Isn’t there some saying about drinking lemonade when life throws lemons at you? Frankly, it is so cold and snowy here, I don’t think there are any lemons to be found. We are instead stuck trying to make icees out of ice. Snowmen out of snow. Fun out of cold, and wet, and slightly uncomfortable. We are stuck trying to dream up things to do outside in the snow. And guess what? We’ve found some!!!
Introducing Ten Awesome Ways You May Not Have Thought Of To Entertain the Kids in the Backyard When There Are 15 Inches (0r even 2) of Snow On The Ground!
1) Reintroduce the catapult This last summer we showed you how to build a catapult from a few pieces of wood and some surgical tubing. If you’ve still got it laying around (it’s hard to store, I know), pull it out and try flinging snow balls. We made a course on the lawn with bulls-eyes. And meaningless ‘points’ for whoever got closest. Funny how fast kids make up rules and points when given a new game. A few tips:
The part of the sling that holds the snowball has to be a solid material. I used mesh during the summer, but we changed it to a handkerchief for the winter.
Color the snowball with a little food coloring so that you can track it against the white snowy backdrop of winter.
Pack the snowball good and tight or it will fall apart in mid air.
2) Freeze some stuff The more interesting the shape of the ‘container’ the better. Bunt cake pans are cool… so are vases that don’t narrow too much at the top… we also experimented with pie tins (I’ve got way too many of these). Stacking them together afterwards made a beautiful sculpture. PVC pipes that are capped at one end and filled with water make long tubes of ice (you might have to warm the outside with a kettle of boiling water or a hair dryer to get it out–we did). We are experimenting with cookie cutters now. They sometimes leak, but putting plastic wrap inside and filling that with water works with the less elaborate cookie cutters. Fill your container of choice with colored water and leave out over night. If you’re patient, fill an interesting container half full with one color, let it freeze over night, and repeat with another color the next night. Create a gallery of ice sculptures. I also saw online that you can freeze water balloons (with colored water of course–food coloring and snow are meant to go together) full of water and get cool round ice cubes. I also saw that they don’t always come out like you’d expect–be careful when popping the balloon as if it isn’t completely frozen you’ll get dowsed with cold water!
3) Collect icicles Once you look around, you’ll notice not all icicles are created alike. Some are curved, some are long, some have skinny tips. Some are crystal clear and others are kind of smoky. Making an icicle collection from big to small can be lots of fun. We just collected at random and stacked them together, but if I were to do this again, I’d make a scavenger hunt with pictures or descriptions of different types for the kids to find. Bringing them back unbroken can be challenging too!
4) Paint in the snow Fill some spray bottles, a few syringes, and a bowl or two with some colored water… be heavy handed with the food coloring–to make it stand out against the snow you’ll need very saturated colors. Let the kids help you mix the colors, and mix reds and yellows to make orange, etc. Head out to an empty snow canvas and begin painting! They now make fluorescent food coloring at the store, and we enjoyed these new colors. Also, we found that tamping down the snow a little before painting made for a better canvas. For added fun, make a snowman and paint him (or her) too.
5) Practice your Marksmanship We’ve got a fence in the backyard that made for a perfect bulls-eye for snowball throwing. We practiced at different distances, from different angles, and when one landed on the top of the fence, we practiced doing it on purpose. As with the catapult, rules and point systems evolved instantly and naturally. None of them made sense to me, but it hardly mattered.
6) Blowing bubbles below freezing. Did you know if you blow bubbles on a cold day they will freeze? Get a plate and put a little bubble juice on it. Blow a bubble on to the plate (so that it is a half bubble) and set it outside for about a half an hour. If you’re careful, you can (after the bubble is frozen) spray the bubble with a fine layer of colored bubble juice and freeze it again for a colored bubble. They don’t last long, but they are pretty cool while they last. Others have frozen them on their bubble wands, but we didn’t try this… if you do you might be able to see the ice crystals forming as it freezes.
7) Scavenger hunt in the snow. Hide items in the snow for the kiddos to find. Colored ice cubes are fun.
8) Create a snow maze. This was as fun to make as it was for the kids… to be honest it didn’t last long. Kid feet don’t stay in narrow paths as well as you might think. But it was fun all the same. Stomp down the snow into a maze with a ‘prize’ at the end. Let them go!
9) Decorate your snowmen Speaking of snowmen, dressing up a snowman is as fun as building it. Hats, scarves, tutus, extra cloth and fabric, mittens for stick hands. Put out a bunch of scrap fabric and see what happens. Don’t stop with snowmen either. Build caterpillars, dogs, monsters, or anything else you can dream up.