It's finally winter, and you know what that means as a parent, right? Get ready for soggy snow pants, slurping cocoa, building snowmen, taking the kids sledding, and all things cozy for the family.
But if the thought of another long winter spent hibernating indoors with the kids swinging from rafters, leaves you shivering in fear, we want to help. Whether you're planning fun indoor activities for a school snow day at home, or just looking to entertain the kids on another winter weekend, we've rounded up nearly three dozen fun things to do.
These super simple ideas (many of them FREE) will come in handy when cabin fever strikes and make it easy to avoid the indoor entertainment pitfalls of more screen time and complaints about boredom of which we're all so familiar. Get ready to turn the long, dark days of winter into a season the whole family can enjoy.
1. Host a Teddy Bear Tea Party
Pull out the fancy tablecloth, grab your kids’ tea set, and invite the whole stuffed menagerie down for a cup of afternoon tea (and cookies).
So many excellent children’s’ books have been adapted for the big (or little) screen, from A Series of Unfortunate Events to Zathura, and everything in between. Spend a day reading the book and then watching the movie.
Pillows and cushions were made for building forts on cold winter days. Photo by Sara Marentette
3. Construct a Fort
An oldie, but a goodie! You don’t need a fancy fort building kit: just sit back and watch your kids transform your sofa cushions into a magical kingdom. You can also try draping a large sheet over a dining table and watch them hide beneath it and probably move in friends and furniture! Kids love their own private space.
4. Box Arcade
Turn that growing collection of Amazon boxes into an Arcade. DIY.org has a ton of tutorials on how to build carnival style games using cardboard.
5. Paper Snowflakes
Turn a flurry of paper clippings into beautiful, non-wet snowflakes. Create your own patterns, or use these templates to make some awesome Star Wars snowflakes.
6. Make a Time Capsule
Find an old shoebox or another small container to use as your capsule. Each kid should get their own, or create a family one together. Start collecting items to add to it. Let kids be creative, but some suggestions on what to include are a current newspaper or magazine, tickets or other vacation mementos, awards, and family photos. Try adding in tracings of kids' feet and hands, and a list of their stats (height, favorite things), and finish with a letter to your future selves.
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Create a whole snow family of pancakes and enjoy a deliciously fun breakfast.
7. Snowman Pancakes
You don’t have to be a professional food artist to create a pretty amazing snowman pancake. Simply pour pancake batter into two or three snowman shaped circles. Give the kids all the fixings to decorate the pancakes, such as chocolate chips for eyes, bacon for a scarf, and shaved coconut for snow.
8. Tape Games
A roll of painter's tape and a little imagination can go a LONG way on a snowy day. Create an indoor hopscotch or a race car track. You can even create an indoor obstacle course and see who can get through it the fastest!
9. Shovel a Neighbor's Sidewalk
In big snowstorms, the weather announcer always reminds everyone to “check on your elderly neighbors and see if they need any help,” and it's great advice. So, make this your act of kindness for the day, and head over with the big kids to shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk and maybe even bring over one of your baked treats.
Grab your snow boots and hit the trails for a winter hike. The fresh air always feels good!
10. Winter Hikes
Don’t let the snow keep you restricted to the indoors. When the seemingly endless cold and gray of winter is giving the whole family a case of cabin fever, it’s time to bundle everyone up and head to the nearest park, trail, boardwalk, or beach to enjoy the crisp cold air and the crunch of snow beneath your feet.
11. Edible Wreaths
Create a beautiful and edible wreath for the birds! A bundt pan, gelatin, birdseed, and a few other ingredients will make your feathered friends happy for the winter.
12. Neighborhood Board Game Party
Get out all the games. Yes, all of them! Chess, checkers, Trouble, Connect 4, Cooties, Battleship, and whatever else you have tucked away. Set all the games out on a table, invite the neighbors over, and start playing.
What kid can resist a cookie decorating extravaganza? Photo via Bigstock
13. Decorate Cookies
Buy slice-and-bake sugar cookies and then supply the kids with myriad toppings, such as sprinkles, colored icing, or even small candies, and watch their creativity shine.
14. Blizzard in a Jar
You may be a little sick of the real snow, but we can never get enough of snow globes. For those times when the wind is blowing a little too much outside, shake up a little winter magic of your own indoors by creating an entire winter wonderland in a mason jar.
15. Make Snow Ice Cream
Turn all that freshly fallen snow into an edible treat with this snow ice cream recipe. Add the ingredients to your "snowstorm shopping list!"
Cardboard tubes and a balloon are all you need for some active indoor fun!
16. Inside Balloon Hockey
Get out some energy with a round of balloon hockey. It's easy to play and surprisingly engaging for kids of all ages. We transformed some long cardboard tubes (from wrapping paper) and cardboard squares into “hockey sticks”
and then threw in a small balloon.
