OK, OK, the Irish weather can be "unpredictable", "unsettled", or even "changeable", but unless you're planning a move to Australia, you'd better get used to it. As the great Scottish philosopher Billy Connolly once said: "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing" - so if it should rain (it could happen), get yourself and the kids some waterproof clothes. Running around outside like lunatics will help your children to blow off steam, and they'll be much calmer when you get them back inside. Don't panic if they get wet and mucky, you can always warm them up in the bath when they come back indoors.
Remember that you're never too old to have fun playing with your kids. The activity will benefit you and you'll end up feeling invigorated. Playing together really is "quality" time with the kids...so loosen up, Mum and Dad, and get in the game. Instead of getting stressed about them bouncing around inside and wrecking the house, go out and play catch, or tag, or even teach them a game from your own childhood.
It's understandable in this day and age that you won't want to let younger children play completely unsupervised, but we can supervise unobtrusively. Let the kids lead the way and if it feels right, join in the game! Here are some simple outdoor activities that you could try:
Whether you're kicking a soccer ball, catching a rugby ball, pucking a sliotar or just throwing a tennis ball around, playing ball can be a great way to get some exercise and bond with your kids. The art of the backyard kick-around is in danger of dying out, so get out there and get some game time. You don't need to be a top athlete - your kids will appreciate you getting involved.
For younger children, this is a great way to encourage physical activity. Kids love bubbles, and when kids play "catch the bubble" they get a serious workout without even realising it. A great way for kids to burn off excess energy. Make your own bubble mix using our recipe:
- 1 cup washing up liquid
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup glycerine (which can be bought in the chemist)
Stir the above ingredients, don't shake them. Make your bubble mix a day in advance and it will be stronger. Set your kids off to see how many bubbles they can catch... not only will they have bags of fun, this will help younger children to practice counting. You can improvise bubble blowers from cardboard tubes and paper cups with the ends cut off... just make sure kids don't suck up the bubble mix! Leave them off and let them develop their own bubble games.
For kids aged 4 and over, skipping can be a great playtime activity. Skipping aids coordination and is an excellent way of staying fit. It is great preparation for sport, and it is very cheap... all you need is a rope!
Chalk it Up
Give your kids some chalk and let them draw on the patio or on the walls... don't worry, it'll wash off in the (inevitable) rain. Teach your children how to play hopscotch, then let them entertain themselves.
Go For a Family Walk
Start a new tradition - wrap up warm, put your boots on, and go for a family walk. The exercise will benefit both you and the kids, and will leave you with higher energy levels. Exercise has been scientifically proven to improve mood (no joke, try it and see)... so when cabin fever sets in and the family are at each other, wrap 'em up and get 'em out for a walk!
OK, you don't need to get in for a mid-Winter swim (not unless you want to anyway!), but on a cool Winter day the beach can be a great venue for a family outing. Bring a bucket and go rock pooling with your young amateur naturalists, collect shells, bring a frisbee, bring a ball, bring the dog. Combine a beachcombing trip with a winter picnic...bring a thermos of hot chocolate for the kids and coffee for Mum and Dad.
Be a Tourist
Many tourist attractions have special offers in the off season, and some are even free... so why not take the kids to a local castle or folk park. If the weather is really bad, why not take the kids to your local museum or art gallery? The National Museum in Dublin is free, and will give you and the kids a healthy walk... and they may even learn something!