Spring is almost here! The snow is melting — and then coming back, argh! The birds are chirping. The days are staying lighter longer, though you can’t count on the weather to be good just yet. You are done skiing, but not yet swimming. Perhaps spring break plans are in the works.
However, if you are stuck at home, especially with little kids running around, here are six fun and rewarding things to occupy your time:
1. Read a Good Book
Whether it’s their nap time or you just need a break from the kids, reading offers an escape from reality. What do you like — science fiction? Romance? Maybe a phone book, if it gets you away from the kids? No matter the topics you fancy, you can likely find what your collection lacks by heading to the library.
Used book sales are also a great way to stock up on titles or a series you have missed. Some offer bag sales, where a nominal fee is charged for whichever books you can fit into the bag.
You might also join a book club, where you can share your thoughts with others who have read the same book. Together, you can clarify parts of the story you may not have understood or share different interpretations of characters and scenes.
2. Walk it Out
Take a walk! You will find times when you need it, and it will always make you feel better. Bring the kids, bring the dog — or leave them all at home with another responsible adult. Walk around the block, or find a destination that suits you. Parks, for example, offer play equipment for children or just peace and quiet for yourself. See if you can find that first frog or turtle of the season. The birds are all coming back — though it seems like the geese never left.
You might also want to bring your camera, a pair of binoculars and a bag with you to hold “treasures” found along the way. There are many as the snow melts. You could also bring a trash bag to clean up your favorite walking route.
Walking offers health benefits, clears your mind and puts you at peace. You will return home refreshed — just be sure to wear appropriate athletic shoes.
3. Try Bird Watching (Seriously)
The best way to learn to identify birds is when they start nesting in your gutters or pecking holes in your house — beware the house sparrow! Those birds make your home their home. They bring their friends, make families and never leave.
Of course, there can be more pleasant bird watching. Have a contest with your family to see who can spot the first robin of spring, or learn to identify which bird makes what sound. Can you tell the difference between a cardinal and a blue jay? You could also set up a homemade bird feeder, and you will have many viewing opportunities in no time.
Pick up a bird watching book at the aforementioned used book sale. Get a pair of binoculars for better views and easier identification. Then, take photos of your birds and share them on social media.
4. Mentoring at Your Local YMCA
The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has a long history of helping at-risk youth. It has evolved into a multi-national organization that helps the community at large. It is no longer specific to men and not specific to Christians, but the acronym has lived on to honor its history of compassion and altruism. Nowadays, people talk about “Going to the Y” to work out, without even thinking of its roots.
In addition to exercise and community events, the YMCA still offers mentorship to at-risk youth. They need good people to offer positive role models and companionship that might otherwise be missing. Consider donating your time to a child who needs you.
It is a great way to reach out and help your community. It may be a challenge at times, but what kids don’t offer a challenge? You will have fun with them playing games and participating in various activities. You will get to see things from a different perspective and have a new appreciation for your blessings. You will make a new friend and have a lasting influence on that person’s life.
Mentoring works in many ways to better a child’s life. Studies have shown children with a positive mentor in their lives are much less likely to skip school, to experiment with drugs and alcohol or to engage in violent behavior. You will have fun, and you will make a difference — plus, it feels good to be needed.
5. Be an Amateur Photographer
Taking pictures is fun, and you don’t need any special equipment to be a photographer. In fact, many people don’t even have a camera anymore. Smart phones offer such quality photos now that an additional camera is optional.
Spring can be dreary at times, but it offers something you won’t see any other time of the year. Doesn’t it seem like there is nothing outside one day, and then the next there are leaves, lilies and other flowers popping up all over?
These make excellent subjects for photography. Catch the first crocus as its purple leaves burst through the ground — and sometimes even the snow. Capture some of the animals that have come out of hibernation or that have returned for the season. All those birds on your deck emptying the feeder you put out for them will make excellent subjects.
6. Pick Up a Puzzle
When the weather is bad or if you have sick ones at home, a puzzle can offer a peaceful challenge. Get something age-appropriate for your children and make sure it offers big, colorful shapes. For yourself, take a challenge that won’t overwhelm you. Start with a 500-piece puzzle if you haven’t tackled a 1000-piece yet.
Get scenes that are beautiful, or at least something you won’t mind looking at for hours on end. Avoid the tricky puzzles where images repeat themselves in the photo, though, so you don’t end up frustrated
Enjoy your spring. Watch it and learn about it. Capture it and share it with others. Share your time and spend it together. Make new friends — and then make plans for summer!
Jennifer Landis is a 27-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.