Add some magical light to dark winter nights with an easy-to-make ice globe.
Step 1 Help your child attach a balloon to the faucet and slowly fill it with water. Once it's mostly filled, tie closed. (No balloons? You can also use a bowl or bucket, like in the photo above.)
Step 2 Place the balloon outside in the snow or in your freezer. Check the balloons until you can see that the outer shell is frozen but there is still a cavity of water in the middle— you don't want it to freeze all the way through. (The time will vary but can take five to ten hours.) Bring the balloon inside and put in the sink. Cut away the balloon, then help your kids turn the globe over to dump out the water.
Step 3 When it's dark, place an LED light or candle in the cavity of the globe and light it. (Your globe should last approximately five hours, depending on the temperature outside.)
Breaking open a bag might be convenient, but making your own marshmallows for hot cocoa is so worth it. Here, Piece of Cake blogger and author Shauna Sever offers up her tried-and-true recipe.
Kids love to make snow into all kinds of things ... forts, balls, angels. Why not something sweet? You may remember this recipe for maple-syrup candy from Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, but it's just as fun to make (and eat!) in 2016 as it was in the pioneer days. Liz Lee Heinecke, author of the upcoming book Outdoor Science Lab for Kids, shares how to create this treat.
There's less moisture in the atmosphere in winter, which can make the sky clearer for stargazing. Step outside and spot these out-of-this-world sights.
Sirius The brightest star in the sky is easiest to see in late winter! Look south, and you'll find it about a third of the way above the horizon. Use Google Sky or an app like SkySafari 4 ($3; iOS and Android) for help.
Orion Also looking to the south, you'll find Orion is the most vibrant constellation in the winter sky. Find his belt first: three stars in a row to the upper right of Sirius. Then, ID the two shoulder stars and two leg stars, to complete his figure.
Pleiades Break out the binoculars to see Pleiades, a tiny clump of stars riding on Taurus's back, which is located to the upper right of Orion's belt. (Nichols suggests binoculars over a telescope because they're easier for kids to handle.)
Serious birders know that winter is when the feathers really fly. That's because seed-eating finches—including common redpolls and crossbills—migrate southward by the hundreds of thousands from the North American Boreal Forest in Canada to all over the United States, according to Geoffrey LeBaron, a field ornithologist at the National Audubon Society. (Bare trees also make it easier to spot birds.) Use an app like the Audubon Bird Guide: North America (free; iOS, Android, and Kindle) to get an idea of what birds are in your area, as well as to ID any flying friends your kids spot. Then, over Presidents' Day weekend, put your family's citizen scientist skills to work by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual real-time snapshot of birds all over the globe. Visit gbbc.birdcount.org for more information and to submit your family's findings.