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?