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During the long winter months or on rainy days your child may suffer from cabin fever! You know the symptoms: feeling isolated, restless and easily agitated. You feel like screaming – or maybe you do – and you crave a change of scenery. It’s a “fever” every one of us tries to avoid. Here are some easy ideas to keep it from infecting your tot and to help his development too:
Read, read, read!
This is an especially good time to get cozy with your tot, a book and a cup of tea. Sit in a chair or by the fireplace. Kids of all ages love to be read to, and the undivided time they share with you brings a feeling of comfort. Reading helps pass time and builds your child’s language and concentration skills.
Two-year-olds love to play hide and seek and chase games. Three-year-olds can begin board games such as Candyland, and Chutes and Ladders. Games teach kids how to take turns, practice patience and how to lose or win gracefully. The bonus here is that many academic skills such as learning colors, shapes and counting are also reinforced. Card games like Old Maid strengthen small hand and finger muscles. Older kids can play Yahtzee, chess and checkers.
Young children love dressing up and pretending. Offer your tot a basket with old clothing, hats, shoes, jewelry, etc., and it may be just the nudge needed for self-entertainment.
Use crayons, markers, paper, chalk and chalkboard to get those creative juices flowing. For toddlers, avoid coloring books and demands to “Color inside the lines.” Instead encourage creative drawings. Phrases like “Tell me about your picture,” and “You are using red to color” build your tot’s self-esteem. Be sure to display that fantastic Picasso on the refrigerator at your child’s eye level.
This simple recipe requires little time and can really beat boredom. First gather: 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 tablespoon alum, 2 cups boiling water, 2 tablespoons oil, food coloring and fragrance oil (the last two are optional). Next, mix together the flour, salt and alum. Carefully stir in the boiling water, and if using, a few drops each of the food coloring and fragrance oil. Encourage your child to use a spoon to stir this mixture; you must give constant supervision. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Mix dough together, and when cool to the touch, knead until smooth. The warm, soft dough is therapeutic to frazzled nerves and strengthens a youngster’s fine motor skills. Store in an airtight container and this playdough will remain soft for months.
Cut up with catalogues
Use old mail-order catalogues or magazines to cut out pictures of people, pets, trees, etc. To develop cognitive (thinking) skills, encourage your child to search for pictures of the same color, season, etc. Your little one needs practice at using scissors because it builds strong hand muscles. Be sure to supervise, though, or you may have newly designed curtains!
Plan play groups
One way to model hospitality is to plan visits to other people’s homes or to invite a playmate to your home for short visits. Remember, toddlers need lots of supervision and duplicates of toys to avoid fighting. Children older than three years can play together with a little less competition, but stay close by in case you are needed as a peacemaker.
Assemble an obstacle course
Kids and empty boxes go together. Place some large empty boxes around the floor for your child to crawl in, on and through. Add more obstacles like a chair, step stool, soft pillows, large laundry baskets, etc. This is a terrific activity for using stored energy, motor skills and imagination.
Design a music band
Kids make noise, so channel it! Make instruments for a marching band. Drums can be made from empty oatmeal boxes, coffee cans or a pot and wooden spoon. Cymbals can be created from lids of different sized pots or pans. Cover one side of a block with coarse sandpaper and rub two papered blocks together for sand blocks. Rhythm sticks can be made from two empty paper towel rolls or old newspaper rolled up and secured with masking tape. Now get out the kazoo. Research says that making music is one way to stimulate your tot’s brain development for future math skills.
Bag blocks can be made by filling large grocery bags with crumpled newspaper. Stuff each bag full, fold over the open end of the bag, and tape it shut. Make several bag blocks — the more the better! These are fun for jumping or sitting on, tossing and rolling. Older children can help younger siblings make the bag blocks. You’ve just recycled and your tot has made inexpensive toys.
Pretend ocean play
Fill your bathtub with blue water (a few drops of blue food coloring), throw in floating toys and watch your child’s imagination take off. No, the food coloring does not turn your little munchkin into a blue genie, nor does it stain the tub. Since kids love water, maybe you can persuade your little one to take off his clothes and jump in. This is a sneaky way to get ’em clean. When my girls were toddlers and I wanted them to take a bath, there would often be an argument. To avoid the debate, I diverted their attention with, “Do you want your water pink or blue?”
Enjoy snow play
If there’s snow, go outdoors and build a snowman, woman, child or fort. Take your camera and capture the memories. Then go indoors for a warm cup of cocoa and a foot rub or a book! Since the season of parenting is so short, make a photo album or scrapbook your snow memories.
Always make sure toys and books are in low places where youngsters can easily reach them without coming to you for assistance. This builds their independence and self-esteem.
If your child is playing quietly, or least contentedly, don’t interrupt. I practice the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy in parenting. But when cabin fever does get to your child, remember it’s only temporary. Be prepared to offer a couple of activities, giving your child freedom to choose.
Just as you gain confidence through knowledge and experience, so does your child. With the new ideas you suggest, your child learns what to do for self-entertainment. With practice, he becomes more confident in himself.
Even when your child is older, come back and read this article again. It will refresh your cabin fever expertise. Best wishes for warm and safe days ahead!
(c)copyright, Brenda Nixon.
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write by Kou Yang