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Beat the Winter Blahs

Stuffed animal hunts and 9 other fun ideas!

After the excitement of getting new Christmas toys wears off, your kids—and consequently, you—can go stir crazy with boredom during the long, dark days of winter. Here are some creative (and cheap!) ways to keep the troops occupied until the first sightings of spring.

Stage an Indoor Stuffed Animal Hunt.

Collect the stuffed animals in your house (including all the Beanie Babies) and give them to a designated "hider." While everyone covers their eyes, the hider puts the rabbits, pandas, and teddy bears in secret locations throughout the house. Then it's a mad scramble to find the stuffed animals.

One clever mother strategically hid dimes around the house during Saturday morning chore time. As her children vacuumed behind furniture and dusted shelves, they were rewarded with finding money.

Celebrate Nontraditional Holidays.

Did you know that January 23 is National Pie Day? Get the family together, mix up some pie crusts, and bake pies. January 27 is National Backwards Day. Serve spaghetti for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. Walk through the house backwards and do other silly "backward" things. Who wouldn't want to celebrate National Popcorn Day on January 29th? In addition to making popcorn, get sticky and make popcorn balls. Draw a winter picture and glue popcorn on the paper to represent giant snowflakes. For a description of more than 3,000 unusual holidays, check out Celebrate Today! by John Kremer (Open Horizons).

One clever mother strategically hid dimes around the house during Saturday morning chore time.

Host "Crazy Indoor Olympics."

Everyone competes in a variety of unusual events such as:

Javelin throw: Contestants throw cotton swabs as far as possible.

High Jump: Compete to see who can jump over the most pillows.

Discus: Toss cotton balls with all your might and see who gets the farthest.

Standing Grin: Measure everyone's smile!

Prepare an awards ceremony where contestants receive "medals."

Make a Family Documentary.

You may think your life is ordinary, but missionaries in undeveloped countries marvel at our way of life. Check with your church for names and addresses of people they support overseas who might appreciate this day-in-the-life glimpse at your family. Include photos of your school, family pets, and even your bathroom. After the pictures are developed, put them in a photo album with captions and a suggestion for further contact with the missionary. Often the missionaries write back, describing their work and personal life. This exposes children to different cultures.

Plan Surprises!

An ordinary activity takes on new meaning if it's unexpected. Just as everyone sits down for dinner, announce, "Surprise! We're going out for pizza!" If you don't want to go out to eat, try a "Where will we eat tonight's dinner?" Write each family member's name on a separate piece of paper, then place them in a container. Select a name. The "winner" gets to decide where in the house everyone will eat. One family did this on Friday nights during February and March. They found themselves eating in their son's bedroom, on the living room floor, and even in a makeshift fort under the kitchen table!

Get Physical.

Divide your family in half and let each group produce their own exercise video. The tapes provide exercise and fun as you follow your three-year-old's demonstration on how to do somersaults and watch an adult try to touch his toes.

Take turns teaching other family members favorite dances. You'll find yourself moving to the Polka, Hokey-Pokey, and The Swim.

One family, realizing they were turning into couch potatoes, made a rule for television watching. The minute a commercial came on, everyone had to jog in place or do jumping jacks until the program resumed. This provided plenty of laughs along with some much needed movement.

Look for Free Activities.

Call your local YMCA or Parks and Recreation for a listing of free family events. Most newspapers publish a weekly directory of church services. Visit a church sponsoring a Saturday morning Christian clown performance or a unique gospel singing group. Take advantage of concerts, evening library storytimes, and museum exhibits. Attend a free event at a local high school or college. They often sponsor sporting events or family programs. Our family frequently plans "Educational Experiences." The rules are simple: One person selects a new activity that's kept a secret until we arrive at the event. Other family members aren't allowed to complain, because the situation is new to everyone. We once spent an enjoyable afternoon observing turtles being judged "Best in Show" at a turtle contest. Another time we ate breakfast at a Senior Center. The "biggest" educational experience found us riding an elephant as part of a store's grand opening celebration.

Learn New Skills.

Grandma Moses began painting at 78, so learning is obviously a lifelong process. Have your daughter teach you how to use the Internet. Sign up for a family class in juggling. One family built various types of stilts and practiced wobbling back and forth in their garage. If your son's learning how to tie knots for a Boy Scout project, have him teach other family members also.

Learning new skills as a family can be as simple as everyone (parents included!) memorizing a weekly Bible verse. Our children benefit from seeing us actively participate in growing as Christians.

Read Enthusiastically.

Pretend you're a radio announcer reading to a listening audience. You'll feel inspired to use a variety of voices and sound effects. Pick a story with numerous characters and assign family members different parts. Then read the story into a tape recorder for a memorable family recording. As you read Bible stories to your children, share what you're learning in your devotions. Often we study the Bible in private, and our children don't realize adults read the Bible for encouragement and guidance.

Read half a book and ask each family member to come up with their own ending. Make a large tree out of construction paper. Every time someone reads a book, write the title on a paper leaf and attach it to the tree. You'll have a record of your family's reading progress.

Try an Indoor Snowball Fight.

Does everyone need to burn off some energy after being cooped up in the house? No, your house won't be filled with melted snow. Collect as many old nylon stockings as possible. Cut them into eight-inch sections. Tie a knot in one end, fill with Styrofoam packing peanuts, and tie the other end shut. You now have lightweight, durable "snowballs" you can throw at each other. (Some fainthearted parents confine these snowball fights to the garage or basement.)

There You Have It:

a few ideas to beat the doldrums of winter. If all else fails, challenge your children to find all the Christmas presents you lovingly purchased last month!

Silvana Clark, an author and professional speaker, lives in Washington.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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