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Turn Boring Snow Days into Memorable Fun

Sun, beaches, and bikinis are three of my favorite things.  Unfortunately, in Michigan in the dead of winter, my favorite things are a fantasy.  I have, however, found a few ways to keep myself and my children occupied when the winter cold and snow keep us from enjoying our summer favorites.  These are also great activities to keep children occupied on snow days. Here are a few ideas that might make winter more bearable for you and your family.

Make a snowman...or snowwoman.  So, I must first admit that I despise being outside in the cold.  During the summer months, my kids and I hang out outside, taking infrequent breaks inside to get snacks and drinks.  Since my kids are older now, I often watch the snowman creation from the window. I always make sure to give them accessories for their creations though and have hot cocoa waiting for them when they return.

Have a snowball fight.  Again, if I can avoid the cold, I will, but snowball fights can be an exception for me.  I love sports and when you’re moving around outside, it’s better. A good ol’ snowball fight can be a fun activity, but make sure to set some ground rules first unless you want the fight to turn into WWIII.  I always tell my kids that they need to avoid hits to the face, and it’s not okay to throw ice. I developed both of these rules from my own experiences with snowball fights as a child. I am an only child, but was blessed to have a lot of male cousins.  One of them had the genius idea to soak snowballs in water and then put them out to freeze overnight. There was some carnage after that escapade. I’m glad I wasn’t on the receiving end of an ice ball to the face, but as a parent, I don’t want to deal with the aftermath of that.

Go sledding.  Sure, you can find a local hill to go sledding, but if the roads are bad or you want to stay home, you still have a few options.  I have my kids sled down our slide. They have even made ramps of snow at the end, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t. As a mom, it’s fun to watch them experiment and even the failures end up when they smash through the snow ramp as opposed to sliding over it.  I usually get a chuckle watching their attempts regardless. My children have also tried using our German Shepherd as a sled dog. To this end, she is not particularly good, but my daughter enjoys designing a make-shift harness and attaching it to a sled. This effort usually ends with one kiddo leading the dog and while the other rides, but the teamwork is there.

Make tunnels.  As a child, I loved making tunnels in snow piles.  You can use the drifts in the yard or a pile left from the driveway being plowed.  It’s also fun to have two kids start digging in opposite directions to try to meet in the middle.  You can add a little food coloring to the snow to paint your tunnel as well. And if your child is anything like my youngest son, the best part happens when you’ve finished, and you can jump on the tunnel and destroy it.  King of the snow pile is another fun option as long as there is enough snow to cushion the inevitable fall.

Play hockey.  Kids always think you need ice skates and a hockey stick to have a backyard hockey game, but they are mistaken.  All you need is boots, a broom for each person, markers showing where the goal is, and a ball or another piece of ice to serve as a hockey puck.  If you have an area of ice to play on, it’s most fun, but you can play on the ground with a ball if there isn’t any ice. The game is as easy as trying to hit whatever you are using as a puck between the other team’s markers.  I do, have to remind my children that the brooms are not weapons and although fighting is common practice in the NHL, we institute the “penalty box” for kids who can’t control themselves. I also used to pretend that I was a figure skater on the ice, and since I had no siblings, there was no one to giggle at my lack of grace.

Take your play vehicles or toys outside.  My boys love trucks, so they often take their RC trucks onto the ice in the driveway to do doughnuts or race.  They also use snow plows and other play equipment to push the snow off the cement slab by the garage, which is enjoyable for them and helpful for me.  My daughter sometimes takes her model horses outside so they can join in with the snow adventure.

Make ice cream.  Snow day ice cream is a nice sweet treat that’s also fun to make.  The internet has several recipes and the ingredients are ones that you can easily find in your house.  All you need is evaporated milk, vanilla, sugar, and of course, snow. I always remind my kiddos to collect white snow when I send them out for that ingredient.  Once they make their ice cream, I let them add toppings and food coloring if they want. And while I’ll admit, the taste can’t even begin to compare to Dairy Queen soft serve, the kids love making it and enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Have a table hockey game.  For an indoor table hockey game, you’ll need a baking sheet, an ice cube, and Popsicle sticks.  Place the ice cube on the cookie sheet. Then use your Popsicle stick or even your fingers to push the ice to the other side of the sheet.  We usually call it a goal if the other person gets the ice to hit the opponent’s end of the cookie sheets. The game ends when the ice cube has melted.  And while a solidly hit ice cube to the end of finger is painful, you can easily dull the pain by putting some ice on it.

Perform an experiment.  On a snow day a few years ago, we experimented with some Lego mini figures.  We filled an ice cube tray with water so each section was half filled. Then, we froze the water.  We removed the tray and inserted mini figures on the top of each cube and filled the rest tray the rest of the way.  Then we put the tray back into the freezer. When the water was frozen, we removed the ice cubes with the mini figures inside.  We then tried different methods to thaw the cube and free the Lego people. We allowed one to stay at room temperature, put salt on one, used a toothpick on one, put one in hot water, and used hot air from a hair dryer on one.  I won’t spoil the surprise as to which method saved our mini figure first, but we certainly had a good time.

Make a fort out of blankets.  I give my kids some pillows, blankets, and chip clips and send them off to make a fort out of blankets.  I have let them get out the card table as well to use as a frame. They usually work together on to create a fort, but sometimes I tell them to make their own fort and then they can visit each other.  They also use their walkie talkies to communicate from one fort to the other.

Play a game, read a book, and snuggle.  There’s nothing better than quality time together, so don’t forget about some classic indoor activities that involve no screen time.  Card games and board games are a great way to spend the afternoon. Personally, I steer clear of games that take longer than half an hour to play, but that’s your call.  Even older children benefit from read-alouds, so get out some of their favorites and enjoy a good book.

Dance or exercise.  I know...I know. You’re probably tired of hearing me preach to you about staying physically active, but it really can be fun.  Turn on some music and dance. If you can’t freestyle try "The Cupid Shuffle," "The Git Up," "The Cha Cha Slide," or the "Macarena"...yes, I’m old.  Or, do a quick exercise routine as a family. On sluggish winter days, it’s healthy to get your blood flowing. You’ll be surprised how it rejuvenates you.  On one snow day last year, I watched a video and we learned how to do the worm. This resulted in a lot of laughter, mostly at my expense, but I can safely say that I can do the worm.

I realize that the possibilities are endless for ways to keep yourself and your children engaged while we wait for warm springtime weather to be upon us.  And if you’re fortunate enough to be home on a snow day, don’t forget to sleep in. There’s a reason animals hibernate in the winter, right? Take advantage

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