Snow days can be tricky for parents and caregivers, but for kids, it’s a chance to frolic outside building snowmen, having snowball fights and making snow angels. That is, until it gets too cold and wet to be fun anymore. And — let’s be honest — it doesn’t take long for that to happen, which leaves the grownups grasping for fun snow day activities that don’t involve a screen.
It’s not uncommon for snow days to turn into TV marathons, but it’s important to keep kids active and engaged — even when the weather outside is frightful. The American Heart Association recommends that kids ages 6 and up should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, while the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests setting strict limits on screen time for kids in the interest of their mental and physical health.
With the right preparation and a toolkit of snow day games and activities, it’s easy to keep them busy — and you may even start to enjoy being snowbound yourself. Jackie Currie, who blogs about her home day care at Happy Hooligans, says as long as they’re bundled up, she and her kiddos can stay outside for the better part of the morning on a winter day.
“I’d never want the kids to think that frosty temperatures and snow mean you have to stay inside,” she says. “I want them to embrace outdoor play no matter what the weather. Not to mention, there are so many health benefits!”
Trekking through the snow, climbing up and down the playhouse ladder, and even just getting on and off the swings help to strengthen gross motor abilities, balance and coordination, she says.
“And all that fresh air and exercise makes for kids who eat great at lunchtime and sleep great at nap time!” she says.
Here are seven creative snow day activities to try indoors and outside that will keep kids active all day long.
1. Make snow ice cream
Currie enjoys transforming the snow into ice cream with her older kids.
“You make it with fresh snow, vanilla and condensed milk, and it’s the most amazing ice cream you’ll ever taste,” she says. “Making (and eating!) snow ice cream is one of those classic childhood experiences that every kid needs to try at least once.”
2. Give indoor toys their own snow day
Sometimes switching up their surroundings is all that’s needed to bring new life to forgotten indoor toys. Currie says she’ll often bring a bucket of indoor toys outside to create a snowy small world for farm animals, dinosaurs, Little People, etc.
“Playing with our indoor toys in a totally different environment encourages kids to think differently and to use their imaginations in a new way,” she says.
3. Get inspired by a favorite book
Look no further than the bookshelf for a wealth of activities inspired by children’s favorite literary characters. For Meg Cox, author of “The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays & Everyday,” Winnie the Pooh inspired a beloved wintertime tradition with her son.
“We would eat honey cookies and read aloud to my son's stuffed versions of Pooh, Piglet and Tigger,” she says.
Other ideas: A taco party based on “Dragons Love Tacos” or, outside, a “Polar Express”-themed train-building challenge.
4. Feed the birds
Significant snowfall can cut off birds from their natural food supply, so feeding them can be a fun and fulfilling activity for kids. You can work with them to create custom bird feeders in fun shapes by following this easy bird feeder tutorial from What’s Up Moms — all you need is birdseed, gelatin, cookie cutters and string. Once you’ve made the bird feeders and hung them outside, your kids can have fun watching the birds arrive and tracking the different species that fly in.
5. Make snow volcanoes
Combine outdoor play with a bit of STEM learning by using snow to create an explosive science experiment. Andrea Yi, mom to four boys and the blogger behind Raising Dragons, uses a few simple household ingredients (dish soap, vinegar, baking soda and food coloring) to create this activity that keeps all of her sons busy for hours.
“This is best done outside as it can get messy and you can make a really large volcano,” Yi says.
Check out Yi’s tips for making a snow volcano.
6. Bring the snow inside
Even the most tenacious tots will need an occasional break from playing outside, but that doesn’t mean the snowy fun has to stop. Yi recommends bringing the snow inside for even more educational activities.
“I’ll fill a baking pan with snow from outside and allow the kids to do activities like ‘paint the snow’ by adding colored water with droppers to the snow and make mini snowmen,” Yi says. “For my preschooler, he enjoys using a spoon to scoop the snow from one bowl to another.”
7. Create an outdoor obstacle course
Invite your kids to head to the shed or garage and search for some creative objects to create an obstacle course in the snow. Brenda Kosciuk, of Paper Heart Family, suggests using items like hula hoops, sleds, pool noodles and plastic containers to build a course to challenge your children’s balance, speed and imagination.