Winter sanity: Part 2

Technically, the first day of spring falls on March 20.

But, in Minnesota, we won’t hold our breath. Around here, March is “in like a lion” and out like a nasty slush pile with a chance of blizzard. 

We’ve seen snowflakes fall into our Cinco de Mayo margaritas in the past. We’ve packed up the winter coats only to drag them out again a week later. 

Now more than ever, we claw at our itchy sweaters and those same four walls, delirious with spring fever.

We’re sick of the old standbys — the zoos, the coffee shops and Chuck E. Cheese. 

In January, I presented my picks for breaking out of confinement. Now, for our Minnesota-style "spring," here are a few of my favorite at-home sanity-saving activities to help you wait out the thaw.


Sensory-exploration bottles

I came across this easy project on The Imagination Tree. Dig through the junk drawer, the craft box and the recycling bin. Food coloring, glitter, tinsel, beads — anything available and somewhat disposable is up for grabs. 

Bam! New toys without leaving the house. Older toddlers can help you gather materials and create, younger toddlers and babies can sit back and enjoy.



Stick with me here. It’s simple to make. It’s yummy. It’s healthy. It’s messy fun, but not catastrophically so. A big bowl and a potato masher make this toddler-easy and will give your child a sense of accomplishment as he helps you make an almost-spring snack.


Dance party

The best part? When they’re this age, YOU get to pick the playlist. They basically think everything you like is cool. Prince, The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Wilco. Whatever floats your boat. Don’t be afraid to take it to the next level: Think twinkle lights and a choreographed routine. It’s a workout for you and a wear-out for your energetic tot. 


Make your own play dough

In a child’s eyes, this elevates you from Mom and Dad to legend. Add peppermint extract, vanilla, food coloring or glitter for extra wow. This recipe ( involves cooking your dough on the stovetop, but it also links you to an uncooked variation. 


Photo shoot

They move so much and grow so fast, it’s hard to capture more than a hasty collection of blurry smartphone pictures. Get rainy-day-intentional with blanket backdrops, Grandma’s pearls and the dress-up box. 


Mural it

Paper by the roll is super cheap and easy to find: Get it from Amazon or Staples. Even parchment paper from the grocery store will work in a pinch! Tape a long piece across the kitchen floor, throw down some (washable) crayons and markers and make a mural. The size and grandeur makes this WAY more exciting than the Thomas and Friends coloring book.



When in doubt, bake cookies. Chocolate chip, oatmeal or peanut butter. Set aside plenty of time, dust off your favorite family recipe and take a deep breath as you prepare to patiently let your toddler “help.” 



With glitter and flour and mashed avocado comes mess. After such festivities or even just because, give your toddler a cleaning project. While highly ineffective, toddler cleaners are enthusiastic, and when they feel like they’re “helping” they’ll allow YOU to actually get some tidying up done. 

An old favorite of mine is a spray bottle filled with warm water and a washcloth. Ask your assistant to clean the tub, fridge or any surface that can take the spray. This is fun for your child and plants the seed of familial responsibility at an early age. 

And remember, we’re almost there. By June you’ll be packing up the snow pants for good. Until then … coffee, cookies, glitter, cleanup, wine and repeat.