Every family digs out their toboggan after the season's first snowfall. But how many of you decorate icicles or have scavenger hunts in the snow? Here are just a few of many fun and creative ways you can get your kids out of the house this winter.
1. Ice Art
Ice art can be created with nothing more than a spray bottle filled with food colouring. If you want to get creative, however, you can freeze water and snow into malleable shapes using muffins tins, plastic cups, ice cube trays and cookie cutter moulds.
You'll need a clear night for this, but it will be a real bonding experience for your family. Pack some blankets and thermoses filled with hot chocolate and head to a park or observation point. There are even moon phases and meteor showers that you can watch on specific dates.
3. Snowy Treasure Hunt
There's nothing like a good old-fashioned treasure hunt to bring the family together. You can even mandate that siblings work in teams to figure out all the clues and find their carefully-hidden prize. If they can't get along, their treasure will just have to stay buried in the snow!
Take your kids to the park and let them hunt for broken branches and paw prints in the snow. They can take pictures, mark territories, and draw up grids for animal searches. Not only will this boost their situational awareness and general survival skills, but they'll also indulge their inner Sherlock Holmes.
5. Bundled-Up Exercise
Get everyone's blood pumping with outdoor exercise. The trick is to see how many layers you can wear before movement becomes impossible. Can your daughter still hopscotch in winter boots? Is your husband still the hula-hooping champion if he's in a padded vest and snow pants?
6. Igloo Building
These take a bit of work, but if you have a long holiday weekend with lots of incoming snow, building your own Igloo can be an impressive multi-day project. The adults can draw up the schematics; the older kids can focus on shaping, sculpting and stacking; the little ones can decorate the finished product.
7. Making S'mores
S'mores are a staple for outdoor family fun, and you don't have to wait for a summer campfire to indulge. Just buy a portable fire pit that you can set up in your backyard. Everyone can gather around under blankets to toast marshmallows and share stories.
8. Outdoor Obstacle Courses
These can be created for both kids and pets using everyday objects found around the house. Whether it's a long tunnel created out of aluminium foil or a rope ladder fashioned from spare sheets, you can get plenty of snow up your nose with a homemade obstacle course.
9. Bird Watching
Canada is home to many winter birds that tough it out despite the freezing temperatures. Help your children research, locate, identify and document their favourite species. You can even build bird feeders to attract them to your property.
If your backyard has a playhouse or doghouse, let your kids give it a winter makeover. Pre-Christmas decorations might include lights, wreaths and tinsel; post-Christmas ideas range from pinwheels to strings of popcorn and cranberries.
11. Sleigh Riding
For a professional experience, find sleigh-riding events in your area that cater to kids. For a more DIY approach, build your kids their own sleigh with boxes, cushions, wheels, rails and discarded sled parts. Dad will be more than happy to pull it around the yard, right?
12. Birthday Parties
If your spouse or child has a winter birthday, they've probably spent every single one cooped up inside. Why not take the party outdoors for once? A winter bonfire will keep everyone nice and toasty, and chocolate fondue can take the place of cake.
13. Creative Snowmen
Building snowmen is a time-honoured tradition in Canada, but it can be boring to create the same rounded figures year after year. Challenge your kids to come up with something new this time around. Maybe they can build a snow-cat or snow-zombie. They might even want to dress up their snowman like their favourite fictional character.
14. Snow Maze
Freeze big cubes of snow by either packing them in boxes or using a store-bought snow block maker. Then stack and arrange them in a backyard labyrinth that the kids have to navigate to get back inside! Include false turns and dead ends for maximum mayhem.
15. Frozen Bubbles
Blowing bubbles is a whole new experience when it's done in the cold. They'll freeze as soon as they leave the plastic wand! It's science in action, something that older children can appreciate and younger children will be dazzled by.
16. Winter Arts and Crafts
What can you make when you combine the great outdoors with your leftover gift-wrapping supplies? Maybe it's pine cones decorated with ribbons, sparkles and paint. Maybe it's clear mason jars filled with holly berries and evergreen branches. The sky is the limit!
If you want the kids to try something different this year instead of the usual sledding and skating, consider one of these fun, family-friendly activities. They'll be sure to have a blast and might even dream up a few more ideas of their own!