Ways to Overcome Cabin Fever in Winter With a Toddler

by Hudson Rose

Don’t Let Winter  Indoors With A Toddler Get You Down

This is the first winter season I am spending in a new state with no family or friends around. The public library is not holding mommy and me classes and the indoor children’s play gyms are not open. Most days it is so cold, I don’t want to even leave the house. Needless to say, my toddler and I are feeling a bit cooped up. Here are some ways I have kept my sanity during this long cold winter with a toddler in the house.

Break Up Your Day Into Blocks of Time

The way you break up your day into blocks of time will depend on your child’s sleeping/nap schedule. At the very least you will ideally have a morning block, an afternoon block and an evening block.

The morning and afternoon blocks of time are the most productive and the evening block is more slowing things down and getting ready for bed.

Make a list of all of the things you have to do each day and/or the things you would like to start doing each day. Separately, make a block schedule and then you can start placing your to do list in a particular block of time.

Sample Daily Block Schedule: 

7:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. = Morning Block

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. = Nap Time

2: 00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. = Afternoon Block

5:30 p.m./6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. = Evening Block

Sample Morning Block By The Hour: 

7:00 a.m – 8:00 a.m. = Cook, eat and clean up Breakfast, change clothes/get ready

8:00 a.m. – 9: 00 a.m. = Morning play time (reading, blocks, puzzles, coloring, animals, piano/drums/shakers)

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. = Morning snack/chores

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. = Occasional Outside time or different play toys then the morning time

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. = Lunch time

Sample Nap Time Schedule: 

If your baby is 6 months of  younger you should nap when they nap. Otherwise, if there is a house task I cannot accomplish while my son is awake like mopping the floor I may do this during this time. Or if I have multiple loads of laundry to carry up/down stairs I will do that quickly. If my teenager needs help with some of his schoolwork I also use this time to help him. 

I do try to use my son’s nap time for my personal goals. This is typically reading/writing or creating a social media post. Sometimes it’s just showering and doing my hair/make up! A goal of mine is to use this time to go on the elliptical we have in our living room. 

Let go of any guilt of not getting other things done, if you were working out of the house you would have a lunch break to decompress, this is your time for that too so if you want to watch a half hour adult show while you eat an ice cream cone, go for it!. 

Trust me, the two hours goes very quickly and often he might wake up early. At the very least try to use 1 hour of nap a day for your own self care/goals.

Sample Afternoon Block By The Hour: 

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. = Afternoon snack/free play

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. = Sometimes we do outside time or free play

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. = This is when I cook dinner and my son usually watches a show. Toddler shows I like: Sophie/Curious George (Hulu), the Wiggles/Cocomelon/Thomas the train (Netflix), Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Plus) and Blues Clues/Daniel Tiger (Amazon Prime).

Sample Evening Block By The Hour: 

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. = Dinner time

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. = Bath time (I only wash my son’s hair once a week though), brush teeth, pajamas, quick clean up of the area. 

7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. = Some days we stay upstairs to do quiet play other days we return downstairs so my son can jump around on the sofa to get his last bit of energy out.

Force Yourself to Go Outside

It is so much work getting out of the house in the wintertime. By the time I struggle to get the snowsuit, boots, gloves and hat on my toddler i’m full of sweat and exhausted. But, on the days where I make sure we get outside we feel so much better. Something about fresh air and particularly if you can go outside when the sun is out, this will be a great way to overcome cabin fever.

When we go outside it is typically for a 30 minute block of time. When we come back inside he is usually ready for something to drink and a snack, we have a nice quiet time when we come inside. From the start of getting ready, to acclimating to being back indoors this is a solid hour of time. I like to do this in the morning as that is my largest block of time but often we have to wait until the afternoon for the sun and for it to be a bit warmer. 

Sometimes we just hang out in the garage. I put a space heater and a pop up chair, my son’s outdoor toys are in there, and keeping the garage door closed helps to avoid the wind. 

Use Different Areas of Your House As A Reset Button

I have 3 levels in my house. Our laundry/food storage is in the basement. My son will last about 30 minutes max down there and I like to use this time to break up our day/have a change of pace if we are having an out of hand period of time with tantrums. So we do not go down there everyday, we typically spend 30 minutes in the basement 3 days a week.

While we are in the basement, I am obviously doing laundry, organizing our food storage, and rummaging our deep freezer to plan meals and figure out what I need to replenish from the store. I have a few toys down there that stay in the basement, so he gets to play with new unique toys when we are down there (but he typically just hides my fabric softener sheets and other items). 

If there is an area of your house that you currently do not make use of or cannot because it is stressful think of ways that you can child proof it/make it an area you can break up your day.  I need to create a play space for my son in his bedroom because right now we cannot spend much time upstairs as he climbs to the top of his changing table, gets into my jewelry box and make up, it is a struggle. Once I can get  this area to be more appealing to him with a few toys and a space to play with them I am hopeful it will provide us with another area of the house to spend time in. 

If you are trying to reduce TV time: 

  • Consider playing music and doing a dance session
  • Consider putting toys away for a few days in a closet and reintroducing one at a time/rotating toys
  • Getting out of the house each day to a store or more outside time helps to avoid TV time
  • Hide the remotes!
  • Leave the chores for a few days until you break the TV habit and focus on being very engaged with your child during play so they are not getting bored or lonely and won’t feel the need for TV

Winter can be long and draining and the house seems to get smaller and louder with each passing day. You are not alone, get organized and start implementing a schedule to help make the days go by a little easier. Good luck!

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