“What to do in these dog days of Winter,” seems to be a question of the day lately. Are you feeling like your days with your family feel similar to chasing around your dog who has stolen your glove all day? You feel like you aren’t really accomplishing anything, you are running in circles with what feels like one foot planted to the ground and you certainly aren’t having much fun? Especially in these challenging days when packing your kids up in the car and heading to the local museum or kids play zone to meet their friends is just not happening. Never mind you meeting your friends there as well! Even harder still if your kids are educating virtually at home or you are working from home… or a combination of both… dear Jesus!
This begins a two part Blog series on ideas on surviving these winter days that seem to mimic the light of the day lasting longer… so too do the days. This post will highlight and give you some ideas to embrace all that is going on around you so that you can not only survive but thrive as a family. The second part of the blog series coming next week, will highlight ways to restore YOU in these winter days that while they are winding down… it does seem like forever until they do and until spring erupts in all of her glory. Hopefully some of these ideas will help you feel like you’re not chasing the family dog around all day who has stolen your glove!
The first part of any action plan I believe is mindset. I didn’t always believe this. In fact, many of my early mothering years were just based on pure survival. Setting my mindset slowly emerged as life showed up with all of her beauty, challenges, hardship, rewards, relationships and a combination of these experiences and many others. Setting your mindset does not mean that it changes whatever is going on in your life. It is not a miracle cure, rather a survival tool which involves changing how you look at things and how you react. Never more has this been so important to hanging on in these days that are so unprecedented.
I’m well aware that many of us have totally lost track of time having no set schedules, places to go or people to see. TGIF could be any day of the week in essence unless you are still reporting to work in person, which holds you accountable to what day of the week it is. Even when working from home, our weekends seems to be filled with work now for there are very little boundaries on that front and if you have nowhere to go… you often work to fill the minutes, for that might seem productive and can focus your mind on something that you might have control over.
Photo Credit of the Witness Tree at Pawlings Farm in Valley Forge Park by Bob Siravo Photography
So back to Mindset and how that can affect the long winter days that you are going through now. Perhaps if we LEAN into the season we are in and what each season brings with it instead of wishing it away, we might actually delight in what it has to offer. Even if it is our least favorite of the four, the one that makes us wish we lived in a tropical location all year round? But then again, isn’t there something thrilling about the change that happens as one season departs and another is about to set in? That is fodder for another long winded missive on my end.
So how do we embrace what this season has left in its arsenal as we mother, and entertain all ages of children in our families? Here are my pointers in making the most out of your winter days and any season for that matter. The activities might change both based on the ages of your children and the seasons but again… let the seasons lead you.
CALENDAR ~ To begin, I believe firmly in the power of a calendar to plan out, structure your days and add a little fun. That plan might go totally out the window before the day even erupts but if it happens to go wayside, you can get it back on track a little easier if you knew what you had planned. A little structure goes a long way… not a lot of structure but enough to let life happen when it needs to happen and keeps you firmly in charge of your day and its enjoyment.
CREATE THEME DAYS ~ This is a strategy that I started when I was teaching and mothering two children under the age of three. Spurred on by what I was teaching in the classroom, I adapted the ideas to the age of my children and this concept became an integral part of our day as a family while we grew to a family of five children under the age of ten. What is a Theme Day? It is a topic that you choose for the day that can be selected around a variety of things such as an upcoming holiday, a national day of celebration, the birth of someone famous, the seasons, a family celebration or recognition, a community outreach program, an activity that you want to accomplish that involves your children… the list goes on and on.
How to Create Your Own Theme Days at Home
- Find valuable sources to help you choose your own theme days. There are a multitude of sources out there that can help you do this. Since the internet was not what it is today when I was mothering small children, I used printed books with titles like Kids’ Holiday Fun & Great Family Activities Every Month of the Year by Penny Warner and Guess What Day It Is – A Child’s Almanac of 365 Days of Fun and Facts. Here are a list of online sources that you can utilize to take ideas from to create your own Theme Days:
- The Primary Parade: Jessica, writer behind The Primary Parade blog offers a plethora of tips and ideas for theme day ideas, seasonal crafts, and at-home educational activities for your little ones.
- Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten: Another wonderful and robust blog offering creative and educational holiday themed craft ideas and activities for little ones of all ages from babies to tots to elementary aged children.
