Daylight Saving Time has just ended, and while I appreciated the extra hour of sleep over the weekend, I never really like the earlier sunset nor the impending cold that the time shift implies. Still, the seasonal change often gives my family and me the motivation to do things we’ve put off during the longer, warmer days of summer and early fall. Here are a few of our favorite family activities for when we don’t want to go outside.
Bake something. Colder weather just seems to call for turning on the oven. I’m all about making muffins on weekend mornings and starting bread dough that only needs minor tending throughout the day to turn into a golden loaf by evening. My favorite site for new baking ideas (and plenty of how-to photos) is kingarthurflour.com—but even out-of-a-box baking can be a fun family project. (For my son, it’s all about the rainbow sprinkles in any case.)
Play board games. Even in (or especially in) our age of electronica, there’s nothing like gathering around a board with some dice and cards and not a battery in sight. There’s a tactile aspect to board games that I find missing in even the most realistic-seeming online entertainment. My family loves all kinds of games, from old standards like Clue, Monopoly, and checkers to newer strategy board games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Carcassone. Sure, they’re good for kiddies’ minds, but they’re also simply a lot of fun. (For bonus fun points: Work with your kids to make up your own family-themed board for a classic game, for example, by using places in your hometown for the properties in Monopoly, or members of your family for the suspects in Clue.)
Write a novel—or at least make up a story. November is National Novel Writing Month, and I know several folks who take part in the annual NaNoWriMo challenge of trying to complete a novel in 30 days. I’ve never been quite up to that, but I do enjoy sitting down with my son and writing stories together. He enjoys making up adventures, and I enjoy the chance to write something other than my usual non-fiction. We have no particular publishing goal; it’s just fun to tell the tales. A verbal variation of this is to have one of us start telling a story out loud, and then pass it off to the next for a few minutes, alternating until we run out of ideas or the storyline devolves into nonsense. It’s great for long car rides and sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms during cold season.
Help others. I always find myself going through our closets at this time of year, pulling out our son’s coats and boots from last year that he’s long outgrown. The cold months are always an extra good time to think about those in our communities in need of food and clothing. They’re also a good time to explore new ways to give (try Charitynavigator.org), or to help our kids find a cause and a way of taking action that’s meaningful to them.
Learn something online. I’ve worked professionally in online media for almost 20 years, but I’m still blown away by how the Internet is transforming education. Sites like TED Ed (ed.ted.com) and Khan Academy (khanacademy.org) offer short, kid-friendly videos on a wide variety of subjects—and many teach me new things as well. The wilds of YouTube also offer many great educational and how-to video series, although we have to exercise some judicious parental guidance while we seek them.
Build something. A fort out of old boxes. A robot from a kit. A holiday ornament out of popsicle sticks. Cold, dark days are the perfect time to haul out the craft supplies and junk and create something splendid or tacky.
Go to a museum. Much as my family loves museums, we rarely go during the summer because the weather is too nice for us to be indoors. We make up for it at this time of year—but try to do so as economically as possible. We’ve long taken advantage of the Reciprocal Program of the Association of Children’s Museums and the similar Passport Program of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, which offer member discounts or free admission to other museums in their networks. Also, Bank of America offers cardholders free admission to a variety of museums on the first full weekend of every month. (See museums.bankofamerica.com.)
No, there are no LGBT-specific things on this list, although our experiences as an LGBT family may inform our approach to any of the above—what catches our eye, what we want to create, our sense of equity as we interact with others. The chilly, dark days of late fall and winter, however, are also when we can take the time to think about what connects us as a family, what we enjoy doing together, and how we learn from and inspire each other during the time of year when we are more often rubbing elbows. Colder days they may be, but with family around us, we can create our own warmth.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), an award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.
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