Snow! It’s basically winter’s sand. You can roll in it. You can build with it. And you don’t want it in your home.
Kids love to play in fresh snow but there are so many other activities your kids can do to have fun and keep moving. Wrap your kids up warmly and get them outdoors to play in the snow. They’ll have fun, they’ll get fresh air, and they may never again want to trade snow in for sand.
1. Buried (in snow) treasure hunt
Unleash your child’s inner pirate and send them off to find hidden loot. Hide a number of items in an area of snow (large or small depending on the age of your child) and let your kids know what you’ve buried (12 toy cars, 15 plastic dinosaurs, etc.). They’ll love digging to find the treasure.
2. Snow baking
Pack hard snow onto a cookie sheet and use different shapes of cookie cutters to create snow cookies. Move the “cookies” onto a second cookie pan and pretend-bake for as long as your child’s imagination feels it should take to make the perfect treat. Decorate the cookies with bits of twigs, berries, or any other items kids discover near their baking area.
3. Snow maze
Use shovels, snowshoes, or just your plain old feet to dig a maze around your yard or local park. Kids will love finding their way through the twists and turns.
4. Winter scavenger hunt
Make a winter scavenger hunt together. You can look for icicles, snowmen, holiday lights on people’s houses, a pet wearing a winter coat, a shovel, animal tracks in snow, a squirrel, a pine cone, a red hat, or a dead leaf. Kids love to find each item and to cross out the object on the list. Make the list longer for the older crowd and smaller for the little ones.
5. Throw the buttons on the snowman
Build a snowman and take turns throwing rocks to “button up his coat.” Make sure everyone’s standing back so no one gets their own coat buttoned up!
6. Winter bubble blowing
On a really, really cold day take regular old “bubble juice” and wands outside to see the beauty that icy bubbles make. Kids will oooh and aaah when they see the cool shapes float in the air or land on surfaces in icy globes. See if they can catch the bubbles in their hands before they burst. Use a variety of wands to see an even bigger variety of icy bubbles.
7. Snowball targets
To redirect your kids from throwing snowballs at their siblings or friends, set up a variety of bulls-eyes to redirect their fun. To make targets, draw chalk squares on a wall, or see how high your kids can throw their snowballs at a tree trunk. Or make targets on the ground with hula hoops, a circle of rocks, or a ring “drawn” using coloured water in a spray bottle.
8. Snow raceway
Bring out your child’s toy cars and use shovels and mittened hands to build an Indy-inspired track. Be sure to include twists, turns, and even ramps for the cars to slide down.
9. Snow golf
Bury a bowl or empty can with the opening facing up under the snow. Use the bottom of a shovel or a lid of a storage tub to even out the snow into a smooth “putting green” that your kids can use to practice their short game.
10. Snow volcano
Combining science and outdoor play could not get any more fun (and, trust me, when I did this with my 4-year-old, we were both very excited!) Make a mountain of snow about adult-shin height and bury a small bowl or empty water bottle at the top. Pack snow around the container and make sure the top isn’t blocked by the snow. Fill the container with vinegar and a few drops of food colouring. Give your child a heaping tablespoon of baking soda, have them dump it in, and stand back while the “lava” flows. As the bubbling starts to slow, add more baking soda to get the volcano erupting again.
11. Snow obstacle course
The combinations and permutations of this activity are endless! Put together an easier course for the younger crowd and a harder one for the older set. Have kids jump over hurdles made of snow, run around, do three jumping jacks, roll five snowballs, throw those snowballs into a bucket at a certain distance away, twist a hula hoop around themselves, and crawl through the snow to the finish line.
12. Snow fort
Kids love to have their own hangout spot, especially when they’ve built it themselves (or with a little help from their parents). Bring out empty planter boxes or tubs and pack them with snow to make snow bricks for walls. Want even bigger bricks? Use recycling tubs! To make the walls super-sturdy, pour water on them overnight to freeze them. To make your fort stand out, use food-coloured water in a spray bottle to decorate, or use sticks and leaves to make flags.
13. GIANT snowball
Kids may use up all of the snow in your yard or local playground pushing a snowball to make it bigger, and bigger, and…
14. Hoop rolling
Hula hoops aren’t just for summer! How far can you roll a hoop along, or down, a snowy surface?