- The Mama Notes: Caitlin of The Mama Notes shares wonderfully creative ideas and hacks for making motherhood at home fun with themed activities, hacks and recipes. She even offers a monthly printable subscription for moms to keep their kids busy and having fun.
2. Schedule your theme days! From here you can pull days or topics that you think your children might be interested in and then compare them against what your obligations are in each day taking into consideration their school, sports and activities schedules and who has to be where based on those schedules. Since many young mom’s today are not taking their children to school these days, you can work around the times that they need to be online for school and you can even incorporate subject matter from their curriculum into planning Theme Days as well as just fun ideas.
3. You don’t have to go crazy here! Here are some samples of what a Theme Day could look like. The first week in March offers a plethora of opportunity for incorporating fun theme day activities into your life. On any given day, you can choose one simple activity like having a soft pretzel for a snack on “William Penn Deeded Pennsylvania Day” or you can go in full gamut for a day like Dr. Seuss’ Birthday below.
March 1st. National Pig Day ~ Imagine what you can do with this day? Whatever you do, don’t eat bacon!
March 2nd. Dr. Seuss’ Birthday ~ Oh the Places You can Go… with this day!
- Start your day with a serving of green eggs and ham after having story time in their jammies when they get up. My kids used to love this one! Just add a little food coloring to a batch of scrambled eggs but remember, yellow and green make blue so upon trial and error, don’d add the obvious green color that you want the eggs to be… rather add tiny drops of blue to create the green hue…. and… following on the theme day from yesterday… don’t tell the little ones where the ham came from! (You can always use a vegan alternative to ham as well).
- Use a Dr. Seuss collection of books that you might have at home or check some out from the library in anticipation of this day as the centerpiece for your breakfast and lunch table.
- Watch a Dr. Seuss movie. There are a multitude to choose from.
- Talk about the places you would like to go after reading Oh, The Places You’ll Go
- Dress up as any of the cast of characters from Dr. Seuss’ vivid creations
March 2nd ~ National Anthem Day ~
- Check out a book from the Library about Francis Scott Key and read to the kids
- Talk about the book and how he must have felt writing this poem
- Recite the National Anthem and decorate your table for dinner with red, white and blue. You can use paper plates for dinner and add blue napkins with a couple of small American flags or you can have the kids color or make American flags out of construction paper. Dig into a couple of your 4th of July decorations.
March 3rd ~ William Penn Deeded PA Day ~
- Read a book about William Penn and look at a map of the United States to see where Pennsylvania is on the map.
- If you live near Philadelphia visit City Hall or the Franklin Institute to visit his statue.
- Eat a warm soft pretzel, for Pennsylvania is known for these, especially in Philadelphia and the Amish communities surrounding it.
March 4th ~ Celebrate Your Pet’s Birthday Day
- This one is pretty obvious and very fun for the family!
When planning out these days and the activities that they might contain, think about the following possibilities and ideas:
- Art and Craft Projects (there are a multitude of possibilities)
- Science Projects (these could tie into the curriculum from school)
- Baking and Making involving Special meals or snacks centered around your day. Make sure to involve the kids in this one keeping them closely by your side, not like this one “not to be mentioned mom!” Hee! Hee!
- Visit a Museum, Library or Park that has to do with your Theme Day topic.
- Participate in a game, outside activity or create a new one!
- What local non profits are in your area that you could base your Theme Day around? Are they doing any drives or collections that you could involve your family in?
- Holidays that are coming up are great fodder for creating Theme Day activities.
- Consider projects that you might want to tackle in your house that you can enlist the help of your children in by creating a Theme Day around that project.
- Create unique ways to serve up and share a meal. Think picnics… inside or out! Pack Mac-n-cheese or soup into a thermos, and use a back pack to carry it out into the snow where you can make snow cones for dessert out of the clean snow in your backyard ~ or ~ Create a theme day dinner where the kids make placemats and table decor.
- Think about camping… inside. Make a tent in your family room!
- Take a road trip that brings you to a location that ties into your Theme day.
- Take advantage of the winter season and use it for material! Have an outdoor camp fire and do a s’mores bar or serve snacks in the snow.
