Parent to Parent

Keep Moving This Winter

by Patti Hermes

winter family activitiesLiving in the cold Midwest, I find it a challenge to keep active during the winter. The colder it gets, the more we want to just hunker down with a cup of hot cocoa and a movie.

It’s not that I mind the cold, really. It’s the wind chill that chases me indoors. When the thermometer tells me it’s 31 degrees (F) I don’t even bother with a hat. That is, until I brave the winds in a quick run down the driveway to retrieve my morning paper. Brutal is my favorite word on days like this.

And while I think snow is pretty, and enticing enough to get the children to go outside and play for a bit, I really don’t want to go out to shovel in that wind. Give me a sunny day, a cloudless blue sky, brisk 25 degree temperatures, but you can keep the wind.

In the meantime, my boys are wrestling in the living room and I can’t even hear my movie anymore. I tell them to move upstairs and to go play a game. Next thing, I hear the Hulk battling a fleet of tanks … and the tanks lose. The boys have energy to burn, whether they ate their vegetables or not (of course they did not).

So what’s a parent to do? I try grocery shopping as fast as I can, making them run to catch up. But I can only do that once a week, otherwise it would get expensive. And along the lines of expensive, a number of “indoor play areas” have sprung up in our midst. While they may seem like a good idea to lift the boredom of a freezing Sunday afternoon, it’s not a habit I want to get into this early into the season.

Since we’re living mainly on one paycheck in our household, I have to be frugal with extraneous expenses. Basically, fun has to be inexpensive, if not free. As a homeschooling family, we also have more hours in the day to fill with activity. Or you can look at it that we have more freedom to get up and move throughout the day.

My ingenious little boys created the first little game. Since we go to the Post Office to pick up our mail nearly every day we make a daily field trip, rain or shine. Parking is at a premium at the Post Office, so I usually park at one of the farthest spaces, directly in front of the playground. When they get out of the car, they practically explode, racing each other to the door. When we come out, they race to the playground. They get in at least five to ten minutes of activity before they freeze to death and want to come back to the car. Then on to the next errand on our list, and their next race.

Now, certainly if you have well-behaved children who walk by your side and hold your hand while you attend to your errands, our little racing game would never work for you. But adding in a few minutes at the playground between errands gets some fun activity in and gets the wiggles out. Even your cool pre-teens could use a quick game of tag to loosen up their frozen bodies a bit.

Even though our house is small, my boys are still small enough to squeeze in a game of crab soccer in the living room, but not for long. My littlest one’s favorite game is follow the leader. They take turns being different kinds of dinosaurs, which stretch their brains as well as their bodies. And speaking of stretching, you can’t beat Twister. Other muscle-building pastimes include mixing cookie or bread dough the old-fashioned way – with a wooden spoon.

To combat the inevitable cabin fever we get every winter, I’ve scheduled my boys for a couple of classes at the local Park District. They each have something to look forward to every week, in addition to our weekly Library Day, and whatever play dates I can arrange with friends. We also have a bowling alley and a roller skating rink nearby that offer low cost fun during homeschool hours, which beats an afternoon at the arcade any day.

Whatever you do to stay warm during the winter months, try to stay active, as well. Look around your community and brainstorm with friends for fun group activities. And keep moving!

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Patti Hermes is a writer and columnist, specializing in family and parenting subjects and works for children, as well as essays and a blog, Writes For Chocolate. She works at home where she referees two spirited little boys and occasionally their father. Originally from Massachusetts, she and her husband of eighteen years are now raising their happy family in the Midwest. To read more visit her on the web at

All websites and products mentioned in the Parent To Parent Columns are from Patti’s independent research.


Patti Hermes

Patti Hermes, Parent to Parent, is living the dream with her high school sweetheart, raising their boys in the Midwest because it's a good starting point for epic road trips. While writing, reading and homeschooling take up most of her time, she still blogs at HermesParent to ParentParentingParenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids