By Melissa Goslin
Winter weather means steaming cups of cocoa and crackling fires. For kids, it also brings the hope of snow days spent sledding down driveways and snuggling under covers. The prospect of days spent indoors due to inclement weather stirs up a slightly different feeling in most parents—the dread of cabin fever. However, being trapped indoors doesn’t mean your imaginations can’t still run free. With a little preparation and loads of creativity, the following activities will help dodge cold weather doldrums and create fun-filled family memories for kids and adults of all ages.
Put Down Roots
Family tree activities are a great way to instill kids with a sense of where they belong in the world. For little ones, family trees get them creating as well as thinking about relationships and connections. Let the older kids plan out the structure and style of the tree. Go large with a wall-sized slice of butcher paper or keep it small with individual sheets of construction paper for each kid. With plenty of sticks on the ground this time of year, consider a 3D project with leaves hung from the branches. Kids can draw self-portraits, snap photos or come up with an original way of representing each person, like cutting out handprint leaves. Whether you stay in the immediate family or dig your way back generations, the final product is sure to please.
Let the Play Go On
Take pretend play to the next level by waging a full-on family production. Older kids can write and hand out scripts, or younger children can roll with the plot of a favorite book. Using butcher paper and recycled cardboard, kids can set the stage and transform the playroom into a cityscape or rural scene. Let each kid pick out his/her own costume. Clothes too worn for the donation box are a great source for costume bases. Kids will love cutting, painting and layering them into something unique. After rehearsals, let kids make tickets and invite others in the neighborhood to the performance. The kitchen-inclined children can also pop popcorn and pour drinks for their guests before the house lights go down and the imaginations soar.
Rock Away the Day
Ask any toddler—there’s not much around the house that can’t be turned into an instrument. Dig into the recycle bin and let kids transform plastic coffee cans into bongo drums. With a quick hole cut and some string, transform a cereal box into a guitar. Paper plate tambourines are always a favorite with smaller children. If the older kids already play an instrument, encourage them to bring it out, plug it in and lead the way for the little ones. They will love making and decorating their instruments, then getting to play along as a family. Don’t tell, but they’ll also be learning and picking up important fine motor skills along the way!
Get Hands in the Cookie Jar
Baking is a great cold-day diversion, but snacking on sweet treats all day can have kids bouncing off the walls in no time. Take time to stock the pantry with Mason jar mixes that will provide quick homemade alternatives to box mixes for months to come. Let older kids guide the younger ones through recipes, as they measure out ingredients and dump or layer them into individual jars. Decorate some of the jars and tie on baking instructions to create thoughtful, delicious gifts for teachers and friends.
Capture a Moment in Time
The old cliché is true—kids grow up so quickly! With every year, their tastes change and that Thomas the Tank Engine phase rapidly turns into a superhero obsession. Time capsules are a fun way to preserve where your child is right now at this moment. Have them make a list of their favorite things, from movies and foods to toys and games. Jot down their predictions for the future: what they want to be when they grow up, what will they be doing in a year when they crack this capsule open? Encourage them to find a few items that represent them and put them inside the capsule. Let kids get creative with their containers: recycled bottles, Mason jars and shoeboxes are all great options. Be sure to seal the lid and let kids create “Top Secret” labels for the outside, along with the date it’s allowed to be opened. Parents may want to scan in their favorites and predictions to keep in envelopes. Make this project an annual tradition and by the time your little ones fly the coop, you’ll have a box of memories capturing your child’s personality at each unique stage along the way.
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Cowboy Mason Jar Cookie Mix
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Layer the ingredients in a one-quart jar in the order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding the next layer.
Include a card with the following instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine, one egg and one teaspoon of vanilla. Stir in the entire contents of the jar. You may need to use your hands to finish mixing. Shape into walnut sized balls. Place two inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven. Transfer from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.