If the weather is too frightful to play outside, or if your kids are longing for winter and snow, try one of these winning winter-themed activities for indoors. Play with pretend snow, grow crystals, jazz up plain old playdough, paint like Jack Frost or create three-dimensional painted snowpeople to liven up a dreary winter afternoon.
When they're longing for snow
Pour 1 cup baking soda into a large bowl. Add shaving cream, a squirt at a time, mixing after each addition with a spoon. When the “snow” starts to form a ball, continue mixing and kneading the mixture with your hands. Kids love this part! Once the “snow” is the consistency you like, stop adding shaving cream. If it gets too wet, simply add more baking soda. This pretend snow molds well and is lots of fun for kids to dig into and create their own snowballs, snow people or mountains. Refrigerate the snow before play for a “cool” sensory experience.
For fun smells, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the ingredients to cooked playdough recipe (see below) and then cook, cool and knead as directed. Give kids this delicious-smelling dough along with a rolling pin and cookie cutters to create pretend cookies.
Cooked playdough recipe
- 1 c. flour
- ½ c. salt
- 1 T. cooking oil
- 2 t. cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball. Remove the dough from the pan to a plate or cutting board and allow to cool completely. When cool, knead the dough with your hands until smooth. Store in a sealed container or bag in the refrigerator.
Scented and sparkly playdough
Another option for playdough is to add three drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil, plus a few drops food color to the ingredients in the cooked playdough recipe (see previous page), and then cook and cool as directed. Place the dough on a cutting board or mat and sprinkle with glitter. Let the kids knead in the glitter, then play! Experiment with fine and chunky glitter in a variety of colors.
Coffee filter snowflakes
There is no lovelier craft than paper snowflakes and this is an especially simple version. Flatten a white coffee filter into a circle. Fold the filter in half, then into quarters, then eighths. It should look like a pie slice. Cut shapes along the edges of the wedge, then open and smooth out for the perfect snowflake! The great thing about this project is that kids can cut the folded coffee filter on any side it will still open into a single, beautiful snowflake.
Overnight crystals for your little scientist
This is a fun science project! Gather a few small, clear glass jars. Clear glass candle votives, Mason jars or even wine glasses work well. This project grows delicate needle-like crystals, overnight!
The recipe for these crystals is simple: equal parts Epsom salt and hot water. For a quart-sized Mason jar, use 1 cup Epsom salts to 1 cup water (adjust accordingly to the size of the jar).
Pour the measured Epsom salts into the bottom of your jar. Next pour hot water over the salts. Use the hottest water you can get from your tap. Stir this mixture for two minutes. Repeat with other jars. You can add a drop of liquid watercolors to the hot water to tint the crystals before mixing the water into the salts if you like. It’s best to make a few batches, just in case one doesn’t grow. Next, put your jars into the freezer for ten minutes. Remove the jars from the freezer and place in the refrigerator and allow to grow overnight. In the morning, gently pour off any excess liquid from the jars and enjoy your crystals!
Jack Frost paintings
This is another fun activity that uses Epsom salt to form crystals. Mix equal parts Epsom salts and warm water. Give kids paintbrushes of various widths and they can dip the brushes into the Epsom salt solution and paint snowflakes or other designs onto dark-colored construction paper. Dark blue and black-colored paper works best. As the water evaporates from the paper, beautiful crystals are left behind.
Puffy-paint snow people
This fun, inexpensive puffy paint spreads like frosting and dries into beautiful 3-D paintings. To make puffy paint, mix equal parts white shaving cream and white liquid glue. Note: This paint can be hard to wash out of bowls, so you can mix this in either a disposable container or in a gallon resealable plastic bag.
If you mix up the paint in a container, give kids popsicle sticks or disposable, plastic knives for “painting.” Paintbrushes don’t work well! If you use a plastic bag, mix ingredients by kneading the sealed bag with your hands until well combined. Squeeze the paint into one corner of the bag, and then snip off the corner with scissors. Kids can “paint” by squeezing out the puffy paint from the bag as they would a pastry bag. It is difficult to make precise lines and shapes with this paint. The best kind of pictures to create with puffy paint are ice cream cones, snow people, cupcakes, etc.
Fun additions: You can color the paint by adding a few drops of liquid watercolor paint, or use food colors. Or, add texture to the paint by drawing lines with disposable forks before it dries. For added bling, give the masterpiece a sprinkling of glitter before it dries. Allow to dry 12-24 hours, more if the paint is extra thick!