How to Beat Midwinter Cabin Fever in Your Homeschool

Feeling cooped up can muck up your sleep schedule, set your nerves on edge, and even make you sick — and in the middle of another shiver-me-timbers winter, cabin fever can be the straw that breaks the parent’s back. We can’t make spring get here any faster, but we can suggest a few ways to stymie cooped-up boredom and get a little break from the cabin fever blues.  

Go camping in the living room. Set up a tent (or rig one out of pillows and blankets), roll out the sleeping bags, and eat s’mores while you tell stories by flashlight.

Go on a treasure hunt. Put together a series of maps or clues (bonus points if they rhyme) to guide kids to a treasure hidden in your house. Use your kids’ ability level to decide on your clues: They should be tricky enough to need solving but not so tough that kids lose interest. Your hidden booty might be a new game, a craft project, movie tickets, or another boredom buster.

Paint a mural. Kids who like drawing or painting will love the opportunity to work on a big-scale project. Cover a wall with a giant canvas or roll of paper — or paint right on the wall, if you’re feeling particularly brave. Get kids started mocking up their mural on standard-size paper, then transfer the perfect mural to the wall using the grid method.

Set up an obstacle course. You can keep it simple — do 10 jumping jacks here, run around in circles there — or get more complicated with Lego building stations, Ninja-sliding walls, and pillow-jumping paths.

Start a marshmallow war. Build marshmallow shooters and compete to see who can shoot marshmallows the farthest and most accurately. You can get cull instructions on the Come Together Kids blog, but all you’ll need are plastic cups, balloons, mini marshmallows, and a pair of scissors.

Make a time capsule. Pick a future date, and let the kids write a letter and put together a package for their future selves. Store this in a safe place, and you and your kids will be delighted to rediscover it down the road.

Learn a secret code. Pick up a copy of a book like The Book of Codes: Understanding the World of Hidden Messages: An Illustrated Guide to Signs, Symbols, Ciphers, and Secret Languages and read up on the history of codes from prehistoric cave drawings to modern day graffiti. 

Host your own film festival. Pop plenty of popcorn and settle in for a movie marathon. We think a mix of classic musicals (Singin’ in the Rain, Annie), engaging documentaries (Miss Representation, Walking with Dinosaurs), and family favorites (Toy Story, Labyrinth) is just about perfect.

Publish a family newspaper. Kids can review movies, music, and television shows, report on important family news, interview each other for profiles, and opine on current events in editorials. If you’re handy with a video camera, you can turn your paper into a news show.

Find a pen pal. A pen pal can be an excellent opportunity to hone writing skills and give your kids something to do on quiet afternoons. Find a pen pal through your homeschool group or an organization like Homeschool Pen Pals, and stock up on stationery.

Break out the family pictures. Face it: Your 90s prom hairstyle is never going to stop being hilarious to your kids, so suck up the embarrassment and pull out your childhood photos. Consider creating a scrapbook — The Johnson Family’s Most Embarrassing Memories, for instance — or a photo album of great family photos with captions. 

Create a concert light show. With Snap Circuits Lights, you can create individualized light shows for your favorite (and least favorite) songs. Kids can build their own light board, then program it to interact with songs from an mp3 player.

Throw a mad tea party. Dress up in your fanciest party clothes and your favorite hat for a Wonderland tea party. Of course you’ll want to serve tea and crumpets.

Make a puppet theater. Home Depot has a handy plan for building a permanent puppet theater, or you can just repurpose a cardboard for your family puppet shows. Make sock puppets from partnerless socks, yarn, fabric glue, and other odds and ends, and put on puppet shows based on classic fairy tales, nursery rhymes, or your own stories.

Start a chain story. Begin a story with a few paragraphs, and take turns adding “what happens next.” You’ll be amazed at your kids’ imaginations — and all the wacky twists your story can take.

Hold a music education class. Mosey on over to YouTube, and let each family member put together a list of must-listen music to share with the rest of the clan. It’s fun to talk about what makes a song your favorite versus the best and how much that answer can vary from person to person.

Have a costume parade. It’s really a shame that Halloween only comes once a year when making your own costumes is so fun. Set a day for your family costume party that gives kids enough time to work on their costumes — you can set a theme, such as Literary Characters or Animals, or let imaginations roam free — and hook everyone up with supplies and costume-crafting assistance. This can be especially fun if you invite friends to join the dress-up party.

Plan a road trip. Collect a pile of travel guides from the library and plan your ultimate family vacation. 

Put together a science fair. This one may take a little effort on your part, but as Shelli discovered, it’s well worth it. Kids can choose a topic, conduct research and experiments, and present their findings — and if you can find a host location and get other homeschoolers on board, too, so much the better.

Make a laser course. Use yarn or string and masking tape to create a web of “lasers” for kids to make their way through, super spy-style. This works best in a hallway or narrower room — just don’t block the way to the bathroom.

Play cards. can remind you of the rules to pretty much any card game you can think of, from the basics like rummy and spades to games you’ve never heard of, like Skitgubbe or Svoi Kozyri.

Make a bird feeder. Plenty of birds stick around through the winter, and a bird feeder is a practical way to assist your local wildlife in addition to being a fun boredom buster. Position your feeder near a window with a bird identification guide handy, and you can start a list of local birds. 

This list is excerpted from the winter 2015 issue of home/school/life. Are you a subscriber?