Aleteia

What to do with your kids when you’re stuck inside on a blustery winter’s day

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Here’s a free way to have fun when it’s too cold for sledding …

“Play ‘Skies Not Cloudy!’” my 5-year-old chimed this morning as fierce winds howled outside our windows. And even though the dishes were piled high, I caught hold of his excitement. While most days my seven homeschooled sons and I are super fond of playing in the snow, our asthma would make outside time impossible today. So instead, we’ll spend the many lengthy hours entirely at home. And here’s the best part – I’m pretty excited about it.

Years ago, such an empty slate would leave me trolling the internet, searching, searching for anything to break up the endless hours until bedtime. But that was before I discovered the game my son just mentioned – “Skies Not Cloudy.” It’s a game anyone can play; a game with no specific set of steps that relies on imagination — one that takes on a wide variety of scenarios depending on the players. Let me explain:

First off, “Skies Not Cloudy” doesn’t involve any sort electronic device, so go ahead and shut off all the screens. Next, grab your tiny, medium and even larger-sized children by the hand, say “We’re traveling to a place far far away.” Then head to the least visited room in your home, preferably an upstairs nursery where it’s warm. And as you go, sing this familiar song:

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play …”

Good job – you’ve made it upstairs. You’re not at an amusement park, but at least you’re out of the kitchen. Now pull a mattress or two on the floor to practice somersaults (I’m talking to you too, mom) then toss up a string of Christmas lights (yes, Christmas lights – they’re in the crawl space and, trust me, this is totally worth it). Just don’t forget to keep singing:

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day …”

My boys and I have been playing Skies Not Cloudy for about a decade now.Today, the game took on the form of a “Comic Strip Drawing Contest” for the teens and a “Swim Suits in the Bathtub Party” for the little ones. The toddlers required an entire bottle of shampoo to make Santa Claus beards. My older kids watched on, so amused the soapy beards inspired the winning comic strip.

Last week, Skies Not Cloudy involved stringing Cheerios on shoelaces while sitting on top of a colorful tablecloth in my husband’s office – seriously, never underestimate the excitement of simply leaving the highly trafficked living room. Even when we owned a 1,000 square foot house, I noticed how delighted my kids got about doing a craft in mommy’s bedroom as opposed to the kitchen table. Because even little people need a change of scenery. Oh yeah, and keep singing:

Home home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play …

I painted that line across my boys’ mustard-yellow walls after a long winter of singing and walking, back-and-forth, back-and-forth across my home’s cozy second floor. A baby in my arms and the wooden planks creaking, tiny sons ran and leaped all around me, jumping from couches to crib mattresses piled high on the floor. The song and the prayers I offered up while the snow fell beyond our windows intermingled in my memory, becoming a cherished anthem to me. To this day, the song reminds me of how God always meets me in a special way when I turn into the tedium of my vocation, rather than running from it. So whether it be orchestrating a headstand contest or mixing up batches of home made PlayDoh, something about really throwing myself into these challenging days somehow makes winter more magical for all of us – a time to enjoy, rather than to simply endure.

So what will your Skies Not Cloudy song and game be? Maybe you have a neglected karaoke machine just waiting to be dusted off, or maybe you’re tone deaf and the idea of singing – even just in front of your children – is embarrassing. That’s okay; music is not required for an indoor, wintry round of Skies Not Cloudy. The one and only thing required, the one and only thing you absolutely must bring when you adventure with your children to a cozy corner of your home, is you.

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