Fight Winter Blues and SAD with Fun Activities for the Family
It’s hard to avoid the winter blues once in a while, no matter how much you love the snow. But sometimes, those winter blues can develop into seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is something to pay attention to in your child. Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not it’s time to consider consulting a doctor, as well as some fun activities to alleviate the winter blues.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Let’s start with the basics! SAD is a type of depression that appears in the autumn and winter months as daylight hours dwindle. It lifts as the weather gets warmer and the sun makes more of an appearance each day. Approximately 6 percent of the population experiences SAD. Although there is no known cause, it is thought to be linked to the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the body’s natural sleep cycle.
What are the signs to look for?
It is important to note that the following symptoms may be indicative of a simple case of winter blues. However, you know your child best. If your child’s symptoms persist for weeks or seem relatively severe, it may be time to consult his or her doctor. Here are some things to watch for in your child as winter drags on and the sun doesn’t make an appearance in a while:
- Eating habit shifts: SAD typically causes a craving for simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods like cake, syrups, candy, and other comfort food. SAD also tends to trigger overeating.
- Mood changes: Your child may seem more irritable or disengaged than usual. Depending on your child’s age, watch for warning signs like an increased amount of crying, difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, and a lack of interest in his or her favorite activities.
- Excessive fatigue: As your child gets up in the morning, if he or she is having more difficulty than usual, pay attention. Watch his or her energy levels throughout the day and make note of any unusual amounts of fatigue.
- Less time socializing: If your child seems to be pulling away from friends or activities he or she usually enjoys, this may be a sign of SAD.
An important thing to be aware of is that these symptoms may not always be indicative of SAD. For example, if your child has been spending less time with friends, there may be a different underlying cause. The symptoms also may be triggered by winter blues. As previously mentioned, monitor these symptoms closely. If they persist for weeks and grow more severe, consider consulting a physician. Sometimes, simple techniques such as light therapy may be used to ease mild symptoms until spring.
Activities to Beat the Winter Blues
If your child does appear to simply have a case of the winter blues that most of us experience, there are some great activities you and your family can enjoy together. Get outside, or bring the outside indoors!
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t get outside! Here are some fun things you can do outdoors that will help you forget the chill.
- Take a “Staycation field trip” in your own backyard! Develop a scavenger hunt or have a learning-centered snow day.
- Have an adult set up a fire pit outside and make s’mores. Create a s’mores bar with additional s’mores ingredients, like bananas, strawberries, or peanut butter. Be sure to always have an adult present for supervision.
- Go bird watching at your local park, or build a bird feeder in your own backyard. Bring some bird seed from the store, or you can use foods like peanuts, cracked corn, and fruit.
- Paint the yard with snow paint. All you need are a few squeeze bottles, water, and food coloring. Fill as many squeeze bottles as you need with water, and then place a few drops of different food coloring shades into each bottle—and you have snow paint!
- Play freeze tag. You remember the rules of “tag, you’re it”! But with freeze tag, you’re frozen until another player unfreezes you. Play with at least three players.
- Build an igloo together. If you’re snowed in, don’t let that stop you from being outside! Just make sure you supervise your child if he or she chooses to do this alone.
- Play capture the flag. This is another great game to get everyone’s blood flowing and forget about the chill. Find a large area, ideally wooded or not too open, and have fun.
- Hunt for animal prints to identify. Take a track identification guide to the nearest park or trail and keep your eyes peeled for prints. You can look up track identification guides specific to your state or region to make identification easier.
Bring the outside indoors!
If it’s just too cold to get outside, keeping your child engaged and connected to the outdoors can help ease SAD and the winter blues. Here are some fun ways to bring the outdoors into the warmth while the wind is howling.
- Get ready for a day at the (indoor) beach with swimwear, beach towels, and more! Bring the outdoors inside for the day with beach balls, ocean-scented candles, and summer music. Alternatively, you could go to an indoor water park in your area.
- Start your own indoor garden. Grow celery in a dish, make a Mason jar terrarium, or create a garden in a juice box. Check out these fun ideas and get growing.
- Set up an indoor hopscotch course with painter’s tape. It won’t damage your floors, and it’ll get your child moving. It might even take you on a trip down memory lane!
- Set up a campsite in your living room and bring the outside indoors (and camp without the creepy crawlers). Tape some glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling, start up the fireplace, get a good book to read aloud, and turn out all the lights.
- Put together an indoor croquet course made of painter’s tape, cardboard tubes, and other household items. Have your child help you create the course pieces, and let him or her choose where to place each obstacle.
- Create a cardboard box town from extra cardboard, markers, building blocks, dolls, toy cars, and anything else you may have around the house.
- Have an indoor picnic play-date. Invite your child’s friends over for a day of food and fun. Pull out some board games, lay out a blanket, and invite parents to bring their child’s favorite snack. Here are some recipes to get you started.
- For those especially cold days, make a newspaper snowman. Get out all of your old newspapers, bundle them into three large balls, tape them together, and dress up your paper man with household items.
- Create a winter activity hanging calendar. Bring the winter inside and always have a fun activity planned!
What do you and your family do to quell the winter blues? Let us know in the comments below.