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3 Natural Ways to Nurture Your Child in the Winter

Written by contributor Megan Tietz of Sorta Crunchy.

I will be the first to admit: I am not a winter-loving person. Intellectually and spiritually, I know I should appreciate each season for what it brings and recognize the purpose for and even the benefits of winter, but if I’m being totally honest, I’d prefer to take my cue from the ground squirrels and head for hibernation.

Some of that changed, however, when I became a parent.  I had to face the reality that I don’t have the luxury of indulging in winter lethargy for an entire quarter of the year. This is the only childhood my children are going to have, and it’s up to me to be actively engaged with them no matter what season it may be.

Through the years, I’ve found a few ways to allow my nurturing instincts to guide us through the sometimes frosty, often gray days of winter:

Nurture with Food

Even I, a winter grouch, have to confess that one of the most delightful aspects of winter is preparing, serving, and eating comfort food.  Many of the foods we find to be the most comforting in winter are often full of what our bodies need in the winter – including and especially little bodies! You can nurture with food by serving:

The hours spent indoors are definitely made sweeter gathered around the warmth of the oven!  Both the tummies being filled and the memories being made can nurture our little ones during these days of winter.

Nurture the Senses

Photo by stevendepolo

While the other three seasons seem ripe with stimulation, winter is a season when our senses can become dulled.  We might have to get a little creative, but there are ways we can intentionally engage all five senses for our children this time of year:

  • Taste: Yes, we covered this yummy category above, but a plethora of ways to stimulate the sense of taste abound in winter.  Maybe this creamy vegan hot cocoa recipe would hit the spot?
  • Touch and Smell: I like to use aromatherapy with my children, and for some reason, the smell of orange is just right in winter.  You can add a few drops of essential oil to coconut oil or vitamin E oil to create a nice aromatherapy massage.  Some kids won’t tolerate massage or will only sit still for a few moments, but many will enjoy the sensory experience of rubbing some moisturizing oil on themselves.  This is a great way to engage the sense of touch in a way that also heals and moisturizes dry skin.
  • Sound: What better way to beat the winter blues than to break out in dance?  One thing I have to be mindful to remember in the winter is that my kids still have a big need to work out their big energy.  We love to put on some great music and just dance it out.  For kid-friendly music recommendations, head over to Simple Kids where contributor Jennifer Brown has a collection of suggestions that are fun for parents, too.
  • Sight: Winter is a wonderful time to explore the indoor facilities that are close to you.  I took my girls to The Museum of Science and Nature in Dallas in December, and I think they could have stayed there for days!  Aquariums are certainly visually stimulating, but even a trip to the local pet store can be a treat for little eyes.

On days when cabin fever spikes, you might get adventurous and see if you can plan one big five senses extravaganza!  Maybe you could spread out sheets of paper for finger-painting while you groove to a Laurie Berkner station on Pandora as the smell of orange peel air freshener simmering on the stove wafts through the air.  When the art is done, hang it for little eyes to admire while snacking on a freshly peeled oranges dripping with Vitamin C.

Nurture with Nature

Photo by pjbeardsley
This last suggestion is the hardest one for me.  I do not enjoy the cold air outdoors in winter at all!  But my girls don’t seem to mind it nearly as much as I do.  They learn the most about this season when they can interact with it in its purest form.  Go for a nature walk, or for the more adventurous, follow Aimee’s instructions at Simple Bites for a snow picnic.  See how long the kids can ride bikes before the cold does them in, or just let them run laps around the house when their energy is too big for the indoors!

One thing that seems to always hold true about parenting is that the little things we take for granted take on a new level of significance when we see them through the eyes of our children. Slowly but surely, I’m learning that I have much to learn about appreciating the chilly days and snowflakes this season brings to us.  Good thing I have two of the cutest kids on earth to teach me!

Your turn! Are you a winter grouch or a winter enthusiast? How do you nurture your children through the coldest months on the calendar?

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15 Comments

  1. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Thanks, Megan! I needed this today. We’ve had TONS of snow this month and it’s getting old. 🙂 Yes, I’m a winter enthusiast, but I still need tips for keeping everyone happy.
    I think a dance-a-thon might be a good plan for today, as well as baking muffins.

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Nothing a little dancing can’t cure! 🙂

  2. Kara @Simple Kids

    I do love Winter, but I have to say this seems like it has been an especially long one.

    I find that, with my kids, I have to keep constant vigilance to nurture them with warmth – lots of layers and soft, comfortable clothing. I have a toddler and a preschooler who would strip down naked on the the coldest of days, so I try to make sure that they are dressed in layers they find comfortable so they are more likely to keep them on (no itchy sweaters, please)

    I agree with you that these “little” things aren’t little, especially to our children. Thank you for these reminders and inspirations today.

