Updated: Nov 7, 2019
With the first official snow day behind us, you might already be planning for the next one (it is Colorado, after all). If you’re looking for some ideas as to how to make the most of your time with your kids on a day off from school, here are a few suggestions:
Go outside -- While our first inclination on snowy, cold days might be to keep everyone warm and protected inside, especially if you’re worried about getting sick, we still need to be getting outside. Research shows that going outside, even in the winter, makes us healthier because it can enhance our mood, boost our immune system, enhance memory and mindfulness, and help get us important vitamins that we lack when we spend all day inside. For kids, getting outside is even more important because it can help them regulate their energy levels, and who doesn’t love to build a snowman? When going outside in cold temperatures, make sure to dress appropriately (have lots of gloves on hand!) and don’t stay out for too long. Additionally, while being exposed to extreme cold may temporarily weaken your immune system, the only way you (or your kids) will get sick is by being exposed to the germs of another sick person, so going outside might actually prevent sickness because exposure is less likely.
Build a fort -- Always a favorite activity, building a fort requires creativity, collaboration, out of the box thinking, and a little physics. Allow your kids to gather all of the pillows and blankets from the house and design their dream fort. This usually requires a lot of trial, error, and iteration as the structure comes together, so resist the urge to intervene and let you kids overcome the obstacles involved. Once it’s built, ask for a tour, and then they can spend the afternoon playing family or reading books in the fort.
Explore the chemistry of baking -- There is a lot of science involved in baking, and it can be a really fun way to introduce teachable moments related to chemistry and health. Start with something like the recipe for a simple chocolate chip cookie, and try mixing it up. What happens if you use all granulated sugar instead of brown sugar? What happens if you use baking powder instead of baking soda or don’t use either? What if you all a little less flour or a little more flour? How about using whole wheat flour instead of white flour and/or agave nectar instead of sugar? What happens when you bake the cookies for only 10 minutes or extend it to 20 minutes? How can you work to ensure equal distribution of chocolate chips? All of these options will result in edible cookies, but they’ll each be a little different and open up the space for some interesting conversations, and you’ll never look at a cookie the same.
Make something -- This requires a little bit of advanced planning to make sure you have supplies on hand, but those supplies don’t have to be fancy. Make sure you have a ream of paper and working markers and/or crayons as well as some glue and scissors and let the kids’ creativity take over. If you want, you could also go to the dollar store for some pipe cleaners, foam sheets, stickers, craft sticks, and other supplies to keep in a box for such occasions. Then, on that snowy day, put everything out on the table and see what happens. If you’re feeling especially creative (or if your kids need a little creativity boost) try a design challenge of sorts, giving your kids something to create (a gift for grandma, a space to hold the keys, a welcome sign for the door, a self portrait) and see what transpires.
Boost screen time towards education -- Not all screen time is created equal with a spectrum from completely passive consumption of screen time all the way through to active creation using screen time. Use snow days as an opportunity to explore different kinds of screen time. If the kids are in need of something a little more passive, try steering it towards something a bit more educational that could lead to follow up conversations and activities such as PBS shows Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (the show always focuses on an overarching lesson that can be applied to a kids’ life), Super Why! (the characters delve into a book and consider the impact of different options), or Word World (the emphasis in on building words with letters). Alternatively, choose a movie that have a message you’d like to discuss as a family such as using Inside Out as a springboard for dealing with emotions.
A day of unstructured time at home with little ones can sometimes be a little challenging, but with a little planning and some intentional activities, it can be a great opportunity to explore.