Good to Go: Family activities to cure cabin fever

Children play in the snow Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, in Knoxville, Tenn. A winter storm was making its way across the Southeast on Thursday, dumping 4 inches of snow in Mississippi, with the system expected to spread across northern Georgia and into the Carolinas and Virginia, according to the National Weather Service. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

WASHINGTON – Despite the pattern of some unseasonably warm weather this year, we are approaching the dead of winter in the Washington area and days of possible indoor confinement due to inclement weather and dropping temperatures.

According to, “cabin fever” is defined as “a state characterized by anxiety, restlessness and boredom, arising from a prolonged stay in a remote or confined place.”

Do I need to remind anyone of 2010’s Snowmageddon? Well, I remember as I spent most of the season inside with my then 2-year-old daughter, who had lots of energy to exert. I then researched and created some indoor jungle gym options for kids.

If your space allows, here are some ideas for things to do during days too cold to go outside:

  • Design an indoor jungle gym: IKEA sells affordable and sturdy indoor climbing pieces. The online website One Step Ahead has an Energy Busters section for kids offering indoor seesaws, hop-scotch and trampolines. The Playaway Toy Company Inc. offers Rainy Day Combo kits in which an indoor swing, trapeze bar or ladder can be added to a sturdy doorframe.
  • Create an obstacle course or build a fort: Design an indoor course using tunnels, ladders, hula hoops or whatever safe materials you have around the house. Pillows, sofa cushions and blankets are great basics for building a fort.
  • Get up and move on game night: Choose a night of games which require everyone to get up and move like Twister. Turn your pillow cases into an indoor potato sack race. Toy stores sell indoor versions of miniature golf, bowling and horseshoe sets as options.
  • Take a tumble: An indoor tumbling mat might be worth the investment as kids can somersault away on the padded surface. Most mats can be easily stored and placed out of sight until you need one during bad weather.

How cold is too cold?

The Montgomery County, public schools in Maryland and Fairfax County public schools in Virginia have set parameters for schools in their counties for determining if and when it is too cold to play outside for recess.

Generally, both counties take wind chill into account and temperatures dipping into the 20s or teens as an indicator of when it is going to be an indoor recess day. But the consensus seems to be if there is sun and the temperature is above the 20s, you and the kids are generally safe to play outside for at least a half hour.

Take advantage of a Winter Wonderland

The Let’s Move! campaign for kids says, “It’s tempting to hibernate during the winter, but cooler months are a great time to get out and try new activities with your family.”

In the event the D.C. area does get a snowstorm, offers these activities:

  • Sledding down a slope is a fun winter tradition, and the return hike uphill promotes a great workout.
  • Ice skating is a great way to exercise the lower body and engage the core, or abdominal or back muscles.
  • Sand castles don’t have to be just for the beach. Make the summer pastime a fun winter experience and build a snow castle.
  • Create winter outdoor versions of games such as scavenger hunts, tag and red light, green light.
  • Hit the slopes as January is National Ski and Snowboard Month.

Hot cocoa on a stick

I have learned that kids seem to love hot chocolate on a cold winter day — and things on a stick. The King Arthur Flour Company offers this recipe for hot cocoa on a stick:


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