Area parents get crafty as cold closes schools
By Kalyn Belsha firstname.lastname@example.org January 28, 2014 5:16PM
Kelly Haymond's son, Owen, took to painting and making arts and crafts to stay busy during his days off from West Aurora. | Submitted
Updated: March 3, 2014 2:58PM
Parents of school-age children around the Fox Valley got crafty to keep their kids entertained — and in some cases still learning — when local schools closed their doors for two days this week due to cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills.
It was the fourth time this month most districts canceled schools, a predicament that left some parents scratching their heads over what to do to keep children occupied, especially as the weather prevented outdoor activities. Many turned to social media for suggestions from other parents or tried to use the cold as a source of fun.
Kelly Haymond, a West Aurora parent whose 6-year-old son attends first grade at Hall Elementary, took to Facebook Monday to gauge how other parents were feeling.
“I just feel like the pressure is on to entertain and come up with creative things to do in the confines of our home before Owen’s brain turns to mush,” she wrote. “Anyone else feeling this pressure?”
Several friends jumped in to recommend a recipe for homemade play dough, fort building and Valentine’s Day card crafting.
“It’s very funny, I wasn’t expecting that kind of response,” Haymond said of the numerous suggestions she received.
Haymond said these cold weather days off from school felt different than the ones earlier this month, which came right after winter break. Her son still was excited about presents he had received, she said, so there was less boredom.
This time around, Haymond said, she planned to dig up old toys from the basement to keep her son entertained, along with painting, making arts and crafts and teaching her son about the difference between the actual temperature and the “real feel” temperature.
Kari Reiseck, who is a preschool teacher’s assistant for Oswego Park District, decided to try out an activity she saw posted on Facebook with her 7-year-old twin daughters and 9-year-old son who attend first and fourth grade in Oswego 308 schools.
She shoveled a pile of snow and brought it into the bathtub, then let her children play with it with their snow gloves on, instead of going outside. Then she gave her children watercolors and paintbrushes to dip in the snow.
“They drew all over the bathtub,” she said. “But it was not a big clean up. We turned the shower on and the hot water melted it down.”
Ana Gonzalez, who has children ages 8, 10 and 12 in Oswego 308 schools, used the days off from school as an opportunity to get some spring cleaning done — and to teach her children about the meaning of cold weather terms like “polar vortex” and “sundog.”
“We are cleaning every corner of this room,” Gonzalez said of her two daughters’ space. “All the crafting that is going on… there is construction paper and rubber bands everywhere.”
Gonzalez said her children’s biggest wish was to be able to go out and skate, but it’s been too cold to safely go to the rink.
“We are not brave enough to do that,” she said.
Malarie Rodriguez, a West Aurora parent, suggested that parents at a loss for what to do with their children could try emailing their child’s teacher to see if there are any assignments that can be done to help keep a student on track.
Rodriguez said it’s a technique she’s used for her own son, who is in second grade.
“Also I’ve always been fond [of] picking up little workbooks from stores that have work for all ages,” she wrote in an email. “It has help[ed] me study more with my children and they love them.”
Sara Shepherd, an Oswego 308 bus driver whose 6-year-old daughter attends Oswego 308 schools, used the time to help her daughter work on writing sentences, reading and identifying numbers.
“Today I wrote out a recipe with words she could understand and she made and baked the cookies with my help, of course,” she wrote in an email. “This is no different than what we do during the summer months, I don’t want her to forget and get behind.”
For Leslie Anderson, who teaches at Oswego 308’s Churchill Elementary and lives in Aurora, the cold weather days were a chance to bond with her daughters, ages 3 and 7.
Anderson said she did all the “polar vortex science experiments” with her children, like throwing hot water into the air to watch it turn into vapor, freezing a T-shirt and making frozen building blocks, which her daughter used to build a castle. They also stayed in pajamas, had a spa day and watched movies.
“Life can get pretty hectic sometimes,” she wrote in an email, “so I’ve used these days as a reminder to slow down and appreciate where I am in life.”