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Gena Bigler: Find fun and traditions while coping with children, cold and cabin fever

Kentucky has had more than its share of snow days this winter. Coping with cabin fever can be challenging when you reach the second or third unexpected day at home.
With children, it can be even more challenging. When it’s too cold to go outside for the usual winter activities, the hours stretch out into a seemingly unfillable void. Here are some tips on how to fill that void:


This child is using cornstarch, sugar, water and food coloring in Ziploc bags to enjoy mixing and mashing the colors. (Photo by Kelly Fagen on familyfun.go.com)

This child is using cornstarch, sugar, water and food coloring in Ziploc bags to enjoy mixing and mashing the colors. (Photo by Kelly Fagen on familyfun.go.com)

Baking is a creative way to educate and entertain and at the end there is a delicious snack. Baking with children is a fantastic opportunity to teach a quick math lesson. When adding ingredients, little children can help you count the cups of flour. Older children can measure the ingredients. Very small children can dump ingredients into the bowl. Baking muffins can add to your breakfast for the week.


Hot chocolate and popcorn are a tradition at our house. My mom made it for me and my sister when we were children. Now I make it for my children. They love to watch the popcorn explode and stand transfixed until the hot air popper is quiet and still.
The salty popcorn with the sweet rich hot chocolate is culinary excellence. Experimenting with popcorn toppings is also great fun. Parmesan cheese is a favorite, smoked paprika is good and so is chocolate or caramel.


An indoor picnic is always fun. Make sandwiches and spread a cloth in the floor. You can even pack a basket and ‘hike’ through the house.


Beyond snacks and food, art is a favorite pastime. From crayons and paper to watercolor paint on bathtub walls, art is a great way to spend an hour or so. My toddler loves cutting paper (with safety scissors) so much that he will actually sit still for 20 minutes at a time.


Reading is my personal favorite way to spend an unexpected afternoon off. Taking turns reading stories is hilarious with small children. You can take turns telling parts of a made up story or asking your child what happens next. It is an exercise in creative story telling. Their imagination is vast. It is truly wonderful to behold.


Treasure hunts are a favorite pastime and can be adjusted for age. Luckily, treasure can be anything. Daddy’s missing cell phone is just as fun to hunt as Mardi Gras bead “jewels.” When combined with a fort or a “boat,” it can be quite an adventure.


Fort building never fails to entertain. Creating hiding nooks and either settling in for a story or defending it fiercely with a stuffed sword is great fun. All you need is a blanket and chairs or cushions. If you happen to have a few cardboard boxes, you have cars, space ships, boats, treasure chests. The possibilities are endless.


This winter we have cooked, cleaned, organized, told stories, read books, reorganized, played board games and imagined great adventures. Our bean bag has been a cloud, a boat, a trampoline and an island. Our dogs have been dragons, bears and sharks.


One of my fondest memories is playing in the snow with my sister and our cousins. Our grandmother made us hot cocoa and we spent the day together. Snow days are special. They are frustrating and challenging for grownups, but for children, they are magical vacations from the ordinary.

Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at lgbigler@gmail.com.


Click here to read more columns from Gena Bigler.

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