Five winter boredom busters: fun ideas for playing in the snow and exploring Nature that don’t involve making snowmen.
By Elissa R. Peterson
Our family of three kids who range in age from preschool to early grade school in Northern Ohio spends a lot of our winter outside playing in the snow. By the time February rolls around, the kids are totally over playing in the snow. It feels like they’ve done everything there is to do. They’re tired of sledding, snowmen building, and all that same old stuff they always do. Winter boredom has set in! So this homeschooling Mama has an arsenal full of fun ways to encourage the children to get outdoors and away from the television.
In Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laura and her sister Mary made soft, chewy snow candy with fresh fallen snow and maple syrup. As a family, we decided to recreate the experience with our own snow and some different types of syrup, just to see which kind worked the best. We tried imitation maple syrup, homemade simple fruit syrup (made from boiled fruit, sugar, and water) and natural blueberry syrup. Each type of syrup yielded a different product, and the kids enjoyed sampling each creation as we made it.
Did you know that you can make ice cream from snow? Say it isn’t so. That’s the last thing my hips need before bathing suit season. Sure enough. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- large bowl of snow (about 3 quarts)
- Add in extras to taste. We recommend mashed banana and raisins.
Blend in milk, sugar and vanilla. Stir in enough snow to make the concoction to ice cream consistency.
Nothing says serenity like a quiet trek through the woods after a new snowfall. The snow-laden trees are magical, and there are a multitude of wildlife tracks to discover. Both aspects are thrilling to a Nature-loving Mama like me, but only amused my kids for about five minutes…then winter boredom set in again. If your kids are anything like mine, after a few reverent moments of slogging through deep snow they’re ready be done with their Nature lesson and ready for something else. Never fear, there are more adventures lurking in that snowy park. Bring a bucket along and collect all the icicles you can find. Then at the end of your hike use them to make a sculpture or leave a message.
Did you look for any fallen trees to jump off of? If there isn’t a mound of snow within jumping distance of that tree, get to work!
If your park has a picnic shelter, pack some dry materials to start a fire with. Dust the snow off the barbeque grill and build yourself a winter campfire. Don’t forget the hot chocolate and kettle.
What could enhance an afternoon of snow play better than adding a little color to your creations? Try experimenting with different types of paint. In the past we’ve used water-based, nontoxic craft paint (watered down) and natural food dyes. Which work better? Give your kids the opportunity to learn about making their own natural paints and dyes and see which they prefer.
You should also experiment with different types of painting tools. Pull out your big brushes, little brushes, spray bottles, squirt guns, and eyedroppers. Give your child access to a variety of tools and see what he can create. Depending on his age and developmental stage, he may be interested in using the color for a specific purpose, such as to enhance his latest snow fort, or perhaps he’s more interested in experimenting with technique. Don’t worry if your little one just wants to paint everything in sight; it’ll wash off.
There are plenty of books and websites devoted to snow sculpture. Go ahead and Google it. A quick scan of some of the images revealed some rather stunning masterpieces. World leaders, comic book heroes, and famous landmarks, oh my. While I’m not quite that artistically inclined (and frankly, neither is my littlest one) that doesn’t mean we have to settle for the same old thing.
Include natural elements in your creations. Before the snow comes go out and stock up on pine cones, pebbles, feathers, seed pods, and other natural elements from your environment to enhance your sculpture.
Got sand toys? Dust them off and use them in your creative process. If you don’t have sand toys, recycled items make a pretty good substitute. Butter tubs work well, so does Tupperware. Got any milk jugs waiting to go out? Cut those in half and put them to good use…
What about adding ice to your creations? I like to take recyclable items of all shapes and sizes and fill them up with water the night before and leave them out in the snow. (My little ones love to be involved in this process.) In the morning, we have all sorts of frozen blocks to build and create with. To add interest, sometimes I’ll put a little bit of food coloring in the water so they have colored blocks to build with. Other times I’ll freeze stuff inside the blocks. Natural items work well – leaves, seeds etc. I’ve also been known to add sticks and toothpicks to our ice blocks. My kids think they look like hair. These ice blocks can be used for building, stacking, or embellishing the creations your youngster has made from snow.
With a mind set for exploration and creativity a rather mundane and dreary late winter day can be transformed into an opportunity to create a magical environment for learning and exploring the natural world around us. Take the time to go out and inspire your little one to create something new, you’ll be amazed by just how much your child will end up inspiring you as you all bust that winter boredom.
Elissa Peterson is a busy homeschooling mama with a degree in education from Kent State University. She is passionate about all things creative, and goes to great lengths to foster a creative learning environment for her children (and alleviate winter boredom). Read about the crazy schemes she dreams up to keep her children away from the television on her blog. This article was first published in Natural Child Magazine.