How to Survive Toddler Cabin Fever

Family Matters on 01.05.12
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Photo credit Barbara Peacock/Getty Images

It's not quite winter with a capital W here in the South, but daytime temperatures are beginning to flirt with the 30 degree mark. Soon we'll be entering the Georgia winter doldrums -- a weather epoch devoid of all the outdoor diversions of the season (namely glorious snow), but filled with all the other hallmarks (bone-chilling wind and rain). For my family that means less outdoor time, a 3 year old with energy to burn and a nasty case of cabin fever for everyone involved.

Inspired by the Center for Disease Control's brilliant Zombie Apocalypse (preparedness kit), I'm preparing my own Toddler Cabin Fever Kit now.  The idea is to have a handful of indoor diversions to turn to during the witching hours of toddler malaise in order to avoid resorting to the boob tube, or YouTube for that matter. The goal is less whining and more laughing. Let's hope this works:

1.      Meet Me at the Teepee 

My husband and I gave our daughter a teepee for Christmas, and while I'm a big fan of makeshift forts, I realize that having a semi-permanent structure has created an enchanted corner of the living room for our little nugget to regularly squirrel herself away in and read books with a flashlight or make up stories for her friends, or just herself when she's grown bored with the adults. It's become her own tiny retreat, one in which she sometimes invites us in. You can make your own teepee, or you can check out the offerings available for purchase.

Photo credit Julie Douglas

2.       Fun with Stickers ... 1,000 Stickers

stickersWe received the book, "1,000 Stickers" from my sister-in-law, and it turns out it's not just a hodge-podge of stickers, but an attempt to catalogue life through images arranged by themes like colors, the alphabet, animals, sports -- you name it, it's been documented in this book. The result is that our daughter pores over this unofficial manual to the physical world for 20-minute stretches at a time. That's like two hours in adult time, right? She also uses the stickers on art projects, and as you can see from the photo above she's branching out into unorthodox mixed media, with my arm as her canvas. If you think I'm kidding about sticker art, check out what happens when you give thousands of stickers to thousands of kids.

Photo credit Julie Douglas

3.       Get Cooking

making pizzaWhen it comes to the video of an adorable boy named Petey baking cupcakes, I'm pretty certain that my kid is responsible for a big chunk of the video's viewing numbers. She can recite all of Petey's catch phrases, and his kitchen prowess is the impetus for our baking sessions together. Sure, baking with a toddler can get messy. But cleaning up a pile of flour on the floor is far less annoying than hearing our little one whine for a Mickey Mouse video or watching her flop onto the couch in a boredom meltdown. Plus, she's incredibly proud of her ability to mix together the ingredients for bread and cupcakes and roll out the dough for calzones and pizza. This week we'll be expanding our repertoire with Parentables contributor Kelly Rossiter's kid-friendly pumpkin gnocchi.

Photo credit Julie Douglas

4.       Dance-off

dancing toddlersOne of the things my husband and I said we wouldn't do when we had a child is to have our ears constantly assaulted by the likes of Barney and company. We've been marginally successful in this endeavor, but any fruits of our labor can be traced back to the dance-offs we have. During the no-man's land of toddlertime (the hour before dinnertime), we encourage our daughter to pick some songs from music we've been listening to, and then we dance around the house with abandon. (Right now the kid-friendly song, "Adventure Rocketship," is in heavy rotation.) There's usually a circle formation, lots of karate kicks and the possibility that a neighbor passing by spies us through the window and shakes his head.

Photo credit Emma Innocenti/Getty Images

5.       Strike an Animal Pose

yoga mom and kidOur daughter's school conducts a short yoga session in which they bark like dogs during downward dog and hiss like snakes in cobra pose. She likes it so much that I checked out the animal-themed Yoga Kids (aimed at kids age 3 to 7) at my local library. While much of the appeal is in imitating animal sounds while jumping around, our little yogi is beginning to get an inkling of what it's like to become still in a pose and exercise self-control during the quieter moments of the video. Plus, it's super cute when, at the end, she bows to us and says, "Namaste: The light in me sees the light in you."

Photo credit The Image Bank/Getty Images

I'm betting that a good amount of you have your own kid-survival kit when it comes to cabin fever. Care to share them with other housebound parents? Drop off a comment below.