kids having fun finger painting

By: Shanna P. Lowe

Skiing and snowboarding, ice skating and sledding, igloos and snow ball fights, holidays and family gatherings–winter brings a plethora of seasonal activities that have many parents and kids waiting with excitement for the first snowflakes of the year to fall. There are days, however, that are too snowy, windy, or cold to risk venturing outside. On days like these, we often ask ourselves: How can we keep our kids preoccupied?

There are many indoor activities which incorporate kids’ creativity, curiosity, sensory, and problem solving abilities that will help pass the time without spending most of it in front of a TV. We have included five fun favorites for kids of all ages to enjoy. While these activities may require some setup and materials, they will help make the best of snow days.

Create faux snow. Bring winter indoors by creating faux snow with three simple ingredients. Not only are frosty fingers and soggy clothes avoided, but also it can keep children occupied for a couple of hours with sensory play. While there are several two-ingredient recipes that make for faux snow, they usually require ingredients that may not be good for young tummies if ingested (though older kids may have fun with them). The recipe for safe faux snow is simple: in a cake pan or bowl, knead equal portions of cornstarch and baking soda together (so one cup of cornstarch to every cup of baking soda) before adding small amounts of water until snow balls can be formed. Break apart the mixture until it’s flakey and looks like snow!

Find items in a “sandbox.” Another sensory play activity that is great for younger kids is a “sandbox” made from baking soda. In a square or round cake pan, lay little knick knacks like buttons, beads, and plastic jewels on the bottom. Pour an even layer of baking soda until every item is covered. In a small cup or bowl, mix vinegar and a desired food color together. Have a child use an eyedropper to squirt small amounts of the colored vinegar into the baking soda “sandbox.” They will enjoy watching the white grains fizz away and reveal all sorts of treasures.

Make mini care packages for family and friends. It’s common to receive a cone-shaped bag filled with layers of hot cocoa powder, crushed peppermint bark, and marshmallows during the holiday and winter season. These care packages make for fantastic gifts, and kids love making them. There are many options for creating mini care packages: hot cocoa, trail mix, just-add-water soups, and more! In a bag (cone-shaped ones work best) or a glass jar, layer non-perishable ingredients until a quarter of an inch to the top. Tie it off or screw on a lid, and add a bow made from ribbon to give it extra appeal.

Plan a scavenger hunt. Scavenger hunts can be fun for everyone. Pick or hide objects around the house and make a list of clues that range from easy to hard, depending on age. One popular way to play this activity is to have each clue reveal a letter that spells out a word, phrase, or sentence. This can help build their skills in problem solving, letter recognition, and spelling. Having a small prize at the end will add to the excitement and anticipation of reaching the last clue. After the game is completed, kids might be interested in creating a scavenger for adults. Their creative minds can produce hilarious and surprisingly witty tasks and clues.

Camp in the living room. Bust out the tent or build a fort from chairs and blankets–let children’s’ imaginations run wild with camping in the living room. Kids love setting up sleeping bags or blankets and hanging inside their shelter for hours. Some parents and guardians go all out by hooking up Christmas lights on the ceilings of tents and forts, roasting marshmallows and hotdogs in the fireplace, and telling spooky stories in the dark. The clean up may be a bit of a hassle, but it will be worth their delight.

Indoor winter days do not mean stir-crazy kids and hours spent in front of a screen. Instead, they can be a great opportunity to explore creative activities that will enure smiles and a boredom-free time.