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Beat Cabin Fever! Create an Indoor Winter PLAY Land that Encourages Active Play
by Ellen Metrick, National Lekotek Center   |   January 17   |   0 Comments

Weather can coop children up and expose them to the deadly threat of ‘being bored,’ especially after all the hectic activities associated with the holidays.  Help your child scale the weathered walls of winter are available through play that encourage kids to be active physically -- and also active with their imaginations!

It’s important for all children, including those who have special needs, to keep both their bodies strong and their spirits high all winter long.  By inspiring kids to become engaged in a play activities, or to create make believe dramas, you’re helping them relax, refocus and recharge.  Active bodies and minds help children clear their mental cobwebs, connect to their bodies and their creativity allowing them to get lost in wonder of play. 
Here are some cool ways for kids of all abilities to jumpstart their muscles and their imaginations and beat the winter blahs!

Build a structure, tell a story.  The Happy Kid Company manufactures Fortamajig, a fun “building” toy that allows kids to build a fort, tent, tunnel, canopy or teepee or their very own custom play space by attaching the stretchy loops to stair rails, doorknobs, chair backs, etc. Kids can be encouraged to create stories themselves or use some adventure books for other ideas.  An inspirational story can motivate children with special needs to explore new ways to move and stretch their bodies and minds by casting them into the role of new characters and having them exploring the new abilities.    

A board that wipes out ‘bored.’ Diggin Active, Inc. makes a unique product called the Wobble Deck which is a wooden platform built for fun, active surfing, moving and grooving.  The kit includes three games that improve reflexes, balance, coordination and overall physical fitness while kids match colors, number and sounds.   Balance is such a vital skill for all children to learn, especially kids who have physical disabilities.  

Construct adventure.   Makedo Guided Kit sets allow kids to construct everything from an airplane to an elephant themselves using the materials supplied, special tools, instructions, and those leftover cardboard boxes from the holidays.  This company promotes open-ended, innovative, creative projects for children to learn, build and play with--perfect for wintery days and cabin-bound kids.  These well designed creative kits promote independence by allowing kids to build their own play products while building their self-esteem.    

Race around robotics.  Sphero Robotic Ball rolls and reverses with movements controlled by smartphones, iPads and Android devices.  Navigating it around the house and playing the downloadable games or apps available online gives kids lots of way to play and explore this ball of revolving fun.   Children keep active when they chase the ball from room to room and follow it as it rolls throughout the house. One child can control the ball and the others follow its trail as fast as they can, turning hallways into raceways and furniture into obstacles begging to be conquered.  

Become a bouncer.  Take the ball concept, make it bigger and add a handle and kids can have hours of bouncing fun that promotes balance and coordination skills. The Little Tikes Hopper offers various colors and shapes for little ones to bounce and burn off the energy.   You can even purchase accessories to make these balls into animals and before you know it kids are off to the races on horses with some bounce to their gaits.  Hoppers come in different sizes and colors and are a great way to promote both active play and body balance. 

Blow them up.  One Step Ahead makes a set of inflatable, colorful Climbing Shapes that transform any room into an instant playground for a day.  Not only do these air-packed units cost less than many foam sets, but these structures can be deflated and stored so you can get your room back. Children can create imaginary structures and make up adventures about climbing mountains, rolling down hills and traversing imaginary terrain.  Surprise kids by inflating them in secret and then bring them into the room with their eyes closed for a dramatic way to start the play.

Active and creative fun is a sure cure for cabin fever.  Keep kids of all abilities active in body and mind despite the weather by making winter a playful land of wonder and workouts. 


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