I get it–I know cabin fever is a real thing. I know it’s hard to get everyone bundled up. I know it’s cold. I know some days are sunless and dreary. Many people simply do not enjoy winter.
While I happen to love winter–A decade spent in Texas left me homesick for full blown seasons and I was thrilled to return to “real” winter (and spring and summer and fall) here on the east coast–I get it. I’m just as thrilled as the next gal when spring finally arrives.
But here’s the thing–those of us who have a real winter every year can’t wish away the snow, the gray days, or the reality of being stuck inside for days on end with kids who are going stir crazy.
So we can either mope our way through it and bemoan the challenges of winter, or we can accept the season for what it is and embrace the slowed down speed of life, the forced family time, the amazing displays of nature seen only at this time of the year.
In my own family, motherhood brought the unexpected joy of exploring and appreciating each season’s changes with my kids. Our personal collection of seasonal books and poetry, our special rituals and traditions add joy to “regular” life throughout the year.
Even–or especially–in winter.
If you’re dragging your tail this winter…having a hard time enjoying all the cold and the snow…give one of these ideas a try and see if it doesn’t infuse a little more joy into the season for you and your children.
11 Ways to Enjoy Winter with Your Kids
1. Winter books
Over the years, we’ve amassed quite a collection of wonderful books about winter. Because we keep them tucked away during the rest of the year, it’s especially exciting to pull them out again each year as soon as we’ve put away our collection of Christmas books.
Try it: Each year, add a few great winter books to your own collection. (Try it for each season, if you can!) I guarantee it will give your kiddos something to look forward to at the change of each season. The library is a great resource, too, especially while you’re still building your own collection.
2. Winter poetry
We keep a few great collections of poetry for kids right next to our dining table. Several of them include sections about weather, which makes it a snap to find a good winter poem. It takes only a few minutes at the most to read a poem out loud, and kids love hearing about the exact things happening in the world outside.
Try it: Check out a few books of poetry from the library. When you find one you really like, purchase it and add it to your own collection.
- One of our favorite books of poetry is The Random House Collection of Poetry for Children (edited by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel).
- Our favorite collection of lighthearted winter poems is Jack Prelutsky’s It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing!
- Our all-time favorite winter poem is actually a little song written by A.A. Milne via Winnie the Pooh. If you’ve never read it to your kids, make plans to do it very soon! They will love it.
3. Monthly books
Similar to our collections of seasonal books, we have a special collection of books about months (and seasons). These books are displayed on the DIY Pallet Shelves in our dining room, opened to the pages that correspond to the current month.
Try it: Again, the library is a great resource, but I recommend adding at least one book to your own collection. Find a good spot to display the current month, and make a big deal of reading those pages together at the beginning of each month. No worries if you miss the first day of the month, or even the first week! Just read it together as soon as you remember.
Recommended monthly books:
- The Year at Maple Hill Farm
- A Book of Seasons
- Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac
- Frog and Toad All Year
- Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months
4. Audio books
Audio books are fantastic year round, but they’re especially helpful in the winter when you’re stuck indoors and are trying to limit screen time. My guys get to listen to audio stories during our mandatory daily rest time, but they also enjoy listening to special favorites together. Suggesting a favorite audio story is one of my favorite tactics for diffusing those crazy cabin fever days. Often they’ll each choose something to work on while listening–drawing, building, etc.
Try it: Check out audio books from the library and buy the ones you love. (Tip: library book sales are a great source for inexpensive audio books!) Keep them as a trick up your sleeve for those days when everyone needs some winter relief!
We’ve slowly built a collection of the kind of stories you want to listen to over and over. We also regularly check out new stories from the library.
Audio books worth owning (listed in order of age appropriateness):
- Frog and Toad Audio Collection
- Frances Audio Collection
- A.A. Milne’s Pooh Classics
- Classical Kids (our favorites are Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery, Mozart’s Magic Fantasy and Tchaikovsky Discovers America)
- Anything read by Jim Weiss (favorites: Famously Funny, Just So Stories, Mystery! Mystery!)
