Great Indoor Winter Activities for Kids
Winter Wonderland, Or Too Cold to Play Outside
Perhaps you look outside and see sparkling snow and a brilliant sun: a perfect day, until the thermometer registers a number in the negatives. Or, depending on the region in which you live, a strong lake effect snow warning arrives and blizzard conditions drive everyone indoors.
Keeping active, energetic kids entertained in the great indoors is no easy challenge. There are several activities, toys, and games which will cure the worst case of cabin fever (or hyper preschooler).
There are many activities and projects to keep preschoolers entertained during the winter months. Make snow ice cream, build a fort, or bring the snow inside for a fun "snow box" play area!
Pretty, But Too Cold
Build a Fort
Building a fort can be as simple as throwing a blanket over a card table, or an elaborate structure made with a kit.
PVC pipe can be purchased inexpensively from any home improvement store. Children will spend hours connecting the pieces into unique structures - simply add blankets to complete fort structures. Parents should be sure to check any PVC pipe for plastic splinters - sand the pipe edges to make them safe for little fingers.
Commercially made tents and forts can be purchased, but the play value will be limited. We once purchased a "play tent" from a big box store, and the poles were broken within an hour, rendering the tent unusable. Using a blanket and table is quite a bit cheaper, and our boys spend a lot more time playing in their homemade contraptions. Sometimes we give them flashlights or glow sticks, and they'll spend hours in their pretend "cave."
Make a "Snow Box."
Bring the Snow Inside
When the weather is simply too cold to go sledding or build snow forts in the great outdoors, bring the snow inside. Use a large bucket or bin, and fill the bathtub with snow. Put mittens on the children and let them shovel and stack snow in the tub. Cleanup is amazingly easy: as the snow melts, it simply goes down the drain!
Rotate the Toys
Split your child's toy collection into different bins. Take some of the bins and stow them in the basement, and let the kids play with the current bin of toys. Every few weeks or so, swap out the bin of current toys for one in the basement. The kids will have an entirely "new" set of toys to entertain them on a cold winter day!
Bouncing Out Energy: Ball Hoppers
Make Snowflakes Out of Junk Mail
Recycling junk mail and old magazines for crafts is always a good idea. Cut some snowflakes out of magazine pages or junk mail flyers and tape them to the playroom walls for a winter decoration. The colorful paper background creates beautiful artwork, and kids love cutting the shapes into the folded paper, then opening their creation to reveal a beautiful snowflake!
Bounce It Out
Boundless energy cannot be harnessed: it must be released! Every parent of a young child knows that children in confined spaces will literally bounce with untapped energy. Fortunately, there are many indoor activities that let children jump their energy away.
There are several trampolines manufactured for children. Try to find a spring-free trampoline, if possible, or make sure the springs are covered by foam padding. A handle is another safety feature that helps keep kids safely on the trampoline (and not crashing into a nearby wall).
Inflatable bouncers take up more space in the house, but can be a very economical choice. When the winter season is over, simply deflate the bouncer and store it for use next year! The smaller inflatable bouncers do not use a blower, and are intended for smaller children (generally, they accommodate children under the age of five).
For bouncing on the smaller side, try a Ball Bouncer. These ride-on balls will get kids hopping out the wiggles in no time! Ball hoppers are a great deal of fun, and can be indoors as well as outdoors. Bouncing on a ball is certainly better than bouncing on the furniture!
Make Winter Crafts
If you are stuck inside, there are some unique winter crafts to occupy busy minds.
Try making an icy sun catcher. Simply fill a mold with water, add food coloring or assorted small objects (like small pine cones or acorns), add a folded-over shoelace for a hanger, and freeze. Hang the suncatchers outside and brighten up a very gray (or white) day!
Make ice candles to decorate the front porch or deck. These are very simple to create: simply find two nesting containers and fill the larger one halfway with water. Add rocks or other weights to the smaller container, and set it inside the water-filled larger container. Set the containers outside to freeze. Once the water has frozen, remove the "ice candle" from the molds and place a tea light inside. In the evening, create a beautiful display of candlelight!
Love ice cream? Make some from all the (clean) snow in the backyard! Simply mix 1 cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar together in a mixing bowl. Slowly add snow to the mixture, until the ice cream forms (you will need approximately 4-5 cups).
How to Make Snow Ice Cream
A Little House Day
Learn Some History and Make Candy
The Little House Series now comes in a preschooler-friendly picture book format. In the Little House in the Big Woods, Laura visits her grandmother's house and the children make "snow candy," a molasses treat on fresh snow.
The ingredients for this candy are very simple. 1 cup of Molasses is mixed with 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Stir the molasses and brown sugar over medium heat until the mixture reaches 245 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer (firm ball stage). Pour the mixture into a pitcher, and have the children gather some fresh snow into pie plates or other flat tins.
Simply pour the mixture over the fresh snow, let it harden, and have an old-fashioned treat (and learn a little pioneer history at the same time)!