because happy parents make the happiest kids. Post a comment about how you handle long days at your house, or something outrageous you’ve done to keep your sanity!

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