Cure Cabin Fever With Active Play

Don't let cabin fever drive you crazy. Try these quick cures.

It's almost inevitable that sometime during the winter months, your family will be stricken with cabin fever. You'll know it by the deafening chorus of "I'm bored!", the steady flicker of the television set, and the way your snack supplies are dwindling even faster than usual.

But there are ways to fight back. Getting outside is the number one cure, but sometimes you can't do that (or you already have). Cool your kids' case of cabin fever with these suggestions for active, indoor play.

Get tricky with tape.

Homemade twister stretch
Erica Greis

Use painter's tape to create a hopscotch court, balance beam, free-throw line, Twister-style game, or jumping targets on your floor. Ask your kids to brainstorm more ways to trick out your play area with tape. (And try making more free fitness equipment together too.)

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Bring outdoor toys in.

Clear a space for them in your basement, family room, or garage (a garage will still be cold—but at least not wet or windy). Try ride-on toys, smaller plastic slides or climbers, jump ropes, soft or lightweight balls, and hula hoops.

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Circuit train.

Create a family fitness routine together, using a combination of elements. Let each family member pick one move and put them together into a sequence (it's a memory challenge too!). Or write down each action on a card (add more of your own ideas) and draw them from a hat. Roll dice to find out how many repetitions to do, or minutes to spend on each activity. Aim for a mix of cardiovascular, strengthening, and stretching exercises, such as:

  • Running in place
  • Dancing
  • Shadow-boxing
  • Stepping (onto fitness stepper or sturdy box)
  • Skipping
  • Jumping jacks
  • Lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Squats
  • Chair dips
  • Lifting hand weights

Cook together.

Mother and daughters preparing food
Tetra Images - Jamie Grill / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images
Nope, it's not a physical activity that will get your heart pumping, but researching recipes, shopping for ingredients, prepping and cooking them together is a great way to teach your child about healthy choices. Expand the lesson by growing a windowsill herb garden together.

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Set limits on screen time.

Taking TV and video games out of the equation forces kids to get creative. Yes, you'll have to suffer through some complaining. You can always offer extra chores to any child who just can't think of something better to do on his own.

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Tackle a home-improvement project.

Enlist older children and teens to help clean a closet, rearrange furniture, or repaint a room (hint: they'll be more eager to participate if it's their own bedroom!). A fresh new look gives you a mental boost and a physical one too.

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Play with snow (inside!).

Tiny snow people
Catherine Holecko
Fill a large plastic tote or roasting pan with clean snow and equip your preschooler with mittens, spoons, scoops, cookie cutters, and small containers. Use this activity to inspire an outdoor play session, or to extend one when everyone's toes are starting to tingle (but they're not ready to give up on their snow play).

Take a class.

Sign kids up for indoor sports and fitness programs through school, community centers, or your local parks and rec department. Try tumbling, swimming, or skating; or how about a martial arts class that the whole family can take together? Many facilities offer open gym/play times for kids enrolled in classes, too, so take advantage.

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Walk the mall.

Or the museum, the aquarium, or even the big box store. These outings don't have to cost much (if anything) as long as you set ground rules ahead of time. Increase the appeal (and the mileage) of a trip by adding a scavenger hunt or bingo game for kids to play.

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