11 Fun Winter Activities for Kids

Kids aren't the only ones who'll be shrieking with delight if you grab a sled and head for some nearby hills. Just be sure everyone wears a helmet!

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Ericka McConnell

Spot the Difference

Your little know-it-all may have heard that no two snowflakes are alike; now prove it. For up-close examination, catch flakes on some dark fabric (chill it in the freezer for ten minutes to keep the snow from melting), then observe the crystalline shapes through a magnifying glass.

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iStockphoto

Build a Snap-Happy Snowman

Stage a funny photo shoot by constructing a snowman with stick arms, coal buttons, and a scarf -- but no head! Then grab a camera and take silly shots of your kids posing with their face where the snowman's should be. (Once you're done snapping, top off ol' Frosty.)

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Heather Weston

Host an (Iced) Tea Party

Set the scene for a pretend cuppa by constructing a child-size table and chairs out of snow. Tightly pack a large plastic tub and a few 5-gallon buckets with snow; let harden overnight. Next, flip the tub over to release the snow (this will be the table) and do the same with the buckets, arranging them as seats. Then let your kids sit down to enjoy teatime!

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Heather Weston

Track Down Furry Friends

Take a nature walk and identify the animal footprints you see. A few hints from Jonah Evans, wildlife-diversity biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: A symmetrical track with four toes, large claws, and a small heel pad probably came from a canine (think a dog or a fox), while asymmetrical tracks with four toes, a relatively large heel pad, and no claws may indicate a feline (like a house cat or a lynx). Two-toed, heart-shaped tracks usually signal deer, while five-toed tracks that look like tiny human handprints may be from a raccoon. Or, you can find a cozy spot in a nearby park to quietly watch and listen for birds.

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Heather Weston

Find the Flag

Try this twist on hide-and-seek: Tie a piece of white fabric (or a white sock or T-shirt) to the end of a stick. Then have your kids cover their eyes while you hide the "flag," sticking it somewhere in the snow. Yell "Go!" and the hunt is on; the lucky kid who finds the flag first gets to place it for the next round.

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Heather Weston

Earn a Medal

Organize your own Winter Olympics: First, construct an obstacle course by packing snow into different-size mounds that kids can jump over, scramble around, or weave through as you time them. Next, pair up your little ones up for a snowball roll-off (whoever makes the biggest snowball wins). Finally, end with a snowball toss to see who can throw the farthest.

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Ericka McConnell

Make Icicle Pops

Using a hole punch, equally space four holes around the top edge of a plastic cup. Thread string through one hole and out the hole on the opposite side. Use a second piece of string on the remaining holes, then tie them together to form a hanger. Poke a tiny hole in the bottom of the cup with a needle, then thread 6 inches of string through it, knotting both ends. Before bedtime, let kids fill the cups with juice, then hang them from a tree branch outside; by morning, the liquid should have trickled out of the pinhole and down the string, freezing into a yummy-tasting icicle.

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Heather Weston

Get Scientific

Snow is made of H2O; explore its properties with an easy experiment: Have kids fill two identical microwavable dishes with snow -- one powdery, the other tightly packed. Ask them to guess how much liquid would be left if the snow melted, then pop the dishes into the microwave to get the answer.

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Heather Weston

If You Live Someplace Warm...

Don't get much white stuff in your area? Try these fun ways to celebrate winter -- sans blizzard.

Imagine a Storm
Kids can dream up their own snowy scenes by drawing on black or navy-blue construction paper with white crayons, oil pastels, or colored pencils. For a final touch, help them add a layer of clear glitter to capture snow's spectacular sparkle.

Put on a Performance
Whip up adorable snowman puppets by stacking two or three marshmallows onto the pointy end of a chopstick and then pushing a few sprinkles into the top 'mallow to create a face (chocolate for the eyes, orange for the "carrot' nose!). Before your little ones get tempted to eat their sweet snowmen, encourage them to bring on the drama with a little dessert theater.

Gather 'Round the Fire
Create an excuse for everyone to cuddle up under some warm blankets by heading to a local beach or park at twilight and building a campfire. Don't forget to take along a few flashlights and a thermos of cocoa to ward off any post-sundown chill.

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.

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