Mid-January is when the winter doldrums start to set in. The holidays are over, vacation seems eons away, and the weather is cold, grey and gloomy. In better conditions it's easier to lure ourselves and our kids away from screens with a simple command to "Go outside!" It's a little more challenging, but not impossible, to plug in to screen-free activities during the winter. Here are 10 of our favorite screen-free things for kids to do on snow days and winter weekends:
If the weather outside is awful, why not take advantage of the warmest, coziest spot in the house? Even if you have littles that are fundamentally opposed to sleeping in or taking naps, you can still make relaxing in bed a fun family activity. (And take heart - before you know it they'll be teenagers and this will be the one screen-free activity they fully support!) Make pajamas a requirement - the sillier and cozier the better. Let everyone pile in the same bed together with their favorite books for a read-a-thon, or find a great audio book for the whole family to listen to together.
Having everyone inside together is a great time to work on a puzzle together. Traditional jigsaw puzzles are great, of course, but we're especially fond of our tavern puzzles. They've been entertaining kids and adults for hundreds of years! Have a few lying around so that everyone can get in on the puzzle-solving action.
Nothing will tear kids away from a screen like permission to get messy. I'm a neat-freak myself, so I understand the palpitations this might incite in parents. But with just a few trays and towels you can avoid big messes while still entertaining the kids for hours. Check out this Risky Kids post on the benefits of messy play for some ideas and tips to set up your own station.
We're not outdoor tent-camping people, so camping indoors is something I can really get behind. If you don't own tents, encourage some collaborative fort-building instead. Roast marshmallows in your fireplace or over your gas stove and take turns telling scary stories. Bonus: you can use your own bathrooms and no bug bites!
There's something really cool about exploring a spot you love in a different season. What treasures does the beach hold in the winter? Can you slide faster in the cold? What does your favorite nature trail look like when all the leaves and flowers are gone? This is a great activity when cabin fever sets in and everyone needs to GET OUT!
This year we have a resolution to play all of the games we own at least once and decide if they're keepers or if it's time to pass them on to another family. Take advantage of the urge to hibernate by having a game-a-thon and playing several games in a row. Invite friends or neighbors and make it a party!
If it's too cold to explore outside or unsafe to drive, try this fun summer activity in the winter. This works best when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your stash of bubble solution leftover from the summer or make your own. Go outside and play around with different ways to blow bubbles, letting them land on soft surfaces like snow and leaves or leaving the bubbles on the wand and waiting for them to freeze. Check out the cool patterns on the bubbles once they freeze and what happens when a frozen bubble pops.
Spend some time making a Spotify playlist together, letting everyone pick a few of their favorite songs. Then turn down the lights and get your groove on! Another fun idea is to have a lip sync battle to your favorite songs, a la Jimmy Fallon. If you have any musical fans, how about a sing-a-long? Our family is obsessed with Hamilton right now, and we can spend hours just listening to the soundtrack and singing along (especially fun while you do a not-so-fun task together like cooking or cleaning).
Long winter weekends and snow days are great days to tackle those recipes that take a little longer than we normally have on jam-packed weekends and weeknights. My kids especially love anything that involves a dough they get to knead, like cinnamon rolls. We've also had fun frying things, like cheese and churros (Though not together - eww!) Half the fun is looking at cookbooks together to come up with ideas. As much as we love our digital tools like Pinterest, good old-fashioned cookbooks still work!
I love the opportunity staying indoors gives for building things that take time. Our wooden catapult and trebuchet model kits are a perfect project for winter weekends and snow days. Once they're built, have a little family competition to see who can launch their object the farthest.
We'd love to hear from you! What are your favorite ideas for screen-free family fun during the winter?
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