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Oh, yes. My girls especially hate itchy sweaters, but they do LOVE a nice, soft sweatshirt. (Who doesn’t?!?!) I struggle to keep AJ dressed, too. Crazy kids. 🙂

  3. Elizabeth E.

    My Mushroom Risotto, Green and White Lasagna, and Pasta with Meatballs are always huge hits with the kids in the winter. Not to even mention all the soups I make, like Spinach and Quinoa soup and Pasta Fagioli packed with a ton of vegetables and served all warm and toasty. The best part is the kids eat up all those veggies without even realizing they are eating something nutritious because it tastes so good.

    I believe that cooking is a real way to show love. By providing nutritious and delicious foods to our families we’re getting them off on the right foot with food. Winter, spring, summer, or fall!

    http://foodieformerlyfat.com/2011/02/02/mushroom-risotto/
    http://foodieformerlyfat.com/2011/01/28/green-and-white-lasagna/
    http://foodieformerlyfat.com/2011/01/19/pasta-with-meatballs/
    http://foodieformerlyfat.com/2011/01/04/spinach-and-quinoa-soup/
    http://foodieformerlyfat.com/2010/12/30/pasta-fagiol/

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Winter is the PERFECT time for soups! Thanks for the ideas!

  4. Julia

    I love your wide range of ideas!

    I think we finally turned a corner this winter, at least maybe I did, with the winter activity theme we pursued last month. While I am happy that walks and bike rides and seed planting season is nearly here (I hope!), I confess that I will miss doing some of the unique cold weather activities we discovered recently–like hanging up cheery ice suncatchers. I have never missed cold weather before. It’s a very strange feeling…

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Oh, how encouraging! It’s nice to have hope that one day I might also turn a corner in my winter aversion. Thanks for that, Julia! Ice Suncatchers sound so fun!

  5. Jaimie

    Great read Megan! Brought a smile to my face! =) I do not enjoy Winter either for the most part, and we had record breaking snow this year and were stuck indoors for a WEEK! While I didn’t mind at all being cooped up with my kiddos, sleeping in, *watching* them play outside while I made sugar cookies and hot chocolate, sitting by the fire and enjoying a big bowl of homemade spinach potato soup while admiring the “snow that sparkled like diamonds” as my 5 yr. old said…it was nice to get back to normal when it all finally melted away. I believe in everything you said, we should make the most of everything, our kids only have one childhood and I feel blessed to have had all that (what seemed to linger forever) snow and ice, because it left me with a lifetime of wonderful memories. I hope my kids will hold the same memories close to them as I do. Blessings! =)

    • Megan

      Oh, Jaimie That sounds so cozy! Homemade spinach potato soup. Yummmmmmm.

  6. Lisa

    I really really dislike winter (I’m not allowed to say that I “hate” it or I get yelled at by my winter-loving 5 year old). Luckily for my daughter we have a new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who loves the snow as much as she does and even I have to admit that it’s fun to go outside and watch them play.
    I have been trying to find ways to enjoy winter more for my daughter’s sake. Thanks for giving me a few ideas for adding a little fun.

    • Megan

      Yes, my oldest (6) gets HIGHLY offended when I say “hate” about winter, too. 🙂 I am sure a puppy makes everything so much better!

  7. renee @ FIMBY

    I mostly like winter and I was all set to really embrace this season earlier this month but I seem to be reaching the end of my enthusiasm!

    I’ve written about what we do to celebrate winter here:
    http://fimby.tougas.net/celebrate-winter
    (interesting foods, change of activities, celebrations and a hefty dose of outdoor fun)

    Our favorite way to nurture our children during winter is to nurture through nature, especially go to winter camping. We’re kind of hard-core about the outdoors around here 🙂
    http://fimby.tougas.net/winter-camping-2011

  8. Nicole

    Such good ideas, Megan! I don’t have to deal with a very extreme winter where I am but I still feel it affecting me and my mood. I definitely need the reminder to be more intentional about nurturing my kids during this time of year!

  9. kimi mischke

    Lots of winter enthusiasm here! The more snow the better, as far as I’m concerned. We live about 20 miles from Aspen, and we nurture with as much outside time as possible for sledding, shoveling together, building snow-princesses (tiaras, sunglasses, and dresses included), icicle hunting, and now that my twins are old enough, skiing. We haven’t had as many bluebird powder days as usual this winter, so we’ve actually spent more time inside than we normally would. Inside, we’ve been crafting, baking together, snuggling on the couch, reading, doing puzzles, and watching the occasional tv show.

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