5 Lessons of Winter for Our Children
As I type this from my farmhouse in Tennessee on a winter morning, the wild is literally howling through the hollows and hills in our rural neighborhood. Until about a year ago, our family lived in sunny Dallas, where “winter” consisted of 60-80 degree weather daily with the rare 40 degree morning where we were all sweating again by lunchtime. Admittedly, it was nice to have so many sunny, mild days when everyone else was freezing, but mostly I lamented the heat. My body and spirit were constantly confused and seemed to be craving actual winter and all the changes that come with it.
Perhaps you live in a harsh climate, and winter is a desperate time for you in another way - you’re chasing sunbeams for any chance to have a little warmth. I grew up in New Jersey, so I understand this, too - I walked to school for years in the snow (uphill both ways, of course). But after living in different climates, out of the two extremes I would still choose winter weather and all its valuable lessons.
The Scriptures say, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV). We’ve all heard these verses, but what do they really mean for us? For our children?
Here are some lessons we can help our children learn in winter:
1) Expectation. One of the most beautiful lessons of winter is that it doesn’t last forever. As sure as the sun rises and sets, winter will end, spring will come, and our God can always be counted upon. We can expect that God will do what He says He will do. Hosea 6:3 (NLV) says, ”Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” This is a simple, yet vivid, lesson in faith.
2) Play. While we adults might want to curl up under blankets in front of a fire all winter, our children still need opportunities to burn off energy! Exploring, taking walks, playing outside wild and free...these things can - and should - still happen in winter. As the Norwegian proverb says, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” The fleece-lined rubber boots get a lot of love in our home especially in this season of wet, dreary winter. Bundle up!
3) Hibernate. On the flip side, how can we let our children “hibernate” from some activities and obligations so they can be more free to play and recharge in this season? Winter can be a time when there’s less activity in our families, less rushing, and more undistracted family time without agenda. Maybe some activities or rituals need to be put to rest for a time so we can appreciate them once again. We can then be fueled for the seasons ahead when more is required of our bodies and minds.
4) Create. Every child is creative in some way, because we were modeled after our Creator. Whatever your children like to do, provide room for them to do something creative in winter. So, build forts...cut paper snowflakes...write letters to family and friends...make care packages for neighbors. Some of our favorites are making salt dough and paper snowflakes and taking winter nature walks. Last winter we had homemade paper snowflakes taped over all our dining room windows, and then it snowed one morning. The white-washed beauty both inside and out stopped me in my tracks. Here’s a great list of 40 winter activities with toddlers - I can’t wait to try some of these myself!
5) Simplify. Winter leading into spring is a great time to simplify the home, get rid of excess and create more space to live and breathe. Our children can help with this! We have a “toy swap bin” in our home - a rubber tote where we store toys that aren’t being played with currently to see if they’ll eventually be rotated back in or donated. My girls choose what goes in the bin, and these are toys they won’t see again for three months. When the bin is reopened, sometimes they are excited to see a toy or doll again, and it gives them a fresh appreciation. But mostly, they didn’t even miss any of the items, and we can donate them to Goodwill or the local foster care closet. Instead of accumulating more, winter’s starkness is a prompt for all of us, even the little ones, to live with less and experience the subsequent joy and lightness that comes with simplifying.
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My husband and I are farmers now, and the Ecclesiastes 3 verses ring truer than ever - there’s clearly “a time to plant and a time to uproot” (Ecclesiastes 3:2, NIV). We live by the seasons because our livelihood depends on it. Winter is a time of rest and planning and preparing for the planting and harvesting seasons. And then, the expectation of spring! Here, seedlings are being started, baby chicks are on the way, and there’s a joyful hope of all the life that will be abounding on our land soon. During the other three seasons we can work harder than ever, knowing that the winter relief will come.
A few mornings ago, we were on a walk on our land, and my older daughter gasped and dashed off running ahead of of me. “Mommy, come here! LOOK!” When I reached her, I found her crouched down, intently studying some beautiful green sprouting things - wild daffodils with buds about to burst. Such a contrast from all the dark, dead, brushy brambles, the sight of something new and fresh and green took our very breath away. Winter makes these moments of wonder more possible. Wherever you live, I hope your family can experience winter, and don’t be afraid to press in. Remember, as sure as the sun, spring will come.