Winter can be brutal. I don’t mean the weather directly, but the impact the weather has on entertaining our children. We can’t shoo them outside as often. We tend to feel cooped up inside the house and maybe even a little stir crazy. Don’t get cabin fever this season! I have put together a list of ten inexpensive activities you can do with your kids this winter. This is a list of my family’s favorites. As I mentioned on my “About Me” page, I have two boys on the autism spectrum, and another two children that are still youngsters. Most of my kids still need to be entertained in order for me to make it through the weekend with my sanity intact. I may still spend the night with a wine glass and bubble bath from all the work, but I will have survived!
Here are ten inexpensive activities you can do with your kids this winter:
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1. Have a Game Day – No, not watching a football game. Board games, cards, charades, and even video games if it’s on the big screen TV and everyone plays together. My family plays board games pretty consistently, but we really love playing them together on New Year’s Eve. Everyone picks their favorite game to play and we end up with a stack of games to play for the night. If you want to make it really fun, give out prizes to the winners. (I always make sure everyone gets a prize in the end even if it means rewarding good sportsmanship) Literally hours of fun! Here are some of our favorites:
2. Host a Bake-Off – Inspiration has struck my children after watching Kids Baking Championship on the Food Network channel. I now host baking championship days where the children get to choose what they’re baking and we bake it from scratch. They even “Judge” each other when we eat their masterpieces for dessert that night. Cupcakes and cookies are our favorites to bake, but I’ll be the first to tell you that the kids are happy to simply help cook dinner too. If they want to bake, it doesn’t have to be something from scratch that requires a lot of ingredients. Children are happy to follow the directions on the back of the box too. It’s the togetherness that counts!
3. Have a Picnic at the Playground – You would not believe how much more excited children are to be at the playground just because they’ve brought along a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ah, to be a kid again and be so easily amused! Winter doesn’t mean it’s freezing cold outside. So it’s a little chilly…throw on a hat and gloves. Build up those immune systems! Pack a small cooler with sandwiches and a couple of bags of fruits and veggies. Grab some juice boxes or bottled water…and GO!! (Don’t forget plates, napkins, and hand wipes) This is a great way to get their energy out, and they’ll be a lot calmer when you get back home.
4. Go on a Scavenger Hunt – This activity can be done indoor or outdoor. Provide your children with age appropriate clues to make it challenging and keep them engaged. If it’s too easy, then it won’t be worth the time you put into it. Try using hints/clues for older kids and using pictures for the younger ones. The internet is full of free checklists you can print. I recommend choosing seasonal items and make a discussion about the qualities which make the item seasonal. A simpler option would be to walk through our neighborhood and play “I Spy” going the letters of the alphabet.
5. Arts & Crafts – You don’t have to be creative to do arts and crafts with children. I promise. Craft stores sell kits for as little as $1.00 each with all the materials you need included. Dollar stores sell a lot of arts and crafts supplies as well. No excuses! I keep a stash of construction paper, pipe cleaners, pom poms, feathers, googly eyes, etc. If you’re looking for ideas of what to make, I’ll be posting some ideas in the near future, so you may want to follow me (wink). The picture below shows a craft we just did this weekend. Each sold separately, but sold as a complete kit. How cute are these? I love them! Check out these other ideas:
6. Family Movie Night – It is impossible for a family of six to go to the movies for under $100. In order spend less than that, you would have to skip the snack bar and then you’re missing out on the whole movie experience. Since our family is large, we rarely go to the theater, so I do my best to re-create the experience at home. I doubt this is news to you, but you can buy theater size candy for $1 almost anywhere outside the movie theater. (Hint: get them at the dollar store, and while you’re there, pick up popcorn and those cute little popcorn holders too.) What I love most about movie night is that it becomes snuggle night too – and you can’t do that comfortably in those theater seats. Put your jammies on, grab your blankets, candy, popcorn, and drink; and settle in for a cozy night your kids will remember. Don’t forget to silence your cells phones! Do you have these family favorites?
7. Indoor Camping – I grew up camping at state forest campgrounds, so I’m all about the great outdoors. I camped in the summer though; maybe into the fall. What do you do when there is snow on the ground? Call me crazy (I’ve been called worse!), but every once in a while I set up the tent in the living room. Throw in the pillows and sleeping bags. Put a couple games in the tent and let them play. Cook hot dogs outside on the fire followed by s’mores. Building a fort is a great option if you don’t own a tent.
8. Construct – Make it a family effort to build something out of any of the following: Lego’s, Tinker Toys, K’Nex, or good old fashioned wooden blocks. What’s better? Use all of the above! Decide as a family what to build and give everyone a specific part. Put it all together after everyone has finished their piece, step back, and admire the family masterpiece! Gather up the action figures to add to your masterpiece. Dig to the bottom of the cases for those Barbie accessories. Ideas are endless.
9. Work Together – What? Work is an activity? You betcha! I told you to call me crazy! When you and your children are part of the process it is a lot less painful than just telling them to go clean up. My suggestion for getting the kids to help clean up and get organized is to designate areas for 4 different piles. Label the piles as KEEP, DONATE, SELL (eBay, Craiglist, online yard sale, etc.), and TRASH. Explain the differences between the piles in terms of the condition of the items. When you are done sorting bring the children with you to donate them, and give them the money (or a percentage of the earnings) for the items that are sold. This will show them WHY it’s good to part with their belongings, and they will eventually start volunteering to do it!
10. Utilize Community Resources– Check your local township and county websites for events in your area. Most events are free. Not all events are “all day” events either. The Township Recreational Center also hosts family activities, usually for a small fee. Getting out of the house for an hour or two can be just what the doctor ordered. I am a firm believer in fresh air and sunshine! Our Township hosts a parade the first weekend in December, and we’ve made it a family tradition to attend. What family traditions can you start in your local community?