17. Build the Tallest Tower
Every kid loves a big tower. Host a build-a-thon using something new. Let them stack anything that isn’t breakable: plastic plates, Legos, shoeboxes, cardboard boxes, wooden blocks. Get a little competitive and see who can build the tallest tower.
18. Paint in the Snow
Freshly fallen snow is a perfect blank canvas. Fill spray bottles with diluted watercolors or food coloring and spray away to create a masterpiece.
19. Hot Cocoa Taste-a-Thon
After playing outside in the snow, my mom always made us a cup of classic cocoa with marshmallows. But, there are so many other variations on hot chocolate: salted caramel cocoa, Nutella hot chocolate, fluffy hot chocolate, and so many more to try.
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Build a tent for an indoor camping experience. Photo by Sara Marentette
20. Indoor Camping
Build a tent, or use a play tent to get in the camping spirit! Indoor camping is a great way to unplug and get back to basics. And what would camping be without s’mores? Try this oven-baked indoor s'mores option.
21. PJ Party
Some days getting dressed is just completely overrated. So, embrace the lazy and call it a pajama party! That’s right, stay in your jammies all day, make breakfast for dinner, and pull out the sleeping bags to take naps (or, at least try to take a nap)
22. Flashlight Scavenger Hunt
Take advantage of the early winter sunset with flashlight indoor scavenger hunt when the sun goes down. Turn off your lights to make it extra dark. See who can find the most things that begin with the letter “a” (or another letter), or go on a shape hunt to see who can find the most circles, squares, etc. The answers will be illuminating.
Organizing and sorting toys for donation is a great way to spend some indoor downtime.
23. Organize and Donate Toys
Try the "Tidying Up” craze with the kids by sorting through their toys with them. Keep only their favorites, donate the rest, and then sort the keepers into bins by category.
24. Magic Show
Put on a magic show and be sure to dress the part with a hat and costume. The crazier the better! Take some time to hone your skills and perfect the show. This Magic Show YouTube tutorial has some easy starter tricks to get those magical juices flowing.
25. Dance Party
Crank the music as loud as you can stand and DANCE! Sure, the kids teach you how to floss and nae nae, but you can teach them how to do the Hammer Dance!
RELATED: Snow Games and Outdoor Winter Fun for Kids
You might not need a ski vacation to learn to ski. Check out your local mountain for kid lessons.
26. Learn to Ski
One of the best ways to survive winter is to find a seasonal activity that the whole family can enjoy. It gives everyone a reason to look forward to the season, as well as something to do. Skiing is often the perfect family-friendly winter activity that will have you begging for MORE snow. The local ski mountain might not be renowned for its powder, but it'll probably do the job for a quick day trip.
27. Learn to Snowshoe
Skiing feel too daredevilish? Trade the skis for shoes. Snowshoeing requires very little instruction and equipment to enjoy a day of exploring in the great outdoors.
28. Snow Obstacle Course
Snow doesn’t just have to be for sledding. After the blizzard has passed, head outdoors to create a snow obstacle course with a series of challenges, such as making a snow angel, a snowball, and so on.
29. Create Frozen Bubbles
If the temperatures are particularly frigid, especially in the teens or single digits, try blowing frozen bubbles with the kids! It's a science lesson with a wow factor.
Few winter activities are more fun for kids than a morning spent sledding downhill. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
30. Find a Sledding Hill
That early morning phone call can only mean one thing: snow day! Once the snow stops, it's time to put on that gear and head for the hills!
31. Learn to Skate
No matter what the weather is outside, you can always find a skating rink nearby. If it's their first time, expect to spend most of your session holding your kids upright, or look for a rink with those ice skate buddies that they can hold as they "glide" across the ice.
32. Finger Food Festival
No forks! No knives! Not even a spoon is welcome at the table today! Weeliscious outlines 10 top finger foods to get you started on an amazing kid-hosted finger food festival.
Bring the campfire indoors with a fireplace and marshmallow sticks. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
33. Build a Campfire
That fire pit isn’t just for summer nights. Build one indoors if you have a fireplace, or dust off the snow on your outdoor fire pit. Cozy up with a mug of cocoa and let kids roast their own marshmallows, camp style.
34. Garage Roller Rink
Your garage is often underutilized real estate, right? The smooth concrete floors make it perfect for a variety of wheeled activities. So, kick the car onto the driveway, crank up the tunes, and get rollin’ with roller skates, ride-on cars for toddlers, or even mini scooters.
35. Inside Beach Day
No SPF is required for an indoor winter beach day. Phew! Get out the shorts, beach blankets, and kiddie pool to turn a cold winter day into a tropical vacation. (You might want to crank the heat, too.)
Photos by the author except where noted