The days are darker, the air has a chilly nip — time to bust out the mittens and think about snow-day contingency plans! Whether you work at an office or at home, you’ll need a plan to keep kids happy — and yourself from going nuts as cabin fever sets in.
The first tool in your snow kit? A positive attitude. If you don’t adore those cold, dark days, at least try to see the changing of the seasons as a gift. Teach your kids to embrace the seasons and be content, rather than just waiting for summer to return. As the poet George Santayana once said, “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”
Outdoor activities for kids
Happier now? Then head outside, says Paul Andersson, head of the TRACKS Outdoor Program for the City of Bellevue. According to Andersson, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad reactions to weather. He recalls the many gleeful snow days of his own Chicago childhood.
“I used to strap my cross-country skis on and head to the rooftop to jump into a huge snow pile I had created in the backyard,” Andersson says.“Walking out the back door to explore the neighborhood trees or alleys on foot in a new white light is one of the most stimulating activities I’ve ever experienced. We used to also have contests by locking the door to see who could stand outside barefoot in the snow the longest. I’ll never forget when my cousin won. The snow had melted around his feet and exposed his trick — soles strapped on with athletic tape!”
You’ll probably stop short of a foot-freezing contest, but you get the idea: Get outside. “If a child chooses to stay inside, they will miss all of the sensory experiences that come from being in the great outdoors, not to mention one can run a lot faster and jump a lot higher when one is out in the open air,” says Rebecca Nelson, a second-grade teacher at the Tacoma Waldorf School. Nelson and her colleagues suggest building igloos, making snow angels, freezing over the driveway and making a skating rink (bike or ski helmets required!), and looking for animal tracks in the snow. They also suggest shoveling out a neighbor’s driveway to show kindness toward others during the cold of winter.
Andersson reminds parents that walking is an invigorating and free outdoor activity that can be done in almost any weather. “You may make it a block or up a mountain. Either way, I believe that taking walks and activating our senses is the key to creating new experiences, so it doesn’t matter how far you go — just go!” He suggests Goodwill as a great place to buy that winter gear that kids quickly outgrow.
Fun indoor activities for kids
When it’s time to come inside and warm up, there are lots of creative activities to keep kids busy — and away from the television. Renton mother Nicole Lazor suggests two things: crafts and games. “Cardboard is a particular favorite, and we save boxes to make knight castles, pirate ships and football fields,” she says. “Making birdfeeders out of pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed satisfies the former science teacher in me and gives the birds something to eat when food is scarce in colder weather.”
Sandra Roulette, a third-grade teacher at the Tacoma Waldorf School, suggests frost painting: Paint a picture using watercolors, then take it outside to dry. It will frost over, creating a beautiful and unique piece of art.
Bellevue mother Nancy Whitely says that she always keeps lots of baking supplies on hand during winter. She and her kids make marshmallow families with toothpicks, then enjoy them with hot chocolate. “My mom used to keep all her old holiday cards from past years, and I have carried that on in our home. We make Chinese lanterns from them and hang them from the ceiling and make different designs.”
Whitely suggests stocking a craft cabinet with pipe cleaners, construction paper and any other craft supplies found on sale throughout the year so that when snow days come, arts and crafts can happen. She remembers one winter when her family had recently taken down a wooden fence. Whitely’s husband, Graham, saved the boards, cut them up into smaller sizes and sanded rough edges so she’d have them on hand for crafts. “The kids would paint winter pictures on them, Graham would drill two holes in them, I’d put wire through them, and we’d hang them for the winter season.
“To me, it’s all about being together, making each moment last,” says Whitely. “When it snows, everything stands still, and we as parents need to remember that, and stop and smell the soup.”
Karen Dawson, owner of Dawson Communications Group, celebrates the winter season with her boys by sledding, snowshoeing, feeding the birds and using the indoors as a place for crafts and nourishment until it’s time to get back outside.
10 Great Winter Books for Kids
Winter by Gerda Muller
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Winter’s Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan
Winter Lullaby by Barbara Seuling and Greg Newbold
Winter on the Farm by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Winter Days in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Once Around the Sun by Bobbi Katz
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino