Facts for Families

Facts for Families

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Curing Cabin Fever

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Cheri Burcham
Extension Educator, Family Life

By Cheri Burcham, Family Life Educator

Ah, winter. Where children and parents are bound together for nearly endless days of togetherness with little opportunity for outdoor activities to burn off energy and lift the spirits. The newness and novelty of toys received as holiday gifts has long since faded and the daily trend may involve spending too much time on the couch. As the winter drags on, parents and kids alike may get a touch of "cabin fever." Feelings of lethargy, boredom, restlessness, and even irritability go hand in hand with the reality of being stuck indoors. It may seem that the winter will never end and spring will never come.

Extension Educator Karla Belzer offers up these great ideas to "cure" your cabin fever:

Make mealtime fun. Plan a fun family meal and encourage everyone to get involved. The meal doesn't have to be fancy or expensive – remember to keep it simple. A great idea is to have a "theme" and then name food items after the theme. Enlist the children in brainstorming ideas! Give fun names to the food on the menu for the theme night. As an example, the theme could be "Cowboy Night" featuring cow patties (hamburgers), golden nuggets (corn), rootin' tootin' beans (baked beans), and farm fresh fruit. Have the kids create, draw, or color an actual menu to accompany the theme and dress the part. Other great ways to making mealtime fun could be to have a funny hat night, a no utensils night, a backwards meal (wear your clothes backwards), sports night, eating under the table, and on and on. With my own family, we occasionally make a rule where each person has to act and talk like another family member at the table for the entire meal. Kids act and talk like adults, adults act and talk like kids – and the laughter roars! With a little creativity and effort, a fun family meal can add some energy and excitement.

Get physical. Cabin fever is problematic for kids because winter often reduces time, space, and opportunities for active, physical play. This build-up of physical tension can lead to unacceptable behavior simply because the child can't burn off pent up energy. Whenever possible, provide children with opportunities to be physical. As the mom of two, very active little boys, I am constantly finding ways for them to get their physical energy out. Have a race up the stairs or around the living room. Create a space in the home where it is okay for roughhousing and wrestling (a favorite in my house!). Suggest to the children that they create an obstacle course and use a timer to time their completion of the course. Crank up the music and throw an impromptu dance party – even better if you add flashlights to wave around on the dance floor! Whatever you come up with to burn off the energy, get involved with the children – it will do all of you good!

Plan activities in the community. Since you have to be inside anyway, winter is a great time to visit and explore indoor spaces in your community. Libraries are great places to go for quiet time activities and a change of scenery – as an added bonus, many public libraries offer craft, science, and play activities. Create a "winter" bucket list of indoor attractions your family can visit – don't forget local museums, bowling centers, craft centers, indoor pools, and recreation centers. Check out your local Extension office for activities and programs for children and families. Consider taking your children to a local nursing home to volunteer. Playing games, doing crafts, singing songs, even reading to older adults is a great way for children to help out, to learn how to interact with others, and to even learn responsibility.

Venture outdoors whenever possible. As long as it is not bitterly cold, aim to go outside for at least a few minutes every day. Take the dog on a quick walk, play a quick game of tag, race to and from the mailbox are just a few ideas of things that can be done to get some fresh air. Get the kids out to explore your outdoor space and observe how plants and the landscape has changed with the season. When it snows, get outside. Building snowmen and snow forts, making snow angels, and going sledding are great ways to get active and enjoy the outdoors.

Bust boredom by planning ahead. Cabin fever is often exacerbated when children become bored and feel that there is little to do. You can plan ahead to bust boredom by having activities at the ready and on-hand. Turn off the television and turn towards family activities. Create a craft kit by filling a storage box with various craft items and pulling out the kit when boredom sets in. Stock your pantry or cupboards with quick and easy cooking or baking activities. Pull out board games and puzzles. Set aside time and space to look at old family photos or videos. Consider setting aside a gift or two (or five!) from the holidays and doling them out on occasion throughout the winter.

Your family can successfully survive cabin fever using your imagination, creativity, and flexibility. Spring will be here soon. In the meantime, have fun, be flexible, and get active!

Source: Family Files https://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/entry_13768/

For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/

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