Remember last winter, with its record-setting snow? And the 82 snow days your kids had? Well, this winter is predicted to be even snowier, so get prepared now. After all, we all know that feeling. You hear the words “school canceled,” and a familiar sense of dread and annoyance settles in your stomach. Maybe you’ve got 57 things on your to-do list that you were hoping to accomplish that day, or perhaps you were just looking forward to a relaxing day off. But Mother Nature (and the Superintendent) had different plans.
How are you going to keep your kids occupied (and out of your hair) for yet another snow day? Here are some tips.
- Snow Castle Contest: Provided the winds aren’t so strong that they’ll carry your kiddos away, send them outside for a snow castle contest (like a sandcastle contest, but, you know, with snow). Dig out their pails and shovels to help create their castles. As an added challenge for the older kids, try putting several small items (rocks, a fork, buttons, yarn, etc.) in a paper bag and have each kid (without looking) pick out 3 pieces they have to incorporate into their designs, with bonus points for creative uses. Or set a theme for their snow sculptures, such as “sea creatures” or “furniture.” Prizes can be simple, like stickers or candy.
- Make a Collage: Have kids cut out letters of different fonts to spell out their names, find adjectives to describe themselves (“artsy,” “ambitious,” etc.), and pictures of things they like (butterflies, puppies, Justin Bieber, or whatever). When they’ve completely covered the paper, put it in an old frame (or find an 8×10 at a dollar store). You can also grab an old wooden box, or get a hat box at a craft store to make a personalized jewelry or trinket box. Items needed: scissors, glue (Elmer’s, glue sticks or scrapbook glue work best), sturdy paper, and a couple of old magazines (or buy a couple of cheap ones at the grocery store).
- Paper Dyeing: You might want to get some rubber gloves, smocks, and paper towels for this one, depending on how messy your kids are. Also, it’s best to do this over a sink. The idea is simple: Fill 4 Dixie cups (or something comparable) halfway with water and add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring to each cup. Take a small piece of paper (Post-it notes with the sticky part cut off work well). Dip it in the water for a few seconds, gently shake off the excess water, and lay flat to dry on a thick paper towel or some cardboard. For extra fun, try mixing different colors (ex: dip the paper in yellow and then in blue). Once the paper is dry, it’ll be a little wavy, but that adds to the “homemade paper” look. Next, it’s time to personalize it. Grab some small stamps, stickers, or some markers to write their name or things such as “grocery list,” “to-do,” etc. Do your kids have a grandparent with a birthday coming up? A personalized stack of paper tied up with a ribbon and a pen make a great gift.
- Polar Bear Igloos: Okay, this one will require a little bit of forethought (mainly a quick trip to the grocery store the night before the storm, but hey, you were probably going there anyway, right?), but your kids will love it! Here’s what you need: 1-2 boxes of sugar cubes, gummy bears, half a box of confectioners sugar, water, and a cheese knife or butter knife. Grab a large plate or an empty pizza box to work on. Make some thick icing by stirring a little water into your confectioners’ sugar. Put a little-unmixed sugar aside for later. Have the kids spread a thin layer of “snow” (icing) onto their plate. Next, have them spread icing on each “ice block” (sugar cube) to start building their igloos or houses. If you want to get fancy, make some chimneys too. Your icing “mortar” can also be used to cement your gummy polar bears into place. If you really want to get detailed, you could also try to roll your gummy bears in confectioners sugar to make them look more like polar bears. Warning: Before you begin, stress to your child that they will not be eating this – well unless you want to get a hefty bill from their dentist. When they’ve finished building, put some of the confectioners’ sugar that you set aside into a sifter or strainer and gently shake out some fresh “snow.”
- Blanket Forts: Yes, this one’s a simple idea, but don’t underestimate it: kids love forts! Give your kids some flashlights and dim the lights so they can make shadow puppets in their forts. Another idea is to have each kid build their own fort, give them a bunch of rolled up sock “bombs” and see who can knock over the other’s fort first. Or, snuggle in your “tent” with some hot cocoa and PB&Js to have a picnic or tea party.
- Bake Cupcakes: You can do this either from scratch or with a box mix. Let kids do most of the work: lining the pans with cupcake wrappers, hand mixing, pouring, etc. While the cupcakes are baking, kids can make the icing. Mix about a cup of confectionary sugar with ½ tsp of vanilla extract (or peppermint if you want to get fancier). Add water slowly until you get an easily spreadable frosting. Tint the icing with a couple of drops of food coloring. When the cupcakes are cool and frosted, let the kids go crazy decorating with sprinkles, M&Ms, crushed up Oreos, etc. Not a sweet-eater? Make some fun pizzas instead. Kids can stretch their dough into shapes such as footballs and hearts, and decorate with pepperoni or thin slices of onion or peppers.
- Treasure Hunt: This one is perfect if you’re getting at least a few inches of snow overnight. After the kids go to bed, place a few items outside (pencils, pennies, apples, candy bars, etc.), that’ll be hidden in the snow by the morning. If you want to get cute, you can write clues to help your kids (ex: “I’m waxy and thin, the color of rubies, on some paper you can use me” for a red crayon. Or, you know, something more clever than that). If you want to be nice, you can draw a treasure map with Xs to mark the spots where things are hidden. Or, if you want to make sure your kids stay outside all day, hide only white things (baseballs, golf balls, eggs, etc.). A little evil, perhaps…
With a little bit of preparation before a storm, you should (hopefully) be able to avoid yet another snow day of hearing a chorus of “But Mom! I’m booorrrred!”