Two of my kids responded to time-outs and consequences and generally listened to what they were asked to do.
Then I had a “tricky fellow.”
Nothing worked with him. He was exhausting, constantly yelled “no,” screamed, threw stuff, and generally made mischief. If there was something going on, you could be certain he was stirring the pot. My solution for his challenging behavior?
GET HIM PHYSICALLY TIRED.
As a pediatric physical therapist and advanced trainer for the Nurtured Heart Approach(R), I knew getting him tired was the best thing for him. I treated it like a prescription; I got him very physically tired nearly every day. As a PT, I know that elevating a child’s heart rate can improve attention and focus. All the skilled therapy in the world can’t replace sensory experiences that come from play in a natural environment. Exercise is a proven practice for the treatment of challenging behaviors in children with autism and attention disorders.
But how do you wear out a kid during winter? Particularly the long winter days when we spend most of our time indoors and therefore dealing with his challenging behaviors. It’s easy to get them tired in the summer: riding a bike, playing at the park, swimming, sporting activities. But winter presents a challenge.
While there are plenty of sports activities available, most of us can’t afford to have someone else get our kid tired 7 days a week, nor should we. Adult-directed activities do not promote the same kind of learning as child-initiated movements and activities. Plus, getting a “tricky-fellow” to a class often involves a lot of “hurry up” and “let’s get going” and arguments with an already-challenging child. Do a quick search online for “over-scheduled kids” and you’ll find hundreds of articles warning parents about the perils of enrolling kids in too many extracurricular activities.
To avoid “Nature-Deficit Disorder” (not a true disorder, but coined by author Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder), I vowed to get all my kids outside regularly, even during the winter months.
I was lucky enough to have a daycare provider that agreed with the importance of getting kids outside and took the kids outside daily whenever the temp wasn’t below zero degrees. It’s like a pressure valve of energy is released by getting kids outside. Plus, every time your kids put on mittens and boots and snow pants, they are working their core muscles used for sports, as well as fine motor and pincer muscles necessary for hand-writing. Give them the time to practice those skills!
So what did I choose as our go-to winter activity? Sledding. And even flat-land Fargo has many beautifully, manicured dikes and drainage ponds for your sledding enjoyment, including Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead parks. But plan ahead, it could take up to 30 minutes to get gear on and at least 30 minutes for sledding. If it’s too cold, even two trips up that hill will help. Sledding gave us a purpose and a functional task versus “let’s go play outside”. Make the kid climb to the top and trudge through the snow, nothing will better tire them out.
Get The Right Gear
So by the 3rd and 4th kid, and after some informative (a.k.a. freezing) trips to Wilderness Winter camp with the Boy Scouts, I realized what a big difference good equipment and clothing made with regards to the amount of time the kids would spend playing outside in the winter.
L-Bow gloves: This Minnesota-based company sells products online and at Fleet Farm. My daycare provider always commented that she wished all kids had these gloves because it was the wrists that were always frozen when they climbed around in the snow. My kids loved these gloves so much they took them to school and asked their friend to pull them over their coat sleeves, or they used their teeth. I’m not sure how little ones play in the snow without them!
Land’s End snow pants: Particularly, the Kids and Toddler’s Squall Waterproof Iron Knee Bib Snow Pants. After ironing on patches over the holes my kids would immediately put in the knees of their cheap snow pants, I finally invested in these. Even my daughter, who insisted on being a dog or tiger in every game that she ever played until she was 10, was unable to put holes in these knees. They have the “grow-a-long” system that gives you another 2 inches when the pants are too short, just by cutting a hidden seam.
Ski helmets: My oldest daughter fractured her skull once by getting bucked off a horse. The neurosurgeon at the time informed us the main reasons children come in with head injuries: ATV’s, horses, bikes, and sledding. No one in my family would ever get on an ATV, bike, or horse (post-skull fracture) without a helmet, so we added sledding into the mix. I saw enough concussions occur on this sledding hill at Boy Scout winter camp to put a helmet on my kid. Your choice of course, but we found ours at Costco.
LL Bean sonic snow tube: We’ve had our tube for almost 5 years and have not had to replace the tube yet, nor add air. These snow tubes get them up and above the flying snow that hits their face on cheaper sleds, and cushions every bump. My only regret with this tube is not buying it sooner! People are constantly asking to borrow it because it’s that fun. Get the extra large so that you can put a bunch of kids on one, and they can use it as they grow (and you can use it too!)
Hand and toe warmers: Someone passed me two hand warmers at Boy Scout camp, and my life was changed. I went from dreading winter Scout camp, to loving it. I’m not sure why I was trying to get through winter as-if I didn’t need these.
Snow boots: We liked Kamik’s with removable liners, but I know many people that like BOGS. If you’ve ever said, “what’s that smell?” and narrowed it down to a kid’s funky-fungus-smelling snow boots that don’t get dried out, then you realize why I like removable liners.
Boot dryer: To avoid lining up my boot liners and L-bow gloves on the heating vents.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:
Buy all these things for kid #1. And pass down what you can. Really, get your money’s worth out of them. My girl and boy that weren’t “tricky fellows” didn’t annihilate me if I didn’t get them physically tired. But we would’ve had much happier days outside in the winter when they were young if we had these supplies.
So don’t be afraid to get the kids outside. With the right gear, they will have fun, be warm, and be WORN OUT!