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  • Laurie Empen

    Laurie Empen created and leads Ms. Laurie’s Play Group in Lincoln Square and consults with families on issues of discipline, potty training, sensory concerns and more.



    Laurie Empen

    Laurie Empen created and leads Ms. Laurie’s Play Group in Lincoln Square and consults with families on issues of discipline, potty training, sensory concerns and more.

    Cabin-fever busters your kids will love

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    Great activity suggestions for when you and your kids are stuck inside during the cold winter months.

    It’s that time of year: shortened days of sunlight, exhaustion from all the holidays and we’re stuck inside with little ones, ready to pull our hair out. How could anyone survive this, let alone enjoy it? Yes, these are tough days, but with a few helpful hints, we are going to have fun! It may just be changing up the same old routine with a few new and different things. Enjoy the time together and know spring will eventually return.

    Turn on the tunes
    I always put on music, as it changes the atmosphere and lifts the energy of the house. You don’t have to choose children’s music, either. Select something you like, perhaps the Beatles or Coldplay, and alternate. Declare a “dance party” and turn the volume up.

    Shed some light
    Next, I turn on all the lights and lamps. Light has been proven to lift our spirits, especially when we are missing hours of natural daylight that we had during the summer. When eating lunch, I light pillar candles and the children are fascinated by the dancing flame—same at dinner time.

    Plan a picnic
    Speaking of meals, I toss a blanket on the floor and we have a picnic inside. Then, when that meal is done, I use the same blanket (if there aren’t too many food spills) for a makeshift fort over the dining room table. Of course, you can put chairs together or other pieces of furniture, but I like draping a blanket over one end of the table to create a three-sided enclosed space. Toss in some pillows, flashlights, books, or whatever else you like.

    Get creative
    If your children are not napping, consider doing some table work, like “snow play.” Buy a box of instant potato flakes. Pour the box into a 9x13 cake pan or any container, and let them pretend it’s snow. Give them some measuring spoons, use sand toys from the summer, and if you add some water, the flakes get starchy and you can form little snowballs. Same with water, for “water play”: Pour warm water in a dish and give the kids spoons and small cups. Just remember to put a towel under the dish to catch splashing water.

    Raid the pantry
    Make some graham cracker “houses.” Yes, get out those stale graham crackers that no one wanted for a snack, dig up some store-bought frosting and sprinkles, and let the kids decorate the fronts of the crackers. Use frosting “cement” to stick crackers together, repeating until you’ve formed a cube.

    …and more!
    Other activities include browsing through photo albums or pictures and reliving the memories. Balloons make a great chasing game if you blow them up, and let them go. They dart, fly, and go in all different directions. Instead of designated screen time for one or two shows, consider combining it for a movie that day, especially if you have family videos you can watch.

    Laurie Empen created and leads Ms. Laurie’s Play Group in Lincoln Square. She earned a master’s degree in Child Development from Erikson Institute and continues to care for children and consult with families on issues of discipline, potty training, sensory concerns and more.

    Related articles:
    Containing sibling squabbles when cabin fever sets in
    How to survive a Chicago winter with kids
    10 ways to fight the winter blues with your spirited child

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