The (Affordable) Parents’ 2021 Winter Survival Kit

By Emma Grace Brown, guest writer

No matter what, winter is always a challenging time for parents. It’s cold out, there’s not a ton to do, and kids and parents alike start to get pretty stir crazy. However, this year promises to be an even tougher time for many. Lots of families aren’t going to be comfortable with the sort of indoor activities and gatherings that have been winter-weather go-tos in previous years. 

We want to help you come up with ways to make this winter fun, despite the difficulties. To that end, we’ve come up with this 2020 Winter Survival Kit. We know money is tight for many families right now, so we’ve gone out of our way to make sure the list includes tips to keep these items budget-friendly. We hope it inspires you to have a safe, healthy, enjoyable winter: 

Outdoor Gear 

If you plan to meet up with people this winter, odds are it’s going to be outdoors. Since indoor gatherings are far higher risk than the alternative, it only makes sense to get out in the fresh air to see the people we love. If you want to meet outside in winter, however, you need good, comfortable, and most importantly, warm gear so it’s actually pleasant to be outside. 

Start with warm winter coats for the whole family. Grown-ups might be able to keep using their coat from last year, but kids tend to grow out of seasonal items before the next cold snap comes around. Outlet malls and shops like Nordstrom Rack are great options when buying for kids. You’ll get high-quality items without the sticker shock. Consider donating the coats your kids have grown out of to a local coat drive to help kids in need stay warm. 

Virtual Activities 

Using virtual means of connection, such as Zoom calls or video games, allow your family to stay in touch with non-household loved ones without risking catching or spreading COVID-19. If you don’t have a video game console, however, it’s easy to feel left out of the virtual fun. The good news is, there are tons of ways to play games with people virtually, no console required. 

There are plenty of online board games that only need a laptop, phone, or tablet for players to join. You can also check out hidden identity games such as Spyfall. Since this kind of game is based more on conversation and interaction than pieces or movement, it naturally lends itself to the video chat experience. Even party games like charades work surprisingly well over video chat! Stay creative and keep an open mind, and you’ll find tons of fun ways to connect online. 

Creative Play 

Finally, we recommend picking up art supplies and embracing creative play over the coming months. Studies have shown that, while the pandemic has made creativity harder, it’s also made it far more important. Art and other creative tasks go a long way toward working out the stress and anxiety the pandemic causes. Moreover, arts are notoriously underfunded in schools, so it might introduce your child to a passion they might not have discovered otherwise. 

A great way to find affordable art supplies is to look for a local second-hand craft shop. These are becoming more and more popular as people become more focused on reducing waste. If you can’t find one near you, you can also check out sales and coupons for local art and office supply stores. 

This winter, focus on finding low-cost ways to keep the whole family connected and entertained. Go gentle on yourself if the stress starts to wear on you, and give yourself space to mourn the winter you might have had. It’s always a challenge to be stuck inside, but creative thought (and lots of self-compassion) can make it easier. 

See more home and parenting hacks at Lumber in My Minivan.

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How to Ease Tension and Make Isolation with the Family an Enjoyable One by Guest Writer Emma Grace Brown

By Emma Grace Brown, Guest Writer

Possibly one of the few good things that came out of the pandemic has been the opportunity to spend more time at home and with the family. But as anyone who’s been stuck in quarantine for months with their loved ones can attest, it’s something that can quickly get old. Indeed, along with the cabin fever of being holed up at home for months on end amidst the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, it has not been rare for tempers to flare up and relationships to fray. Bored and restless kids start to create havoc, while stressed-out parents become irritable and impatient.

Of course, this is only natural. And while the self-isolation tension itself can further add to the stress of the entire situation, it can also be alleviated with a few lifestyle tweaks. Indeed, how your household spends its time in lockdown really does matter, especially to ensure that everyone maintains mental wellness. Let’s explore the best ways you and your family can use all these extra time so that peace and harmony reign in your home.

Stay Engaged and Productive

Again, bored kids are almost always up to no good, which will test your patience when you’re stuck in isolation. It is for this reason that you must take measures to keep them engaged throughout the day so that they’re never idle enough to make trouble. It’s a good idea, therefore, to have an arsenal of activities that are fun and interesting to keep kids entertained for hours on end. Bonus points if they’re educational, as well, so they can be productive at home, too.

Among the best ways to do exactly that is by making art with kids. It’s fun, simple, and satisfying, plus art materials are affordable and easy enough to acquire. This is especially beneficial for kids with learning disabilities as art can be a wonderful means of self-expression, while, at the same time, encouraging self-confidence where it’s most needed. 

Use Screen Time Wisely

Now, it’s oft-said that screen time is best limited for kids, especially younger ones, as it can harm their development. While this remains true in isolation, this isn’t to say that they should completely do without. In fact, technology has been a real godsend during the lockdown, and it can certainly help keep restless little minds and bodies at bay. The key is to set real limits and actually enforce them. The quality of what they’re watching, listening to, or playing is even more important, so you also need to control and sanction content.

It’s no doubt screen time will increase as school starts, with children spending more time on laptops and Chromebooks. While this obviously helps keep them occupied when you’re working, too many people on one network can slow things down for everyone, sometimes significantly. Thus, leading to more household tension. If you’ll all be using the internet at the same time, make sure you have enough bandwidth so lag time isn’t an issue. In some cases, it might be worthwhile to switch to a network that’s designed for gaming. These networks provide significantly faster speeds, making it easy to avoid losing your connection during a virtual meeting. 

Organize and Declutter Together

It’s easy for paperwork, books, sports gear, knick-knacks and the like to pile up for busy families. When this happens, tensions can quickly flare, especially if everyone is constantly at home together. To avoid this, decide as a family how to effectively organize and declutter your entire home. So it’s not totally overwhelming, have a plan of attack every weekend, with everyone having a set area or plan for cleaning and organizing. Once you’ve got everything organized and cleaned up, you’ll likely enjoy fewer arguments, save time and your home will feel more like the safe haven it’s supposed to be. 

Ease Back Into the Outdoors

Finally, as lockdown restrictions are removed in many areas, it may be high time to take your family outside again. Among nature’s many gifts are opportunities for relaxation, which could be exactly what the entire family needs after months spent stuck indoors. 

The beauty of this is your family can spend more time outside in so many different ways, as there’s certainly no dearth of things to do. So whether you want to go camping or spend a day at the beach, or maybe take a jaunt to a nearby park or even just your backyard, you will already be offering your family the gift of stress relief and a refreshing cure for cabin fever.

Suffice it to say, time in self-isolation is not at all easy, but there is really no need to add the additional stress and worry of family tension to it. By making use of the right activities and tools like gadgets, as well as nature’s inherent benefits, you can make this extra time at home less tense and more pleasurable, as it should be.
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