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Moms Council Offers Advice on Keeping Kids Busy in Winter

Brutal winter weather can lead to kids spending a lot of time in front of the TV or video games.

Moms Talk is part of a new North Andover Patch initiative to reach out to moms and families.

North Andover Patch invites you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in North Andover.

Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

This week's question:

In the winter, what do you have your kids do while they're not watching TV, playing video games or using the computer? How do they get exercise when the weather is so lousy?

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Michele Gorham: We are absolutely loving the snow this year and have spent most of our time outside actually. With so much snow everywhere, we've not only made igloos and holes (as much fun in the snow as it is in the sand), but some crazy sledding tracks complete with tunnel (check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtube_gdata_player&v=vfJWG91fLhs).  We've also done quite a few walks through our neighborhood, bundled up and armed with hot cocoa of course.

But when the cold gets to be too much you can find us at one of the few play spaces in the area. ImagineThat is great for the younger children, Cedarland for the bigger children. We are also HUGE fans of LazerTag (in my opinion way better than an hour of cardio at the gym!). We do get lazy, however, and when we want to keep moving, but not to much, we can be found walking and window shopping at the mall.

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Darcy Rubino: During the winter my kids are glued to the computer playing Webkinz, or watching their favorite Spongebob episode. When I feel like they have had their limit of technology, I often send them to play outside in the snow. They are young, so that involves myself or my husband watching them. And if you ask my kids, their Dad is the "outdoor parent" and I am the "store parent." So Daddy is the chaperone of most of the outdoor activities.

The kids also like to waste a few hours running around in a Burger King or McDonald's PlayPlace. It is a good way to get exercise and to stay warm as well. We also like to go to the movies, and play games.  Ironically enough, my kids have developed a love of board games by watching a TV show called "Family Game Night." On a daily basis they ask me what my favorite Hasbro game is. I have found that no matter what we do, inside or out, as long as we are together we have fun.

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Wendy Bulawa-Agudelo: As we have three children 5 years and younger, they don’t yet spend much time watching TV/movies or playing video games. That day will likely come sooner than we hope, but for now, we are still able to manage interesting and inexpensive projects for our little ones including:

1. Homemade obstacle courses: If the weather outside is too chilly, rainy or icy, take advantage of all the stairs, beanbags, tents/forts and crawl spaces you can and make an indoor obstacle course. We use couch cushions, blankets and kitchen chairs to make tunnels, cover stairwells to make the stairs look more interesting and unexpected and then set up arrows using masking tape (or colored duct tape) to send the kids on a journey.

2. Indoor treasure hunt: Kids really seem intrigued by new experiences and a fun addition to an obstacle course or an activity all its own is a treasure hunt. Pick favorite toys or dollar store valuables (gold coins, Smarties® candies, etc.) and hide them all over the house (on every floor). Then, armed with paper lunch sacks (or old grocery store bags), send the kids on a hunt to find as many as they can in a period of 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. Before you know it, they’ll tire themselves out looking for treasure and an hour will have passed!

3. Snow forts/tunnels: Playing in the snow can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be a planned trip to a ski resort or snowmobiling exposition. Parents and caregivers need only remember what fun they had when they were kids and didn’t have any responsibilities, deadlines or a growing to-do list—and many will uncover their own creative ideas. This year, our kids were old enough to help create (i.e. shovel out) a snow tunnel. North Andover got so much snow that plowed piles got large enough to create fun crawl-through spaces.  Digging these out takes a lot of energy out of little ones, but helps them build strong muscles as well. They get a good workout from digging/shoveling and ultimately, gain the reward of a fun space they can play in/around for as long as the temperatures remain cold.

Important note to parents: Check strength of tunnel before allowing little ones to crawl through. If snow isn’t packed enough, it could unexpectedly cave in.

4. Snow painting: Just a few spray bottles, water and food coloring, and you can have a creative experience where your children can ‘spray paint’ pictures, letters, numbers in the snow. It gets them moving outside as they tromp through snow piles and snow banks, but they also see immediate results as they spray colors onto bright white snow and turn it cool colors.

5. Baking: Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh baked goods? Kids can learn so much from spending time in the kitchen with parents/caregivers. After a tough day out in the snow, just preparing some chocolate chip cookies (Toll House) or cupcakes can be a lesson in math/measuring, following directions/recipe instructions and much more. For those that don’t have a lot of time, simple recipes like ‘ants on a log’ or homemade granola can be made without using sharp utensils or hot pans—and kids gain a healthy treat at the end of all their hard work.

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OUR MOMS COUNCIL

Wendy Bulawa Agudelo -- Wendy is the mother to three young children (5 and under) — including a set of twin boys. In her spare time, she is an avid features writer covering a broad array of parenting topics from special needs to travel with infants. During the day, she earns her stripes as an entrepreneur, operating both a public relations consultancy as well as a targeted theme gift basket business, Period Packs, which celebrates a young girl's foray into womanhood.

Michele Gorham -- Michele is the wife of a Methuen firefighter and mother of two little girls. As the owner of Cookie Central, she is an avid supporter of Share Our Strength and a community leader for MerchantCircle. 

Darcy Rubino -- Darcy is a mom to three kids, ages 5, 7 and 15. She has lived in North Andover for 10 years with her husband, Mike. She is an active volunteer in the community and is co-chair of North Andover Parents Advisory Council for Children with Special Needs (NAPAC).

Kate Dickman March 03, 2011 at 12:44 AM
When we're not doing crafts, we like to go to play lands like Imajine That or Amazement. My daughter loves them!

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