"The same old thing can be tough on everybody, but especially for children," says Jenny Conviser, a psychologist at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. "You have to think outside the box. Get creative about how to use your environment. And this could mean throwing a blanket over the dining room table and saying—OK, here's our new tent!"
"Tell your kids you're confident they can think of something new and different and interesting," she says. "But you have to be careful not to disengage to the point where they feel abandoned and then wind up doing the same thing."
And exercise is important if you can find a way to fit it in. Conviser suggests making a task a family affair. For our particular snow day, I made a game out of clearing a path to the garage.
"This is the perfect opportunity to tackle things that need to get done anyways," Conviser says. "You need to clean out a drawer, or move some furniture, make an event out of it and include everyone. Tell your kids, 'Let's go try on your clothes in your closets and see what still fits.' You can pass the time while taking care of things you'd normally put off were you not stuck at home."
And if you're sick of your stash of board games, create new ones. My son and I blew a couple of hours by changing all the rules to Candy Land.
"If you tell your children to make up new rules and set the guidelines to a new game, they will be very engaged in the process," she says. "This is so much better than sitting in front of a computer for hours or watching several hours of television."
Another great activity, Conviser says, is to sit down and write a letter to a family member or friend.
"How lovely is it for grandma and grandpa to get a self-penned letter from a grandchild? Sure it's easier to throw out an e-mail—but why not draw a picture and send it to them of something you remember together?"
And if you're really bored, you can always make a mess of things!
"Why not take a roll of toilet paper, unroll it in the living room and see what you can make out of it?" she suggests. "If you enter a project with enthusiasm, it will be much more memorable for your kids. But if you try to sell it too much it might backfire on you. Kids know when you're faking it."
Have any favorite activities for handling cabin fever? Let us know!