- The Chronicles of Narnia
We’re big fans of Nature Walks. While it might seem like more trouble than it’s worth to attempt a Nature Walk during the winter, I recommend it! You’ll see things on a Winter Nature Walk that you just can’t see during the other seasons. Plus, a little fresh air and exercise is always invigorating and helps to get those wiggles out!
Try it: Determine to seize the next available opportunity to bundle up your crew and get outside. Just do it!
If you live in a snowy area, you’ll definitely want to take everyone out to look for animal tracks in the snow. Our own tracking adventures have been some of our most memorable nature walks!
Try it: The next time it snows, find a good location for animal tracks and be ready to get everyone outside. Take pictures of the tracks you find, and identify them when you get home. If possible, familiarize yourself with common tracks for your area before setting out on your adventure.
Winter is the best time for birding! You don’t even have to leave your house for this one—just hang a feeder in a visible spot and keep it filled all winter long. Find a good bird guide and be ready to enjoy the stream of feathered friends.
Try it: In which area of the house does your family spend the most time? Hang a feeder in a spot visible from there. Get some bird seed and a kid-friendly bird guide, and have fun identifying birds together.
More tips here:
- Birding with Kids: 7 Reasons to Do It and How to Get Started
- Best Bird Guides for Kids
- Bird Activities and Free Printables
Games & Activities
Lots of indoor time means more time for games. During nicer weather, our weekly family night usually involves getting outside. In the winter, family night often involves a game. Since we try to limit screen time, we’ve deliberately sought out quality games that everyone can play–even preschoolers.
Try it: Add a new game to your stash this winter. Thrift stores are often a great resource if funds are low, or you could try swapping games with a friend. Remember to be on the lookout during yard sale season!
Need some ideas? Check out our list of 11 Family Games Even a Three Year Old Can Play.
In addition to family games, jigsaw puzzles are a fun winter tradition. Our puzzle collection started with jumbo preschool-level floor puzzles and is now progressing into more challenging versions. For Christmas this year, each boy received a challenging puzzle. Older Brother’s puzzle is adult-level, a Van Gogh puzzle we studied recently. We set it up on a card table in the basement and I work on it with him every now and then during rest time. It’s a fun winter-only activity that I hope he’ll grow to appreciate more and more.
Try it: Puzzles are super-cheap at thrift stores and garage sales. Or spring for a nice one you know your kids will enjoy. Offer to work on it with your kid(s) and then challenge them to complete it on their own.
The classic stuck-indoors activity! All you need is a table and some blankets.
Try it: The next time your kids ask, say yes! Better yet, suggest a fort yourself. Perfect for those days toys have lost their appeal and cabin fever is running high. Use an existing table, an extra folding table, chairs–whatever is available at your house. Designate a few old blankets for the express purpose of forts in the winter and picnics in the spring.
11. Winter Decor
It might seem cheesy, but winter is more fun with a few winter-themed decorations! Putting away Christmas decorations doesn’t feel so sad when there are hand towels embroidered with snowflakes, am I right?
Seriously, my boys eagerly anticipate each season’s special decor. We have really only a few things by way of winter decorations, but they make us happy. It’s another small way of marking the changing of seasons.
Try it: If you already own a few non-Christmasy winter decorations, get them out! If you don’t have any, find one winter decoration you love and place it where everyone can enjoy it. Create some fanfare about it, too. Kids love fanfare. Kids also love to make decorations, so if that’s up your alley, have at it!
This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few ideas to get your winter juices flowing. What would you add to my list? How do you add joy to long winter days with your kids?
Kathleen Henderson is the yankee behind the homestead. Follow along as we grow real food and three boys while renovating a 20-acre farm in northern Virginia. Do you love homegrown food, Paleo-ish recipes, and natural living? You’re in good company! Let’s grow together…