As the beautiful autumn leaves have all changed, and the cooler temperatures are upon us, I am reminded that winter is fast approaching. At my last book signing in Kelowna in October, many parents, grandparents and educator/caregivers were asking me questions about fun and age-appropriate ideas and activities for the upcoming winter months and holiday season. I was excited to share my experiences and ideas with them from the past 35 years in my rewarding field of early childhood education and as a mother of a very busy son.
As every parent knows and has shared with me over the years, keeping children “entertained” with fun and exciting activities, other than screen-time, can be challenging when it is raining or too cold to be outside playing in the winter months. Fear not! I have included 16 great ideas for how to prevent “the winter blues” and keep children occupied when the weather outside is frightful.
1. Alphabet Scavenger Hunt. Find an object in the house that begins with each letter of the alphabet.
2. Rainbow Explorers. Go outside and find “things” for each colour of the rainbow. (Do you remember ROY G. BIV? Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.)
3. Send a Smile. Draft a letter together using colourful markers and crayons and send it by mail to someone you miss. Add stickers and anything creative to make their day upon opening the letter.
4. Portraiture. Paint or draw the picture of five friends or model for each other.
5. Build a Family of Snowmen. Be inspired by each member of your family. Dress and decorate them appropriately.
6. Snuggle Up. Read a book inside a “tent” or a “fort” with a flashlight in your living room. Use pillows and blankets and make it super cozy.
7. Nature Scavenger Hunt. Collect items from “nature” in your yard or from a nature walk to explore and examine on your “science table” with magnifying glasses. Save a small stick as well for the next activity.
8. Print Outside. Print the numbers 1 to 10, your names and other fun words in the snow using the stick you find on a nature walk.
9. Photo Booth Fun. Create your own photobooth. Get your kids to model and choose outfits, the place, make props. Be included in their photos. Let them be creative and get silly.
10. Hit the Beach. Have a “beach day” inside your home. Wear bathing suits, flip flops, eat a snack on a beach towel, and read “summer/at the beach” books. (Gurgle, Bubble, Splash and Beach day were my son’s favourites) Ask your children’s librarian for her top-5 list—you will probably receive more than you expected.
11. Get Puzzled. Cut out pictures from calendars to make puzzles, and put them back together again. Challenge friends and family members as well.
12. Let it Snow. Make snowflakes out of doilies, paper or anything else you can cut. Decorate them with glue, glitter, felt pens and paint. Hang them with yarn from the ceiling or tape them to the windows. Try to make your snowflakes different shapes and not just circles… mittens, socks, squares, toques/hats, etc.
13. Paint the Yard. Add colour to a recent snowfall. Fill spray bottles with water and food colouring and let your little artists create masterpieces all over the yard. Use picnic bottles for ketchup and mustard and fill them with primary colours to create secondary colours by combining them in the snow. Purple and orange were my son’s favourites.
14. Celebrate Solstice. Have a backyard bonfire on December 21, the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. Celebrate that the days will get longer starting the next day and spring is finally on the horizon. Even though it’s cold, roast marshmallows, drink hot chocolate and make S’mores. Sing campfire songs, tell stories, and have a fun and safe evening together!
15. Get Crafty. Exercise their imagination by breaking out the crafts/art materials and create something fun and unique. Use items from a nature scavenger hunt to create a seasonal craft or let them create something open-ended and inspired. When they’re done, celebrate their artistic skills by displaying their favourite pieces in an ‘art gallery’ space in your home, which can be enjoyed by friends and family.
16. Bake Together. Bake treats for your children to give away and brighten someone’s winter day or just enjoy. The smell of something yummy baking can make the whole house cozy and welcoming. Whether it’s homemade bread, muffins, cookies or pies, everyone can be involved measuring, mixing and pouring. And be so proud of their contributions when it is time to devour what they helped make.
Have fun and remember to enjoy your journey through childhood and parenthood and remember that these days will not last forever. Enjoy every precious moment with your children because they do grow up! My only son will turn 23 years young in January.
“Dear Ms. Barber” is written by author and advice columnist, Brenda Fisher-Barber, early learning expert with 35 years’ experience working with children of all ages and specializing in the early years. Brenda has been a preschool teacher, early childhood education college coordinator/instructor, StrongStart BC facilitator and professional development/workshop presenter. Dear Ms. Barber, Managing Children’s Behavior Volume I can be found on her website, www.brendafisherbarber.com, and in select Chapters, Coles, Indigo stores.