Finding a Winter Happy Place

With Mother Nature out to destroy our fair state of Michigan with her hideous winter weather we must find solace somewhere.

In the summer you can take a walk, go have a picnic in the park, play endlessly at the park, go to the beach, sit outside of a quaint coffee shop and enjoy a lovely caffeinated beverage while pouring over a great book. And they are relatively inexpensive! Oh yes, you feel like a new you – so does your family!

In the winter none of this is possible, in the winter you experience endless weeks of cold weather, bleak washed out faces and a general feeling that your soul has been sucked out by Mother Nature. (Thanks Dear.)

Many winter activities tend to be expensive too. Want your kids to go romp around in the big inflatable play center? That will be $10. Per person. Food? $30. Per Person. Enjoy. So you find yourself scrambling to do something to let the kiddies work off some energy and you build up some strength without a money tree.

May I present to you the mall play area.

Before I became a parent I swore I would NEVER, NOT EVER, allow my perfect peanut to play in the germ pool that is the mall play area. You would want to hose your child down with purell  after the experience. But I get it now.

When your child has taken to jumping from couch to couch, has clocked loved ones in the head with blocks and is now running into a wall for 10 minutes straight screaming, you know your child has gone haywire and will need to be reset.

The baby manual never explained where that reset button is. It never told you how to manage this crazy-gone-off-the-deep-end-cabin-fever behavior. You must be resourceful.

My I present again, the mall play area. AGAIN

As long as your kid has socks, is less than 4 feet tall (they s-t-r-e-t-c-h this rule. No pun intended.) You are good to go!

A great place for them to interact with other kids, to learn how to share, to learn to be bold and actually climb the play toys versus look at them. To be mindful of their actions and cautious, experience cause and effect, as well as to let loose and get a bit sweaty and tired out for the perfect three-hour blessed nap.

Avoiding the pitfalls of banana slices in the road.

Avoiding the pitfalls of banana slices in the road.

But to make sure it’s a good experience for all involved, try not to be one of those parents. Simple things to keep in mind:

1. Don’t talk on your phone the whole time. Your child wants you to “watch me, watch me, watch me, watch me….” This is a big deal to them that they just climbed up the shredded wheat. WAY TO GO!

2. Don’t only react to the negative… “Don’t climb up that way.” “Let go of her hair!” Your child might be doing some of this to get attention. Try reacting to the good stuff too. They might like the praise better than the verbal tear down.

3. Don’t be a helicopter parent… we don’t like you. Hover, lift, hover, help, hover, hover, hover, “let me” … hover. STOP. Let your child struggle a little, maybe they could climb that banana but you keep doing it for them. How will they EVER LEARN? You gonna zip up their coat in college? Hope not, otherwise you’ll have bigger problems. Make sure the help is age-appropriate. An 18-month-old child needs more help than a 4-year-old, adjust as necessary, but for the love of God, let them breathe and experience.

4. The mall play area is not a baby sitting service. The other parents are not babysitters. Don’t leave to go check a sale at a nearby store. Don’t let your kid run all the way down the mall concourse before you notice. Bad parent, bad.

Once you get this under your belt, this happy place away from home, which is free and enjoyed by the public can become your wintertime oasis to regenerate and rejuvenate. Attend. Enjoy. Disinfect. Attend. Repeat.

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