Cabin fever grabbed the 3 yr. old boy relentlessly in the winter weather. Grumpiness took over until I offered him a big poster board on the floor and crayons-to-boot, suggesting he use his whole body to get all those tense feelings out.
He jumped into the activity like a thirsty horse heading for water. His whole body swiveled and swerved, moving with the action of the crayons. He continued until he was out of breath, then leaned back and looked at his creative expression of tension leaving his body. I asked him how he felt. “Good now.” Things were easier after this activity and he was ready for fun without the grumpiness. SUPERKID POWER was at play!
Cabin fever is not the only culprit that brings out stale and unfriendly behaviors in children, but there are similarities in both cases – winter doldrums with cabin fever and classroom milieus. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine conducted an Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, financed by the United States Department of Education. The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics. They found that children who were cooped up with less than 15 min. of recess or physical activity daily did not score as well as those who did.
Outdoor space or indoor physical activity are essential for optimal brain activity. “Our brains can concentrate and pay attention for 45 to 60 minutes” as adults but it is less for young children. For them to be able to acquire academic skills, releasing energy, playing and being social are key ingredients.
Adults commonly experience cabin fever which adds momentum to the atmosphere for all involved. Moving the energy instead of being at a stalemate from being cooped up is the answer. It can be done in two ways that prove successful: movement and creativity.
Finding ways for children to do something NEW that calls upon their ingenuity can spark a change in demeanor. Whenever possible, find ways to do something physical first. Keep in mind that creativity is a movement of energy in a different way than physical activity. Both work well hand in hand. According to whole child providers, “Creativity is the freest form of self expression, creating something from personal feelings and experiences.
Some easy ways to do this that don't require being outside or much room in the indoor space are:
1. Run in place with each child and adult using the imagination and pretending what you are running past. Take turns creating a story and fun images until everyone needs to stop running. For example, “I love all those little bunnies in the meadow we are running past.” “Yeah, and look at the squirrel that is trying to hop like the bunnies!” “The bunnies are hopping as fast as we are running and going for that field of carrots. Let's see if we can beat them there.”
2. Dance! You don't have to be a pro. Just dance with children. Put on music that has some spunk to it and be creative together. Being creative and physical simultaneously will solve many stresses in a short amount of time. One source indicates there are also cognitive and emotional benefits to dancing. Cognitive benefits occur when learning is associated with exercise. When I was doing homeschooling many years ago, teaching math while using a trampoline accelerated learning! Emotional benefits of dancing include freedom to express feelings through body movement and building self confidence to feel like empowered SUPERKIDS.
3. Put some blocks or other small items on the floor spaced far enough apart that children (and you) can jump over them beginning at one end of a room and ending in a design or straight line. Every time someone jumps over every item and gets to the end, they get a special sticker or something fun as a reward and motivation stimulus.
4. Ask children to create fun activities. After physical exertion, brains are oxygenated and ready to be very creative. Do something new that is not a familiar activity. For example, save toilet paper rolls and other household items (boxes, bags, magazines, etc.) and invite children to make a new invention.
5. Forts. Pillows. Blankets. Picnic or snack time inside a fort. Creating a fort is always a favorite activity with children that lends itself to further creativity once the fort is built.
6. Dress-ups. Making up new characters, painting faces, doing dress ups and creating a play or just doing dress ups and being silly. Dance in dress ups! My grandchildren have decorated my face numerous times.
7. Everyone walk or move like a box if it could walk or dance or move. Have boxes ready to decorate. Each child/adult takes a turn showing what a box can become.
8. Many more possibilities lie within your creativity and with children. Just ask them for ideas of something fun and new you can do together since the weather is not agreeable to outdoor fun.
9. My “Superkid Power Guidebook” with 52 social emotional learning concepts full of activities brings skills to home base while being fun. Being tense and calm animals in the first section is a riot. Kids love it!
10. Artwork. Free form. Release tension and create.
Superkid Power Guidebook by Janai Mestrovich, M.S. Aka Grandma Boom (Amazon) www.grandmaboom.com