It is said February is the shortest month for a reason. Even in a year with full access to in-person school and a variety of indoor places like children's museums to visit, cabin fever is hard enough. With pandemic restrictions in place for nearly a year, this February has hit parents and kids harder than usual.

The best antidote to misbehavior and cranky attitudes due to pent-up energy is to use that energy in a fun and active way. Kim Leistner Root, founder and president of SpringfieldMoms.org says, "Winter is always a time where we need to be more mindful to find and create outlets to release energy. Whether you have your child join you doing fitness videos or yoga at home or find a place they can have dance party outbursts, rearrange furniture and breakables out of the way and make space to move!"

Here are some ideas for fun and lively activities to help you through this shortest month.

Indoor scavenger hunt ideas can be found online, or simply walk around your house taking notes on what you see. Include vague items like "something yellow" or "something with five sides" along with traditional items such as "a blue sock." One of the drawbacks of a scavenger hunt is putting away all of the found items, so in our house, once our eyes have found an object, we cross it off the list. For another layer of fun, do a scavenger hunt with flashlights after dark.

An obstacle course can be constructed with a variety of objects found around the home and tailored to the size and age of your children. Hula hoops can be vertical or horizontal to test jumping and wriggling abilities. Hop between couch cushions, crawl under a table, run around plastic cups or balance on a line of tape.

Family dance parties are a good way to get the whole family active. Put on some tunes, jump around and sing along. For an element of surprise, add in a game of freeze dance, where the DJ stops the tune randomly to pause dancers in mid-motion.

Balloons can provide hours of fun. Bat the balloon with hands to keep it off the lava-floor. Attach a balloon with a string to a doorway above your child's height, and encourage them to jump and tap the balloon. Have a balloon race by having your children blow a balloon down a hallway. Play balloon hockey with brooms or fly swatters, with a laundry basket serving as the goal.

Building a blanket fort is a surprisingly active endeavor. Gather sheets and blankets and anchor them in place on chairs and other furniture by using binder or chip clips. Forts can be bigger than one room, and providing a crawl space between forts provides for additional activity.

Drama time gets your child's imagination going, as well as their body. Give your children roles to play out, such as a tree losing its leaves, a car on the highway, a happy puppy or a volcano exploding.

Ball tossing games can be tailored to fit your space. Laundry baskets or stock pots can be used as targets, with farther targets getting more points than closer ones. Or play tic-tac-toe with balls or bean bags.

Winter and spring holiday parties not only celebrate the passing of our year together, but can provide a theme around which to build. Plan a menu and cook together, decorate your home and provide holiday-themed activities such as heart relay races, leapfrog and bunny hops or dance parties.

On sunny days, consider taking an outdoor hike, even if just around the block. Games like I-Spy and scavenger hunts lend themselves well to this activity.

Sensory tables are not usually active places, but they can do a lot to take the edge off winter stagnation, especially for children on the autism spectrum or others with enhanced sensory needs. A kitchen sink can function as a wet sensory table. Plug a basin and fill with a few inches of water. Place towels around for easy clean-up. Measuring spoons, a clean honey bear, any other utensil or container that allows for pouring or squirting works well. Also include some items that float, such as a rubber duck. A dry sensory table can be made out of a large food storage container, or even a kiddie pool. Fill partially with rice, beans and/or pasta. A variety of small toys can be hidden within, with small shovels or any sand toys useful for scooping and sifting.

Try a few of these activities to keep your kids occupied, and just remember, spring is almost here.

Carey Smith is a Springfield mother in her 20th winter of helping her kids burn off energy for mutually assured sanity.

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