15. Snow creature
Instead of a snow “man,” have your kids build a snow dog, a snow bunny, a snow turtle, or a snow caterpillar. Or tie in a Halloween feel (we’re really mixing up seasons!) and build as crazy a monster as your kids can imagine.
Sand Snow castle
Pull out your shovels and pails and have your kids make the castles of their dreams. Pack snow into pails just like you’d do with sand and make perfect (or not) towers. Decorate your castle with any nature elements you can find, such as a leaf for a flag or twigs for a path to the palace.
17. Search for nests
With leaves off trees, it’s much easier to spot the nests of animals such as squirrels, birds, and raccoons. It’s also possible to spot empty wasps’ nests still hanging around after the summer and fall.
18. Snowball knockdown
Roll a number of snowballs together and stack them into a tower. Give your kids balls or beanbags and have them knock that tower down. How many tries will it take? (And how tall can a parent build a tower of snowballs without it falling down?)
19. Snow balance beam
Use the snow from shovelling your sidewalk or driveway to build up a beam out of snow. See if your child can walk all the way across. Make sure the beam is surrounded by soft snow so if they fall, the landing will be easy. Once they’ve mastered the beam, see if they can walk across holding an item like a snowball on their head without the ball falling off. Can they walk backwards on the beam?
20. Animal track hunt
Take a walk or hike and see what animals have been ambling around your yard, local park, schoolyard, or hiking trails. Can you tell if raccoons, squirrels, cats, dogs, deer, skunks, foxes, otters, or birds have been bouncing, galloping, or walking in the snow? Have your kids take a sketchbook along to draw the tracks for further fun.
21. Snow shovel relay race
Put out large buckets or tubs for each kid playing, and have them race around using their hands to pick up and dump snow into their bucket in a certain amount of time (five minutes is plenty). The winner will have the most snow in their bucket. If the snow is sticky, use the snow in the buckets to build snow castles or to make a snow fort.
22. Follow the Leader
Choose one child to be the leader and have the rest line up behind them. The first child walks in the snow with the others walking in their footprints. The leader can take giant steps, zigzag, or make tiny tracks. As often as the leader decides, they must stop in place and make a movement such as a jump, a crazy dance, or a jumping jack. The others must then copy the movement before moving on. Make sure to step in the footprints!
23. Build an upside-down snowman
Turn a traditional winter activity on its head! The tricky part is having the smaller snowball on the bottom but there’s so much fun to be had balancing the larger snowballs above it.
24. Snow slide
Leave your outdoor slides outside for the winter. Slides become super-slippery if you throw snow on them. Have kids land on a regular snowy ground or build up a pile of snow for your kids to slide into.
25. Paint the snow
Fill spray bottles with water and food colouring. There’s no limit to the designs your child can create!
26. Make your own snowfall
Have little ones sit on the ground or bigger ones stand, and have them, or you, throw snow in the air. Kids will love trying to catch the snow as it falls to the ground.
27. Roll down snowy hills
While this might cause parents like me to feel dizzy at the thought of it, kids will feel exhilarated and giggling is almost definitely guaranteed. Have them cross their arms around the body and set themselves a-rollin’!
28. Snow construction site
Bring your children’s building toys, such as dump trucks, diggers, excavators, front loaders, and bulldozers, outside and have them dig, push, and dump. Kids love having material to move around with their construction toys, which is why snow makes the perfect substance for these trucks.
29. Long jump
Make a start line in the snow by using a stick to draw a line, or with a skipping rope, and see how far your child can jump. Snow makes a soft landing spot! Can your child jump a further distance?
Snow is the best reason to get outside in the winter! Bundle up, have fun, and once you’ve headed indoors, a small cup of hot chocolate (don’t forget the marshmallows) is the perfect way to cap off a snowy, active day. And if your kids exhaust this list? I’m sure there’s always a car to brush off or a sidewalk they can clear!
For those ‘extra’ cold days, check out these 4 easy indoor winter activities for kids.
This article was originally published by Active for Life, a national initiative created to help parents raise physically literate children. At activeforlife.com, parents, educators, and coaches will find fun activities, engaging articles, and free resources to get kids active, healthy, and happy. Sign up for Active for Life’s monthly newsletters. Connect with Active for Life on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.