Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The Boy is a very intelligent, very active four-year-old, which is to say, he’s uncontainable. He’s bouncing off the walls. It’s a challenge in the warmer months, but it’s exponentially worse in the winter months. It’s too cold outside to run around for very long, and he’s too young for any of the organized sports. Add that The Wife and I aren’t skiers or joggers or anything along those lines, and it’s tough to find ways to burn off his energy between late November and March.
We do what we can, but a distressing amount of our time is spent playing traffic cop, trying to keep The Boy and The Girl apart. She wants to be wherever he is, but his favorite indoor activity is building remarkably elaborate cities out of blocks and matchbox cars. Naturally, being the age she is, her form of participation consists in knocking everything down, which really sets him off.
The only thing (other than blocks) that stops his constant motion is tv, but we don’t like to go to that well too much.
Anybody who has tried to play traffic cop with a four-year-old for more than a few hours knows what I’m talking about. It’s sort of like yelling at the sun.
The Wife has it worst, since she has to deal with it seven days a week. I at least have the relative ‘break’ of a full-time, high-stress job. Long commutes aren’t entirely bad...
Question for other parents of little ones in colder climes: what do you do with them in the winter? It’s only January, and we’re completely out of ideas. And, heaven help us, The Boy gets stronger and faster every day.
Tell them they're astronauts on a cold planet. He and his wee friends can explore the alien terrain. Tell them to "Look out for the Bug-Eyed Booger Beast!" and stand clear.
Swimming is a good idea. Ice skating is another possibility if you're feeling adventurous. (Given the family predisposition for poor balance, that may be a bad idea.)
- the library
- the mall (oh how I love the mall)
- children's museums
- Toys R Us or other toy stores that have train tables set up (these are Tristan's favourite destinations, used as a carrot to cajole a week of good behaviour)
- drop in playgroups (in Ontario, we have the Early Years Centres, a gift from benevolent government gods)
- as mentioned, indoor pools are great!
- gym and swim classes
- music/dance lessons
- reciprocal drop-off playdates - you leave the boy with a friend at friend's house for the morning, and friend comes to your house the next week. Bonus = one-on-one time with mum for The Girl
- we have grocery stores with either free kid drop-off or $5 drop off. Not only is it great to shop without the kids, but they love the change of scenery and new toys and interaction with the other kids. Maybe you have something similar?
I could go on - on the days when I am not working, I hate to stay in the house all day. We NEED to get out, for all of our sanity!
Agree on the "it's never too cold to play outside, as long as the kid is dressed right." The key to "dressing right" for kids in snowy conditions is "warm, waterproof gloves."
I remember spending 10 minutes bundling my kids up in snowsuits, boots, hats, mittens, scarves, etc. and then sending them outside, only to have them return in five minutes with their mittens soggy, and hands cold and miserable. So I'd give them new mittens (I had lots of cheap ones) and pop the old ones in the dryer. But that got annoying quickly. Waterproof ski gloves worked lots better.
Another indoor idea for burning off energy: a minitramp works wonders. You can probably get a used one cheap on E-bay or someplace like that.
And the others are correct, -20 is just fine!
Now, from the parent point of view, I realize sometimes you just want a few minutes "all to yourself" à la Danny Kaye, so try an obstacle course -- kitchen chairs, cushions, laundry baskets -- takes more time to build than to run through, but furniture is easier to pick up than Playmobil pieces (another time consuming bit of fun), and The Boy can build it for The Girl to try too.
Hang in, or move to Canada! This year anyway, January has been quite delightful!
We have some for-profit indoor playgrounds around, but they're very expensive and closed on the weekends. Lame, lame, lame.
The Boy is mildly pool-phobic, which seems to run in the family. As does poor balance. I'm really hoping that he inherited some key chromosomes from The Wife.
Jigsaw puzzles and the library are both winners.
