The post-Christmas come down and back-to-school routine bookended between dark and dingy mornings and afternoons can leave us with a bad case of the January blues. After the Christmas spend fest, it’s good to remember that the best things in life are free: time spent with your loved ones, laughing and sharing moments of joy. Here are some suggestions for ways to make the weeks whizz by and keep you and your kids feeling sunny.
The Huffington Post UK has teamed up with Cadbury to celebrate the small everyday moments of joy that, as mums and dads, we are lucky enough to share with our children. Parent Voices is full of amusing real-life stories from real parents, ideas and inspiration to help you create treasured memories with your little ones.
1. Cosy up and enjoy a family film together
Mugs of hot chocolate (marshmallow-topped, natch) and bowl of popcorn at the ready, snuggled up in Christmas jammies or onesies in a mountain of cushions and blankets, let the fun commence. There’s nothing quite so indulgent as a dark winter afternoon spent cuddled up with your children, watching a fun family film (or more) together. Check out our recommendations for 14 Nostalgic Films You Need to Watch With Your Kids.
2. Get outside (yes, really)
Exercise is a great way to lift everyone’s spirits, especially your energetic youngsters who spend hours cooped up at school. Take on board the Norwegian saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes’ (and they should know) and layer up to beat the winter chill. Insist on those gloves, mittens, hats and waterproof boots, then stride out this weekend and make the most of those daylight hours. If your kids need some gentle persuasion, inviting another family and more kids to your family walk will do the trick. Before you know it, you’ll have red-cheeked, happy children racing around together. Then home for tea.
3. Serve up comfort food
Enjoy warming winter stews and soups and family favourites like toad-in-the-hole, macaroni cheese and warm-from-the-oven chocolate cookies. At this time of the year, our bodies are craving that perfectly named comfort food and gathering for family mealtimes is a proven way to increase your happiness. Don’t forget plenty of fresh, green veg like spinach and kale to boost your family’s Vitamin D (known as the sunshine vitamin) intake.
4. Do something new together
You could start a Friday yay-it’s-the-weekend family treat. Choose something you can all look forward to, but isn’t so ambitious you’ll end up dropping it: tucking into a teatime treat at the local cafe; popcorn and a film to watch together; going swimming: cooking up some chocolate cookies, whatever you’ll all enjoy and will mark the start of a more relaxed weekend pace. Or if you don’t want to make a new tradition, just do something totally spontaneous: suggest that new film you can all go to, surprise them with a new meal with their favourite ingredients; have a dance-off with your kids. The options are endless but the point is putting family fun first.
5. Have a clear out
When you’re indoors more and your Christmas sparkles have been cleared away, you really notice how cluttered and uninspiring your home feels. Getting rid of dust-gathering, unwanted clutter and freeing up space will make the whole family feel instantly more energetic. Tackle kids’ bedrooms and clear out outgrown clothes and (unemotionally attached) toys, rediscover forgotten favourites and invest in some cheap storage solutions. Then move on to creating calm and space in the room you all spend time in together most by editing clutter and clearing surfaces. Your trash can be another person’s treasure, so donate your unwanted items to charity, eBay them, gift the best stuff to friends with younger children or Freecycle them. A lick of paint can be an instant mood-lifter and (depending on your kids’ age and paintsmanship!) a great way for the family to bond together while decorating.
6. Plan a bright break
If you can, plan a holiday somewhere with a bit more light and warmth for the February half term or Easter. Just looking online at sunny destinations, has been shown to lift people’s mood instantly.
7. Be sociable
In winter it can be tempting to hunker down in your warm home and (lovely though that it is sometimes), too much inaction will make you all feel energy-sapped. Making the effort to get out and see friends and family will lift your moods instantly. Set a few calendar dates to look forward (not too many to feel overwhelming) with families your children enjoy spending time with. Meet at local free events, host a get together (but share the cooking and divvy up the dishes) or simply go for a runaround to the local park together. And of course, when it snows, grab those sledges and trays and head to the nearest slope en masse.