The leaves are falling, and it’s time to get out your favorite snuggly sweater, build a fire and sip some hot tea, but where does this leave your kids? What are they suppose to do when it’s wet and cold outside? I’m sure if your kids are like mine, they are kind enough to offer to watch TV or play video games until spring.
Unfortunately, this sometimes can lead to pent-up energy that is directed at the family pet or siblings. Children of all ages need to engage their senses every day. This is much easier in the warmer months when you can aim them toward the outdoors. It takes a little more effort in the winter months. These are some therapy ideas that you can use in a practical way to keep your kids busy until spring:
n Cooking: Children love to participate. When making cookies or a pie, they get to use their larger muscles to push and roll out the dough. This can have an overall calming effect. Who doesn’t want that? Smells work the same way. Where vanilla can have a calming effect, cinnamon can rev up your child. Learn which smells they prefer, and see if you can see a difference in their behavior. Incorporate the small muscles of the hand by removing lids and measuring small quantities, which requires more precision. The best part of cooking is that, if all else fails, you get to enjoy the cookies or pie together.
n A scavenger hunt: This can be done inside or outside. Add a twist by specifying what type of movement your child must use. For example, crawl up the stairs like a crab or hop down the hall like a frog. When children apply more weight than normal to a body part, it is called “heavy work.” This can lead to a calmer, more-focused child. Incorporate their imagination by looking for non-specific items, such as something blue, or something with four sides. The sky is the limit.
n Games: I mean good, old-fashioned, “roll the dice, spin the spinner and move the piece with your own hand” games. Going back to incorporating all the senses, they have to push hard on a popper (heavy work) and they get lots of sound in return. This helps with paying attention, counting and taking turns. Some old-school suggestions are Trouble, Mouse Trap and Life.
n Music: Whatever you are doing, add music to it instead of the TV, even if it is just for a few minutes a day. Stand in the kitchen and dance with your kids. Take turns making up silly moves. Even my 13-year-old loves this. Remember to make big movements, as well as small ones, with your arms and legs. Spin around, jump up and down, and release your inner child.
It really isn’t what you do with your children that matters most, it’s the simple act of spending time with them. Stay warm, and have happy children this winter.
Beth Bostrom is a registered and licensed occupational therapist for Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation and practices within the Blount County School System.