It's the classic winter recipe: For a few days the snow is fresh and clean, and building snowmen feels new and creative. Between that, making snow angels and catching flakes on their tongues, the kids are entertained. For hours. Before too long, though, the lovely days of winter morph into cabin fever. And cold feet. So many complaints about cold feet!
But there's still plenty of untapped fun to be had outside, knee high in the white stuff. Here are some new ways to play in the snow this winter:
1. Hand out the shovels
You might think of shoveling as a chore, but this mundane task makes a great family game. Make sure everyone has size-appropriate shovels and then let the games begin. Who can shovel the biggest pile of snow in a set period of time? Or, can your family make a picture of a face, letter of the alphabet or shape by shoveling parts of your snow-covered driveway? Bonus: Part of your driveway-clearing task will already be completed for later.
Get creative with snack time. It's only appropriate that you're able to make ice cream during winter weather. Scoop up four or five cups of fresh snow (don't pack it). Keep it in the freezer while you mix together one cup of milk, half a teaspoon of vanilla and half a cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then slowly add snow to the mixture, stirring constantly until it is as thick as ice cream. Top with sprinkles.
If you need something a bit toastier, consider this: When you're done playing outside, scoop up clean snow in a saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stovetop for warm cups of hot chocolate.
3. Get creative with frozen water balloons
If your kids are patient enough for delayed gratification, then grab a few small water balloons, fill them with water and add food coloring. Set them outside in the snow overnight so they freeze completely. Once frozen, peel the balloons off of the colored ice balls, then let the kids play with them during bath time.
4. Create snow art
Fill empty spray bottles, squirt guns or liquid dishwasher bottles with food coloring and water to make yard-sized art. Draw pictures (a gigantic sun can add some heat to the day) or add color to a snowman or snow angel.
5. Feed the birds
Combine crafts with science and make a bird feeder. Take an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll, slather it with peanut butter, then sprinkle it thoroughly with bird seed. Though a majority of this activity takes place inside, the final product requires putting on boots and heading outdoors. Slide the roll onto a branch that you can see from a house window, so kids can watch as critters snack on their creation.
6. Blow bubbles
If you live somewhere with particularly cold temperatures (10F degrees or colder), head outside to blow bubbles. Mix together three cups of water, one cup of liquid dish washing detergent and half a cup of white corn syrup to create your own solution (the corn syrup helps make a stronger bubble). Depending on the temperature and weather conditions, bubbles will freeze mid-air and shatter upon landing, or they'll solidify and freeze when they land and stick to the ground. Blow the bubbles up into the air so they have more time to freeze before floating down.
7. Get educational
Just because you've got a snow day doesn't mean you can't squeeze in a few learning opportunities. Bundle up and go outside with the kids and a yard stick to measure how deep the snow is in different parts of your yard. While you're walking around, keep your eyes open for any bird or animal tracks you might spot in the snow.
Grab a stick and draw a tic-tac-toe board in the snow. Use sticks and pine cones or stones as X's and O's so you can reuse the board several times. When you've tired of that, challenge your kids to a game of Red Light/Green Light or Simon Says. It can be tough—and extra fun—to try to run through or stand on one leg in the snow. (Bonus for parents: That extra effort helps wear kids out so they aren't so squirrely inside later.)