It’s cold. It’s snowing. And when it isn’t snowing, it’s wet, muddy, and gross. It feels like this has been going on forever – but it’s only January. Everyone is starting to get cooped up, so how do you convince them (and yourself) to get outside when outside is unpleasant? Luckily, snow is my favorite precipitation and I have fond memories of winter, so I can cheerfully help. Without further ado, here’s my guide to the best winter activities for the whole family – and how to convince them to actually participate.
First Things First
Hot cocoa is a really really effective bribe, if you know how to make hot cocoa. No, you do not just empty the packet into hot water, not unless you want the hot cocoa police – that would be me – to show up and fine you. There are three secrets to making the perfect cocoa:
First, remember that the packet or recommended amount of scoops is for usually 6oz of water. That’s less than a small mug; it’s approximately half the size of a medium (that’s a grande for you Starbucks folks). Accordingly adjust the amount of powder.
Second, add fat. Fat makes everything tastier. You don’t have to do this, but don’t knock it until you try it. My fat of choice is whole milk. You can use liquid coffee creamer, half and half, or just cream. I once accidentally added salted butter, which wasn’t as terrible as you might think. My cup of cocoa is usually half milk, half boiling water. I typically mix the powder into the water, then add the milk – which cools it down to just the right drinking temperature. If you’re feeling extra fancy, try frothing your milk like coffee shops do for lattes.
Third, add flavor. Vanilla, hazelnut, salted caramel, or my personal favorite: peppermint. We even had raspberry for awhile. You can buy small bottles of flavored syrup in most grocery stores, and I highly recommend it. For peppermint, though, just use some of your candy canes from the holidays as a stirrer. Similarly, you can just add a few drops of vanilla extract for that flavor. And yes, you can definitely add marshmallows on top.
Go Sledding and Get in Snowball Fights
Did you know that you don’t actually need that much snow to go sledding? As long as there’s a light dusting, it’s sledding weather. And because most people don’t go sledding until there’s a ton of snow (which is better for other winter activities) the popular sledding hills won’t be busy!
Snowball fights are another surprisingly low-snow activity. Honestly though, the best way to get kids to do it is to start it. Just make sure they’re not picking up rocks or ice; those can seriously injure someone when thrown too hard. Or just toss some snow up in the air.
Go For a Walk
It sounds like a no-brainer, but people often forget that you can still just go for a walk in the winter. Sure, you should layer up. I promise, everyone will forget that it’s freezing soon enough if you’re appropriately dressed for the weather. And if there’s snow, you can always throw it at one of the kids. You can teach them how to catch snowflakes on their tongues – kids (and other adults) get a kick out of seeing parents make ridiculous faces. Have fun with it; don’t make it a chore.
No one wants to go because it’ll be cold and boring? Refer to the aforementioned hot cocoa bribe.
Or Do Something More Expensive
Go ice skating, it’s not as hard as it looks. Go skiing (or snowboarding), if you live in the right area. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, go visit hot springs. Yes, these things cost money, but if you’re really dying to get out and about, it’s something to do. You can put a price on experiences, but they’re usually worth the cost. Want more winter activity ideas? Check out my post on non-skiing things to do in winter.
Ski school ages vary by location, but most will take school-age kids, and some take kids as young as three. Both my brothers and I learned how to ski young, and we all still love it (plus, it’s technically exercise!). And if you don’t ski and don’t want to learn, you’re still in luck – put the kids in ski school and just enjoy some time to yourself. My mother would sit in the lodge at Peek’n Peak and work on her scrapbooks (which are amazing, btw) while we went to lessons and otherwise just ran amok all over the mountain. It was amazing, and probably the only times we all three siblings got along.
Have a lot of snow?
Make a snowman, duh. Less obviously, make snow ice cream. It’s one of my favorite memories from being a kid – when we’d get a lot of snow, we’d go and collect the freshest stuff off the top (to make sure there was no dirt or dog pee or whatever). We’d put it in a huge bowl, add a can of sweetened condensed milk,* and add about a tablespoon of vanilla. Pro tip: let the kids do the entire thing, because it’s so easy. Did it taste amazing? You betcha. Did it only take five minutes to make? Absolutely. Is it the greatest winter snack of all time? Heck yes, it is!
*My mother specifically said Eagle brand when I asked her for the recipe. I have no idea why, but don’t confuse sweetened condensed milk with evaporated milk. These are two different things. It won’t make a huge difference because, hey, it’s just kid snack, but it will make a noticeable one.