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How to Shake the Winter Blues With Your Toddler
Filed under: Activities: Babies
There's just no delicate way to say it: When you have toddler twins, winter sucks. At age two-and-a-half, my children feel the need to run wild, be warm and wear as few items of clothing as possible, and winter just throws a wrench into everything.
Here's the rundown:
1. No playground? No fair!
Once Sadie and Bridget mastered the slides and swings at the local playground, it became just about their favourite place to be. But then the temperature plummeted and the snow came slushing in, and the playground is now a muddy, chilly mess. And despite the fact that late afternoon is prime playtime for toddlers, city-run indoor playgrounds are usually closed in the PM (at least in my 'hood).
2. Winter clothes are awful
Anyone who has attempted to put a snowsuit on a toddler knows that it is just no fun. Their burgeoning independence rears up and they want to do it all themselves. Then they can't manage the zippers and the buttons, so they don't want any of it on at all. When I do manage to wrestle one of my girls into her snowpants, jacket, socks, boots, mittens and hat (whew!), then I have to do it all over again. By the time we are done, I am exhausted, they are too hot and everyone is grumpy.
3. Hot weather = Happy
My kids don't like the cold. Snow looks cool, but once they get it on their hands (after taking off their mittens, of course), snow's allure wears off quick. Once the temperature dips too low, Bridget and Sadie aren't interested in braving the bone-chilling winds. Our house is warm and toasty and there's lots of toys to play with, right? I know that we should all be getting out of the house for some fresh air, but it's hard to argue when it's -7 outside (and that's before the wind chill).
4. Strollers are not made for snow
My stroller is great. It's a tough, urban double stroller, with big wheels and sturdy construction. Even so, when the snow gets deep, it is not a treat to push 50 pounds of kid and 10 pounds of stroller through the drifts that are created when people don't shovel their sidewalks (and they often don't, let's be real here). Even if it's not too snowy, there's that blasted sidewalk ice to contend with.
5. Winter sports are lost on toddlers
Although my husband took them down a modest little hill last winter, my girls are really too young to appreciate tobagganing in all its glory. Skating's not happening just yet, and snowshoeing or skiing? Not by a long shot. I'm sure once they are schoolkids, they will be clamouring to head to the hill or the rink or just to get out there and build a snow fort. But right now, they pretty much just walk around, pick up the snow and throw it. Which is fun, definitely -- for about 20 minutes.
So what is there to do with bored toddlers for the next two-and-a-half months of winter?
Helaine Becker is the writer of Boredom Blasters, a book about innovative diversions for kids. She says it's all about changing up your environment, even if you don't leave the house. Becker recommends transforming your kitchen into a restaurant for a kid-friendly cooking project. Or taping big sheets of newsprint to the lower half of a wall and letting kids go wild with crayons and creativity. But it does depend on your child's temperament. "One kid will say, 'I get it, I have to stay on the paper,' while another will say 'Ooh! I get to draw on the walls!'" she says.
Becker also suggests reimagining your living room with some fantasy play. Put a blanket on the floor and say "This is a desert island," or a boat or a bus or anything you and your kids can dream up. Of course, you do have to get on there with them, or they may start to think it feels suspiciously like a time-out. Or turn a table into a tent with a blanket and go indoor camping. "Anything that turns your environment into a different place," says Becker. "For a little kid, the space under the table is enormously different when it has a pink blanket draped over it."
In our bid to avoid the deep freeze outside, my kids and I have lately been exploring the possibilities when it comes to pretend play. I recommend purchasing a whole lot of plastic food just for this reason. My girls find it endlessly amusing to play picnic or grocery shopping (I draw pictures of different food items for them to find) or even treasure island (yes, plastic food makes great treasure, too). I also suggest marching band, birthday bash and, if you can con them into it, clean-up party. And I guess pretend beach party will have to suffice we can get back to the real thing.