18 Fun Winter Activities for Kids
Cure cabin fever with these unique activities for snowy days. You can do most of them in your own backyard!
Have a snowball showdown.
Divide your family into two teams (or enlist another group on the block), build a wall of snow for each team to hide behind, and perch a few small snowmen on top. The idea: Each team takes turns hurling snowballs to knock down the other’s snowmen (“Incoming!”). FYI, if you get hit by the other team, you have to join them. The group that hits all their opponent’s snowmen first wins/gets to do a touchdown dance.
Construct a snow castle.
Have a contest to see who can build the most ornate palace in a set time frame, or make it a family endeavor and engineer a larger-than-life fortress. “Use the same molds as for making sand castles at the beach, or gardening items like trowels, spades, buckets, and planters, to dig and shape the snow,” suggests Dwight Zahringer, a dad of three in Detroit.
Make snow monsters.
They’re more fun than your basic snowman and even easier to create: Pick up a bunch of glow sticks from a dollar store, then get your outdoor gear on and make big mounds of snow just before dusk. Poke two holes for the monster’s eyes and place a lit-up glow stick in each hole. (Depending on the type you get, you might need to use more than one per eye.) Cover the hole lightly with snow, so you can still see its glowing eyes.
Make the snow their canvas.
Fill up squirt bottles with water and two or three drops of liquid gel food coloring (the concentrated dye makes for extra-vibrant colors), then shake them up. Adjust the nozzle flow to spray narrower for lines or wider for a mist. Your kids can paint freestyle, create tic-tac-toe or hopscotch boards, decorate their snow fort, or color snowballs for an epic battle, notes Kimberly McLeod, a mom of two in Toronto and creator of TheBestIdeasforKids.com.
Match the tracks.
For a twist on hide-and-seek, have everyone but one “seeker” walk around in the snow to find a spot to hide. Then have the “seeker” follow the marks to reveal each player. “It’s surprisingly fun and challenging for young kids,” says Matt Flower, the environmental educator and early-childhood specialist with The Urban Ecology Center, in Milwaukee.
Host Olympic games.
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.
Send them on a treasure hunt.
“Give kids a nature-based list of what to look for, like pinecones, berries, acorns, bird feathers, or whatever they might find in your yard,” says Laura Froyen, Ph.D., host of The Balanced Parent podcast and a mom of two in Madison, Wisconsin. You can even give it a theme by hiding toys outside for kids to find. “We’ve done scavenger hunts for Frozen figurines, dinosaurs, and dollhouse furniture,” says Dr. Froyen. Here’s another idea: Freeze colored water into ice cubes, then hide them around the yard for kids to find.
Rent a fat-tire bike.
Known as “fatties,” these bicycles are outfitted with wide tires and rugged treads that can handle snowy roads and trails. And while they’re pricey to buy, many bike stores, ski resorts, and mountain-biking areas rent them. Bikes with fat tires ride a bit differently than regular bikes—pretty much the equivalent of running in the sand—so you’ll definitely get a workout. But they’re unique in that they can roll over almost anything. (Trust me, my kids have tried!) On a warmish day, hit a bike path or do a little off-roading to get some fresh air.
Hoop it up.
Grab a few hula hoops, and have a contest to see who can last the longest. It's a lot harder when you're all bundled up!
Blow unpoppable bubbles.
The soapy solution you use in summer reacts differently in chilly temperatures. Leave the bubble bottle outside so it can get really cold. Then wave the wand—instead of blowing with your warm breath—to let the bubbles fly. If you’re quick (and careful) enough to catch one, you might just see it slowly ice over in your hands, notes Sara McCarty, a mom of three in St. Louis and founder of RunWildMyChild.com. If it’s way below freezing, kids will love watching the bubbles harden midair and roll around once they hit the ground.
Two players go for the championship in this classic game. Use criss-crossed sticks and pinecones as game pieces.
Go ice bowling.
Turn your driveway into a lane. Freeze ten bottles of water (word to the wise: be sure to leave room at the top for water to expand) and a water-filled balloon. Once the pins and ball are ready, set up your alley. “It will occupy kids for hours and keeping score gives them a little math practice as well,” McCarty says.
Feed the birds.
String cranberries, popcorn, and cereal onto a fishing line for a garland to attract and nourish your feathered friends.
Have a snowball-throwing contest! Make a target by creating a bright circle in the snow with colored water in a squirt bottle. You can also paint a bull's-eye target on a piece of cardboard, giving each colored ring a point value. Attach it to a tree, and keep score as the kids try to hit the target with snowballs.
Pin the smile on the snowman.
Pass out chocolate cookies, then blindfold each child and let him try to get the mouth, eyes, and buttons in place.
Make a snow volcano.
Remember that old-school science-fair project? This snowy version uses the same explosion-inducing ingredients—all of which you probably have in your pantry.
What You'll Need: A small, narrow plastic cup or old pill bottle, baking soda, dishwashing liquid, red food coloring, vinegar
What To Do:
- Nestle the cup in the center of a pile of snow and mound more snow around it to form a volcano shape. (Leave the top of the cup exposed.)
- Add a few spoonfuls of baking soda, one spoonful of dishwashing liquid, and some food coloring to the cup.
- Now pour in a big splash of vinegar and watch the eruption!
Spot animal tracks.
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.
Snowshoeing allows your kids to explore your favorite hiking spots in a completely new way, and you can get them pretty inexpensively at second hand sports stores.