It might look like this is just another thing to add to your To Do List… and it is. But in structuring your days around a system such as this, it helps the aimlessness that often occurs during the days of mothering, especially in days like we are experiencing right now. Not only can it help structure your days, but it can help create a fun atmosphere that the kids can look forward to that just might end up being a lot more fun than you ever imagined! Especially when you are cooped up in the house either due to extreme winter weather or the regulations brought on by the virus.
How does one plan and then utilize Theme Days?
- Schedule and Plan in Advance: Pick a day of the week where you might be able to carve out 30 minutes to look at the week or month ahead. You can create a loose monthly calendar at the end of the prior month but I found that I often couldn’t stick to what I had planned if I made my in-depth calendar and picked the projects that far ahead for life with five children often interrupted this. So I made a loose calendar with the theme days that I wanted to cover based on the above mentioned things to consider. I then took that 30 minutes once a week to pull books, craft materials, find recipes, etc that could be used for the Theme days for the following week.
- Integrate School Curriculum: If you have young children, they get fairly excited about having a schedule of Theme Days. As they get older, you of course have to elevate the activities. Coloring alone does not entertain a 12 year old! Here is where you can really integrate their curriculum from school to launch Theme days. If they are learning about the Civil War, read a book as a family about this topic or take a road trip to a battlefield if you are on the East Coast. Think hands-on activities since many children are utilizing the computer almost solely for their education these days. You can also let your older children guide the process by asking them what they would like to do or are there topics that they would like to focus in on.
- Create a Craft Closet (or Craft Box): Materials to pull off these theme days can be pulled from many sources. I used to keep a craft closet where I gathered all of the arts and crafts materials. Think outside the box here and recycle. Keep a box of recycled materials on hand like the cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, milk containers; both the plastic jugs and the cartons, soda bottles, etc. All of these things can be turned into projects. Keep old party decorations and reuse them for your table decor for one of your theme meals.
- Keep An Ideas Arsenal: Start a Pinterest board or keep files for ideas, recipes, projects, trips, etc that you can pull from for the Theme days. Again, when I was utilizing this system on a daily basis, I could not pull from the internet so I utilized a few file boxes that I corralled all of my tear sheets from magazines and things I had copied from books and magazines as well as past art projects that the kids might have brought home that I would then hang up on the theme day. I used the kitchen sliding glass door as our “bulletin board” and changed out what hung on the door based on what we were celebrating. Yes, it is really hard to pull the teacher out of the girl! It is much easier to pull ideas off of the Internet these days and file them away on your computer.
This is a photo of a Valentine’s Day craft party that I had in our kitchen for the neighbors and dear friends children and mine. Notice the past artwork hung on the glass sliding door in my kitchen at that time. I would change this display out regularly. No, it would not make the cover of any magazine, but it did capture moments from the heart!
- A little tip for corralling the kids art work to keep for posterity is to save pizza boxes that are not soiled. Assign a box for each child and have the child decorate the outside of the box with cut out paper and markers and then save their art work in the inside. The size of the pizza box allows for larger art projects to be kept inside.
- Use your public library as a resource for it is limitless in providing reading material to integrate into your Theme days.
I leave you with a recipe that you can do with the family that can be integrated into these log winter days. Think of it as a little kiss in a winter cloud!
Triple Chocolate Kisses
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 oz semisweet chocolate, grated
- 24 milk chocolate kisses
- unsweetened cocoa powder
- For meringue, in a small mixer bowl beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and extract on medium speed till soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, beating on high speed till stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold in grated semisweet chocolate. Spoon meringue into a decorating bag fitted with a star tip.
- On a lightly greased cookie sheet pipe some of the meringue into 24 rounds, each about 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Lightly press a chocolate kiss into each meringue round. Pipe meringue around each kiss in concentric circles, starting at base and working toward top, till kiss is completely covered. Dust with cocoa powder.
- Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till light brown on the edges. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; cool on a wire rack. Makes 24 kisses.
Keep this in mind … you often can come up with ideas all by yourself and you really don’t need much to carry out these ideas! The Purpose of integrating theme days into your days of mothering a family, especially in the days of a global pandemic with all of this uncertainty is to create both structure and fun in your days.
Days that can seem long and endless. Some days that seem like you cannot add another thing onto your to- do list. Days where you are juggling working with kids at home. A little planning can go a long way in turning these days from the mundane into memorable!
And who knows… you might even be able to reshape that errant glove stealer to play with you instead of against you!
~Happy planning and happy winter!