The arrival of winter means shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures, but you can resist the urge to hibernate. These 10 ideas for family activities can help you make the most of the season together — indoors or out.
Bundle up and get outside.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Credit goes to the Scandinavians for this bit of wisdom. It’s true that most weather is tolerable — even enjoyable — with the right gear. The insulating power of wool can keep you warm and dry. Dress in layers to stay comfortable as the temperature changes.
Here are some ideas for spending quality time outdoors:
1. Scavenger hunt or geocaching
This activity can be easily adjusted for your family’s interests. Preschoolers would love searching for objects hidden around your yard. Older kids can give their brains a workout and solve a series of clues to find a hidden treasure.
Geocaching turns a hike into an adventure. You can search for a cache using GPS coordinates published online. The cache is usually a logbook in a waterproof container. There may also be trinkets to exchange such as small toys, buttons or unusual coins. To get started with geocaching, visit opencaching.us.
2. Holiday lights tour
This time of year, holiday displays light up the evening hours. Dress your little ones in pajamas and buckle everyone into the car. Bring travel mugs of hot cocoa. Cruise around neighborhoods or take in the decorations downtown. Your local news station may have a list of drive-thru displays hosted by local organizations. Feeling inspired? Decorate a window in your own home.
3. Movie night in the backyard
Choose a family classic to watch with your kids. Screens and projectors are available from major retailers. You might even be able to borrow what you need from a friend. Some projectors have a streaming app built in; others connect to a streaming stick or a laptop. For the screen, a simple solution like a sheet attached to a wall can work. Snuggle in with blankets or sleeping bags under the stars. Don’t forget the popcorn!
A campfire can become a special family memory. Plan for songs, stories and snacks. For traditional s’mores, you’ll need marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars. To create a signature family recipe, add your favorite ingredients. (Sprinkles, anyone?) Remember to check your local fire weather conditions first and consult Smokey Bear for advice on campfire safety.
5. Building project
Adding a simple structure to your yard can make it more inviting year-round. You might have the perfect spot for an outdoor game like cornhole. Or look for simple woodworking projects online like this bench. While you’re hammering away, you’ll build your children’s confidence. Want to start small? Birdhouse kits are available at craft stores.
6. Yard cleanup for others
Fresh air, exercise and sunshine can do wonders for your physical health and mental well-being. Check with neighbors to see if your kids could help with leaf removal or weeding. Maybe there’s a common area that you could spruce up. Or ask your local garden club if they need help preparing beds for spring. All you need are some kid-sized garden gloves and youthful energy. You’ll get to spend time together as a family and enjoy the satisfaction of helping your community.
When the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s smart to have some indoor activities ready to go. You can use things you already have around the house and mix in a little imagination to make these activities your own.
7. Put on a play
Choose a favorite story or write your own. You can also start with a skit or visit your library for classic plays. Go all in with set design and costumes or keep it simple. Younger kids might enjoy making posters or tickets for their production. A makeshift concession stand is always a big hit.
8. Family book club
Ease into the weekend with some time set aside for reading. Take turns reading a comic book, poetry or a story. For older kids, encourage them to read independently and then give their personal review. Your own bookshelves can be a good starting place. You may even discover a shared passion for science fiction or ancient history.
9. Cook together
Sitting down for dinner together has many benefits. For your kids, family meals improve self-esteem, academic performance and health. But it can be hard to find the time between sports, homework and lessons. Crockpots and pressure cookers can make life easier for busy families.
Are your kids picky eaters? When you include them in grocery shopping and meal preparation, they may be more adventurous. They’ll also learn skills to last a lifetime. Give each child a job like chopping ingredients or setting the table.
When you’re cooking with kids, soups are forgiving and flexible. Use up what you have in the fridge and enjoy the warmth of a nourishing soup or stew on a cold winter’s night. For kid-friendly recipe ideas, visit healthychildren.org.
10. Make a card or craft to share
Send a handmade card, drawing or craft to someone who isn’t feeling well or who lives far away. The personal touch means even more in today’s digital age. Your child’s thoughtful gesture will give their own mood a boost too. Find ideas for simple crafts online. Let your kids put the envelope in the mailbox themselves or bring your package to be shipped. Give them ownership of the whole process. Children are more capable than we think!
Winter is a time to enjoy together
Put family fun on the calendar, and you can make memories all season long. No matter what, focus on the fun. Even if something doesn’t go according to plan, it can become a great campfire story when your kids are grown.