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How to Beat Cabin Fever on the Cheap


There's no place like home—that is, unless you’re home with kids who are stir-crazy and climbing the walls despite having a stocked pantry, gadgets galore and a massive Netflix library at their fingertips. We’ve all been there. Today’s kids have so much more to keep them busy than I ever had growing up, and yet cabin fever still rages from time to time in my house.

In full disclosure, I am neither crafty nor good in the kitchen. I can’t make anything you see on Pinterest, and I don’t know how to play Mario Kart. Instead, my secret to success relies on the tenets of “plan ahead” and “keep it simple.” Because you can’t go to the pricey indoor waterpark every time the weather is a fail, I’ve got you covered on how to tame your squad, and even how to do so on the cheap. Here’s what keeps me from locking myself in the bathroom when the kids are driving each other (and me) batty.


I’m all about baking cookies on snow days and letting each of my four kids pick a recipe (because there’s nothing wrong with four deliciously different kinds of cookies). My favorite recipe blog is Picky Palate (, which has 200-plus cookie recipes, including Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies and Frosted Flakes Macarons. Sometimes I buy different add-ins and let the kids make up their own cookie recipes.

Don’t let snow or rain keep you from getting the kids outside for a walk, even just around the block. Build a snow fort, play snow bowling, or jump in puddles. If the weather isn’t life-threatening, put on a hat and coat, and then take it outside. People in Finland call this sisu. It’s a mindset that helps them transform challenges (like 18 inches of snow) into opportunities. They see far more darkness and snow than we do, yet they’re routinely one of the happiest countries in the world.

While the kids are on the laptop, head to VolunteerMatch ( Here, you’ll find loads of volunteer opportunities, including purely virtual ones that even your younger kids can do. Sort by “Virtual” and “Kids” to find kid-friendly activities, such as making colorful, glittery cards for sick and underprivileged children. It’s a fantastically philanthropic way to put a smile on someone’s face, even from thousands of miles away.

Board Games

This sounds so old school, but my kids love it when we break out games that aren’t video games. I like to choose games that don’t take too long to play, don’t have a lot of pieces and are easy for all the kids to understand. A few of my faves include UNO, GeoBingo, Apples to Apples and Mexican Train (an easy dominoes game I only recently discovered and completely love).

Google “at-home science experiments” for all kinds of easy and fun experiments to transform your kids into mad scientists. Make a homemade lava lamp, a rainbow in a glass or a colorful tornado in a bottle. Even older kids will pay attention when you force an egg into a bottle. Best of all, most experiments require little more than what you already have in the house, such as baking soda, sugar, glue and lemon juice.

We all know that there will be bad weather days ahead, so be prepared, and quell cabin fever with fun.