Coming up with winter activities to do in the cold months can be challenging, especially for families with a wide range of ages. Since many school sports are in the fall and spring, even school-aged children may become bored after school. Outdoor activities are fun, but depending on where you live, it may be too cold and wet to play outside for very long.
Winter activities require a little more planning than summer ones, but with the right materials, fun indoor games can make winter a little brighter. If your family is small, you may have even more fun if you invite family and friends over.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on these activities, either. They’re a budget-friendly way to keep kids from spending too much time playing video games or watching TV. Whether your kids are interested in science, sports, reading or engineering, you can give them a long list of potential activities and crafts to keep them occupied. Plus, incorporating arts and humanities at home is more important than ever, since schools don’t always have the resources for providing them thorough extracurriculars and electives.
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1. Build Things with Cardboard
Most families have a number of shoe boxes, moving boxes and other packaging laying around. If your children are old enough to use scissors safely, they can fill up an entire afternoon by building whatever they want to out of cardboard. Costumes, giant animals and even houses can be made with enough cardboard and tape.
Younger children may need help with the planning and cutting of different pieces. While older children can theoretically help them with this task, some will be too busy working on their own creations. Adult participation is almost mandatory for this activity, but it will be well worth it.
2. Learn Another Language
For children with a budding interest in world cultures, learning a little bit of another language can be tons of fun. Spanish is a practical choice, and children can pick up a few conversational phrases very easily. There are a number of child-friendly smartphone apps and YouTube channels that can get you started. Adults who studied a foreign language in high school may enjoy reviewing that language, too.
Older children who are already learning a second language at school may not care to study that language any more than they have to. Try to get them to study a language from a country that they have a strong interest in visiting someday. You could also try getting them to study a language that’s very similar to a language they already speak. For example, Spanish-speakers often have an easy time picking up French, Italian or another romantic language.
3. Get Sporty
Winter family activities can still include sports. You can easily put table tennis, shuffleboard, foosball and other activities in your basement or garage. Indoor basketball games are particularly good for families because they can be played alone or as a group. They make a great Christmas present for energetic children and can provide endless hours of entertainment. They’ll also help kids stay healthy when they can’t get their usual exercise outside.
Adults can and should join in on the fun, too. Very young children will probably need supervision, partly to make sure they follow the rules. Since sports are an excellent bonding activity for extended family, make sure everyone is invited to use the games during holiday get-togethers and long weekends.
4. Scavenger Hunt
Young children, teenagers and parents can enjoy a well-crafted scavenger hunt. You can find scavenger hunt ideas online or craft your own list. You can ask children to find specific items or to find things that are a particular color or shape. To make the game more educational, make a scavenger hunt where items must start with certain letters of the alphabet or use other clues related to science or social studies. Older kids may enjoy a scavenger hunt with riddles as clues.
To keep things fair, consider having participants work in teams, with the adults or older children divided fairly between teams. Set a time limit and don’t let any participants see the list ahead of time. Make sure there is more than one of each item available in the house to avoid arguments over who found an object first.
5. Writing Stories
For young readers, writing stories is the best way to develop creativity and communication skills. It allows children to channel themes and settings that resonate with them into a new, original work.
Writing is usually a solitary activity, but you can make it group-oriented by having kids take turns writing paragraphs. You may want to prompt them with a theme or setting or write the first paragraph yourself to get them started more quickly. For very young kids, you may need to write most of the sentences yourself and then ask the kids to fill in the blanks with funny words or phrases.
Similarly, you can have kids make a skit based on a fairy tale or an original story. This can be particularly fun if the kids are still in the Halloween spirit and want to keep wearing their favorite costumes a little longer.
6. Seasonal Crafts
Christmas isn’t the only time to make handmade crafts. Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and even St. Patrick’s Day can all be great holidays to get creative. Children make a lot of crafts at school, but they tend to be quick and easy crafts that a teacher can distribute to 25 children at a time. At home, you can give kids ample time to finish their work.
Older kids and teens may be a little tired of popsicle stick reindeer and paper snowflakes, so invite them to research more challenging crafts they want to try. They could even try their hand at sewing decorative pillows or designing t-shirts. If you have a budding artist in the family, consider allowing them to use a computer graphics program to decorate photos or create other art.
7. Homemade Slime
Clay, dough and slime can be a mess to clean up, but they’re a great way to occupy kids for hours. They’re particularly good for young children who don’t have anyone else around to play with, either because they’re an only child or because their older siblings are too busy. However, parents and older children can join in on the fun as well.
While there are many slime recipes available, some use ingredients like borax powder that smell bad and aren’t completely safe for long-term play. Look for slime recipes that use contact solution or even avoid boric acid entirely. Many recipes allow you to vary the consistency of the slime based on what ratio of ingredients you use, so it’s a great science lesson for kids and teenagers.
The Bottom Line
As a parent, you don’t have to dread the impending cold weather. This time of year lends the perfect excuse to spend quality time with your family and participate in fun and creative activities. Use this list as inspiration to keep your family from going stir-crazy this winter.