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Cabin Fever Cure

30 sanity-saving ideas for you and your kids this winter

While headlines and school nurses warn that this time of year is ripe for the cold or flu, parents know too well the most dreaded of wintertime ailments. The one that makes kids moan in agony and cry in desperation – and leaves us begging for a break. That's right: We're talking about cabin fever.

And for most, the big question when the kids are cooped up inside or off for mid-winter break is: "What in the world – or in our neighborhood – are we going to do with the kids?!" For starters, relax. Or become artistic. Better yet, get adventurous. Because our cabin fever cures will take you and your kids loads of fun places, from your kitchen table all the way to the moon!

At home

Leave your PJs on all day if you like, and keep the kids busy and happy for hours.

  1. Introduce your kids to the Crock-Pot; round up the ingredients and let them make dinner.
  2. Set up a kid-friendly recycling center, so anyone in the family can go green.
  3. Host a toy (movie, video game) swap with friends, and let kids do the negotiating.
  4. Create your own science center. Look for online ideas (make slime, a volcano, etc).
  5. Dig out the family photos and make a collage or album.
  6. Host a PBJ luncheon/potluck dinner and game night with other families.
  7. Make real hot chocolate from scratch. (Try this snazzy cherry recipe.)
  8. Put together a family time capsule.
  9. Give everyone a paper grocery bag or two and fill them for a charity you all choose. Schedule a drop off for later in the week.
  10. Write letters (not emails!) and send them to relatives, friends or U.S. troops.
  11. Tie-dye T-shirts with a twist: Use Sharpie markers (very cool, much less mess!).
  12. Get a constellation guide and step outside on a crisp, clear night to view the stars.
  13. Have a theme night. Get take-out Chinese and watch Mulan.
  14. Organize a beauty day, Lego building marathon or Dance Dance Revolution contest with other moms.
  15. Have a snowman-making contest with the neighbors. Winners get to pummel everyone else with snowballs uncontested. Serve Popsicles.

Out and about

You don't need a passport or luggage to have a mini-getaway for the day.

  1. Check out hands-on museums: Ann Arbor's and the Detroit Science Center.
  2. Visit a Salvation Army thrift store for old, cool and quirky clothes on the cheap. Bring your finds home and let the kids play dress-up all day.
  3. Paint and fire a piece of ceramic art at a local ceramics studio. Stick to sunny, tropical themes and dream of warmer weather. Treat yourselves to non-alcoholic Pina Coladas when you get home.
  4. Play vintage and modern arcade games at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills. (Grandparents will love it.)
  5. Take a tour of the Jiffy Mix Plant in Chelsea, complete with hairnet.
  6. Call your local animal shelter and go walk the dogs. If you're a cat person, offer to play with the kittens.
  7. Catch a kids' show at the Wild Swan Theater in Ann Arbor or a puppet show PuppetART in Detroit.
  8. Check out the stars at Cranbrook Institute of Science Planetarium in Bloomfield Hills, Dassault Systemes Plantarium in Detroit, Southfield's Vollbrecht Planetarium or the Longway Planetarium in Flint.
  9. Take the family clotheshorse shopping at outlet malls in Birch Run, Tanger Outlets in Howell or Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills. Set a stingy spending limit and see how far he or she can stretch it.
  10. Check out the Detroit Zoo's special winter programs. Bundle up and go for a visit. (A lot of animals are very active in winter!)
  11. Pit family member against family member in an indoor game of laser tag. Losing team has to cook dinner and serve winning team.
  12. Pile everyone's pillows into the middle of the living room floor. Pull blankets off the beds. And lay in the sea of linens together while reading a good book.
  13. Create masterpieces from odds and ends at Ann Arbor's The Scrap Box or Detroit's Arts and Scraps (usually $1/bag).
  14. Convoy up to Frankenmuth's great shops like Rau's Country Store and Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. Stay for the famous chicken dinner.
  15. Enjoy the winter temps – and even embrace them – at the chilly outdoor activities at Huron-Clinton Metroparks or Oakland County Parks.

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