Lace is exactly right -- one of the goals is to find stuff that both absorbs The Boy (or, better, both The Boy and The Girl) and doesn't require intensive parental supervision. Sometimes a parent just needs a break. When The Girl is napping, sometimes he'll get absorbed in building his block cities for extended periods, which is great.
We don't have any children's museums nearby. Our little nugget of the Northeast is kind of anomalous -- for a high-income, high-cost, well-educated area, the cultural opportunities are remarkably slim. Bummer, but there it is. I'd love to have some of the city amenities nearby, but that's just not in the cards.
Thanks for all the ideas! I love that my readers are so generous!
Honestly, at -30 my girls don't play outside for too long (one change of mitten's worth of time is about it for them). Gymnastics or gym night at the local Y is fun if your boy doesn't much like pools. Our Y does soccer games and also runs a drop-in obstacle course/play time for preschoolers weekday mornings.
Of course, the old standby of a big blanket draped over the kitchen table worked well, too!
As for activities: building snow forts with slides in the walls in the yard.
Flooding the yard (with a rubber liner it's pretty easy) and skidding in boots or skating.
rebuilding the fort (learnign home maintenance skills: really important)
And that's usually enough to keep the little ones happy.
For toes you can get toe warmers for the boots now. they last about 6-8 hours and some for longer and are re-sealable.
I know how to stay warm in winter. I'm allergic to the cold (yes, it's true) but I love winter sports. So I have all the tricks for warmth.
The rule about getting a really good snowsuit also applies to really good boots. We need to keep our feet forever.
For indoors, it was when he was about 4 that I began to involve my son in little kitchen things. Stirring the egg custrard, learning to make ice-cream (great toy!), making chocolate pudding (Joy of Cooking is still the best).
Oh... and some parents paint a wall with greenboard paint and let their kids have at it with chalk. They feel very liberated, and you can always paint over it later. It's so very "Simon in the land of Chalk Drawings".
I also learned to love hearing the same damnable songs from Disney movies OVER and OVER again. O00da-lolly-oooDA-lolly-ooodalolly-ay.
Only had one kid, so not sure baout how to keep the younger one from wanting to "help".
Kitchen cooking or just futzing around. One day they each sat at the table and got a baking sheet and I squirted ketchup and mustard on (and eventually yogurt etc.), and gave them veggies sticks for finger/painting.
Play-Doh; drawing/writing/stickers/stencils; my older loves to cut, glue, and tape .... ?
BATH time! Our favorite way to use almost an hour in the house. Bath-able crayons to write on bodies and bathtub walls; throw in rotating toys (from kitchen etc.).
One day I set up a "safari:" put a stuffed animal in every room of the house, gave each kid a box/laundry basket with a string for pulling it, called them the Animal Carts, and binoculars made from a pair of toilet paper rolls taped together. You can figure out the script, I guess.
"Print and Color" from pbskids.org or about a hundred other websites catering to housebound families. There are lots of other ideas online too, e.g. [something to the effect of] kidsdomain.com/craft.
Hide And Seek: even the 1.5yo gets it, more or less.
Ditto for the internet: I have to give props to the Teletubbies section of pbskids.org for navigation intuitive enough for toddlers.
library; Dunkin Donuts; pet stores, just to browse; supermarket; secondhand kids-stuff stores; Building 19/Job Lot for amusements on the cheap; hit the drive-thru car-wash to extend the outing. Also McDonald's with PlayLand/PlaySpace, and I guess BK has that too. Swim, skate, children's museum, I know I am repeating.
I know that all this is easier said than done, and I'm feelin ya. Hang in there with me 'til Spring!
Snow is better for all of this because it takes a lot out of them to run around in a foot of snow. Good boots, warm hat and something waterproof for the rest...
Total cost? zero.
Of course, we had to trip over the thing in the middle of the living room...
I know this is unheard of and considered cruel not to mention unpleasant for adults in most civilised countries.
It sure keeps em busy, though. And if all the parents are doing it, and you're warmly dressed, it can be quite pleasant even for adults...