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Cabin Fever?
Tips to Keep Your Kids Active This Winter

QUESTION: Our family always has a hard time in the winter. Where we live it's very cold and we don't get outside much. We get through the holidays, with all the excitement, but then things fall apart. I have two boys, ten and six years old. How can we survive another tension filled winter?

ANSWER: In addition to the usual indoor activities like reading, music or the creative and physical expression that can come from indoor art projects, consider the following:

  1. Try changing your environment around indoors for the winter! Is it possible to take one room and make it a dedicated indoor playground? Clearing furniture to make room for a modest indoor climbing structure can provide for a much needed release of tension through physical activity. Engaging motor skills for a brief period of time, even 15 minutes, can allow for an easier flow into homework or other quieter indoor activities throughout the harsh winter months.

  2. Consider adopting a new winter sport. Ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing or hockey might do the trick in supplying a focus to keep warm while playing in the cold. And, remember that a brisk walk, or playing outside for 20 minutes in the snow, even in sub-zero weather can be stimulating, too.

  3. Consider activities that use the snow as a creative playground. Build snowmen, women or animals and igloos to keep warm!

    Build a play igloo: Teach your boys to pile snow and make it into a very large mound. Then take the snow shovel and carve out the inside. Children revel in doing this same exercise repeatedly, and snuggling inside the igloo once it is complete. Several igloos together can create a village, a castle, a fort or some other house-like structure. Watching igloos melt in warmer spells can also be fun. (Remember that adult supervision is very important, as melting snow can collapse.)

  4. Don't forget the kitchen as a place for creative and physical play. Make dough for cookies and breads that your boys can knead, braid, shape and decorate. Baking can fulfill a physical need to "get their hands dirty" in a similar way to sand play for children.

  5. Research indoor physical activities and classes in your area. Swimming, aikido or some other form of martial arts that teaches a philosophy for focusing mental and physical energy might be just the new activity your children need following a busy and stimulating holiday season.

It is hard to be cooped up, but physical and creative outlets will help. But don't forget yourself! Take care of your needs for down time, too. A new yoga or dance class can also help you release pent-up tension and center your energy this winter season. Taking care of yourself will benefit your children, too!

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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