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Ways to Stay Sane in the Winter with Kids

Let's get real. Living above the Mason Dixon line during the winter can force us inside for much of the time between November and April. For those living in especially snowy cities (think Grand Rapids, MI; Fargo, ND; and Anchorage, AL), the winter can leave us buried in record-breaking snowfalls and low temperatures that make it impossible to stay outside for long. For parents, winter can mean fun activities like sledding and teaching your kids to ski, but it mostly means staying cooped up in our living and play rooms racking our brains for an activity that will distract the kids for more than two minutes. For your own sanity (and your kids'), here are some fun options to engage with your children when the snow falls, the temperature drops, and you can no longer enjoy long, leisurely walks to the park. Let's get started.

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Get Crafting

Get Crafting

What better way to keep young kids and toddlers busy than with a complicated task? And who doesn't love projects that are low cost and, sometimes, even free? With crafts, you kill two birds with one stone, engaging kids from two to 10 (and sometimes even older) with projects that will have them using their brain, stretching their creative muscles and even working on hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills. For most projects, all you need are household items like construction paper, safety scissors, cotton balls, Q-tips and markers. For the rest, get creative! There's no need to run to the store for specific items during a blizzard. Make it up as you go. My personal favorite for my toddler is DIY snowflakes made from simple construction paper. For specific instructions on some of these crafts, there are great kid-focused websites that offer easy how-to's. Check out babble.com or The All Kids Network for fun lists.
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Ice Skating

Ice Skating

Think your kids are too young for this outdoor winter activity? Think again. Plenty of ice skating arenas and public plazas carry ice skates in toddler sizes and allow you to use equipment that will help your young ones stay stable and learn the sport quickly. And to top it off, many of these places also have hot chocolate for sale indoors, offering a warm respite from this cold activity. Unsure if it's for you? Give it a half hour and the gumption to try. And take pictures; you'll be glad you gave it a shot.
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Baking

Baking

Kids love this one. With a counter full of fun ingredients like sugar, chocolate chips and vanilla, they won't be able to resist getting their hands dirty with you while you read off recipes and pre-heat the oven. To keep young minds' attention, opt for simple recipes like sugar and chocolate chip cookies, as well as hands-on dough like gingerbread that will give them the extra activity of cutting out shapes and decorating once the cookies have cooled. And don't be worried about getting it perfect. With toddlers handling sprinkles, you're sure to get some silly designs.
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Clean a little bit

Clean a little bit

So this isn't the MOST fun that a child can have indoors in the winter, but young children can get distracted by all sorts of activities, even if it is folding laundry, picking up their room etc. Make cleaning up a game with little rewards like stickers and extra TV time and you'll find that getting kids involved in the housework just got a little bit more fun. If your kid's clothes are always on the ground, it might be time to tackle organizing the closet. Check out these kids closet organization ideas.
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Build Forts

Build Forts

As a DIYer, you've mastered the art of building with wood. But blankets are a whole other medium perfect for restless kids. Enlist their help to collect all of the pillows and blankets they can find, then start rearranging the furniture in a circle around the living room. In no time, you'll have a fort that's the envy of any coming of age film. Add fun books, snacks and drinks in no-spill containers, and you've got at least an hour of fun.
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Movie Time

Movie Time

Even if you're a stickler for screen time, every kid deserves a good movie now and then. Especially when the snow and sleet are gathering and the sun is nowhere to be found. So pop some popcorn and kick back with your kids. They'll think you're the best parent ever, and you'll get a brief respite from child-induced insanity. Got a new TV? Learn the right way to hang a flatscreen televsion here.
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Cooking

Cooking

If your kids are old enough to sit up, they are old enough to get involved in cooking. Grab a bumbo seat for babies and get them busy with pots and pans, pull up a stool for toddlers and older children and explain what you're making and how it's done. Of course, leave the stove top and the oven to the adults, but prep like reading recipes and collecting ingredients from the refrigerator is an all-family affair.
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Go for a Short Walk

Go for a Short Walk

Even in below-freezing temps, you can still wrap up in layers and go for a short jaunt around the neighborhood. With hats, mittens, scarves and waterproof boots, even a 15-minute walk can feel like an adventure and give you and your kids a chance to get out of the house and breathe in some much-needed fresh air. It will also give you an excuse to get back inside and treat everyone to hot chocolate.
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Build a Kid-Friendly WorkbenchFamily Handyman

Build a Kid-Friendly Workbench

Head out to the garage or down to the basement and show your kids the real joy of DIY with this kid-friendly project. A few 2x4s, 1x4s and some pegboard is all you need. Get the plans, cutting list and materials list for our kid-friendly workbench here.
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Take a Break

Take a Break

When you're stuck inside all winter, you need to go easy on yourself. Every once and a while, take a break from the fabulous activities previously listed and simply take a break. Put your feet up, maybe even drink a cup of coffee, and let the kids have some quiet time. You've earned it.