There’s a famous saying in journalism: If you can’t be first, be better. That’s where we find ourselves today after the Syracuse New Times was recently beaten on an important breaking news story: 15 things to do when kids are stuck at home in snowy weather. Here then, better late than never, are my 15 tips for keeping your little ones happy and entertained when bad weather makes family time unavoidable:
- Head off the problem in the first place by enrolling your children in the Jamesville-DeWitt School District, as mine are. It took a -24 windchill yesterday to force a rare cancellation of school, but don’t let that fool you. J-D hasn’t called a snow day since Simon LeMoyne declared Onondaga Lake demon-free. A hero to parents, something less than that to students, Superintendent Alice Kendrick can be seen on bitterly cold winter mornings spraying aircraft de-icing solution on school buses and clearing rooftop vents with a gas-powered auger. When others nest, J.D.‘s the best. We — and by that I mean parents — love you, Alice Kendrick.
- Play the Stay Silent Game. Put a $20 bill on the kitchen table. Whichever child stays absolutely silent the longest wins the dough. Anyone for double or nothing?
- Play the Daddy Is Invisible Game. Teach children important lessons about self-reliance and respect for others by pretending that Daddy isn’t home. The first child to acknowledge Daddy’s existence has to play Game No. 4, which is. . .
- Express Your Pet’s Anal Sacs. The only thing worse than watching your dog rub disgusting anal secretions into your carpet is to personally address the problem at the source. Luckily, children tend to be more curious and open-minded about these things. They’ll find the Internet full of helpful tips on how to make canine anal sac drainage a resounding success. Legal disclaimer: Any injuries or damage resulting from the aforementioned procedure are the responsibility of the child and/or pet and the city of Oswego, and not of the Syracuse New Times or columnist Jeff Kramer.
- Find the Clicker. No further instructions needed.
- Turn boring old geography into an exciting learning opportunity with the Get Daddy a Beer Game. First, you’ll need many, many beers from different states and nations. As Daddy watches sports on television, have him occasionally hurl a dart at a map of the world. The child then rummages through the fridge to find a beer that matches the corresponding spot on the map. To work on motor skills and serving technique, insist that each beer be served in a chilled glass.
- The Amazing Play Date Race puts the responsibility for entertaining your kids right where it belongs: with the parents of their friends. Tell your kids that the first one to score a play date at someone else’s house wins $10. Offer bonus cash if the other parent provides pickup/drop-off service or if the visit includes a meal.
- Tell a kid to shovel snow and you’re likely to encounter a wall of resistance. Tell that same kid to clear the driveway with a youth ATV equipped with a bitchin’ snow plow attachment and he or she will stay busy for hours even if a brain injury occurs. Here’s the deal on children who ride ATVs: Yes, there is some danger, but not as much as you think. Statewide only 2,250 kids under age 19 are treated at a hospital each year for ATV-related injuries. That’s just six hurt kids per day on average–a tiny fraction of the number of children who are born. To the desperate parent facing a day or more with whiny, entitled brats who belong in school, isn’t that a risk worth taking?
- Nothing swallows up a snow day like a Television-Watching Contest. Position siblings in front of separate TVs to avoid arguments. Provide food and water as needed.
- Bad weather and car detailing would not seem to go hand-in-hand, but think about it. It never snows inside your vehicle. Set your kids up with upholstery and carpet cleaners, leather and vinyl protectant and a power vac. Then let ’em at it. Your car’s interior just might come out looking like new. Tip: Make sure a window is cracked.
- Winter weather can be fun for the whole family except for those who perish in it. Teach your children the brutal reality of extreme winter conditions by having them phone friends and relatives to make sure they haven’t frozen to death. Here’s a sample exchange recommended by AT&T:
CHILD: Good morning, Grandma. This is Tucker. Are you still alive?
GRANDMA: Furnace broke. So very cold.
CHILD: I can’t hear you, Grandma. You’re breaking up.
GRANDMA: I said I’m cold. COLD!
CHILD: You’re not that old.
(connection goes dead.)
Oh, well. It’s the thought that counts.
- Everyone knows that the United States is better than Canada but exactly how is it better? Have your child list all the ways America kicks major butt over our frozen neighbor to the north, and watch the hours click away.
- Hand-craft a voodoo doll. Is there a teacher, coach, bully or some other person that your child doesn’t like? A voodoo doll provides a safe, fun way to instill a sense of empowerment and ownership of feelings. In a world of disappointments and false heroes, let your child know that Black Magic will always be there to make things right.
- I know this is starting to sound like a broken record, but how about a Make Daddy a Creative Sandwich Contest? Got older kids? Make it panini-style.
- Now that Daddy has consumed the beers of many lands and has eaten his “creative sandwich,” can anyone guess what Daddy needs next? Right. A nap. Challenge your child to construct an ultra-comfy Daddy Nap Fort using pillows and toasty blankets. Once the fort is complete, have your child go door-to-door offering to express the anal sacs of neighborhood dogs. There probably won’t be many takers, but it should buy you at least 40 minutes of sleep.
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