After the rush of the holidays is over, the rest of winter can seem to drag on. It’s often too cold to do much of anything, there’s not many holidays or excitement, and the time between the end of winter and the beginning of spring seems to stand still for a bit.
It might not seem like it, but there is plenty to do and lots of great of experiences to be had as a family. With the start of the new year, the beginning of the year can be spent not only waiting for spring (the need to defrost is real), but also creating a lot of memories with your loved ones.
The truth is, this naturally quiet period in our lives is exactly the right time to set new intentions for time as a family, to soak in those calm moments before the hustle of spring extracurriculars, and to start off the new year right: together.
Grow your own crystals
Kids have a natural affinity for crystals and science, and this project combines both of those loves. Grab a crystal growing kit from a local store (Target has them) or comb Pinterest to find an easy DIY recipe. As a bonus mid-winter pick-me-up, line up your finished crystals along a windowsill and enjoy the way the light makes little rainbows around the room.
Make homemade hot chocolate
Sure, the just-add-water packets are super tasty, but try making hot chocolate from scratch with your kids. Not only does it take more time (score!), but I promise you will not be disappointed with the rich, chocolately taste. We love this recipe.
For some extra fun, offer up some mix-ins: marshmallows, cinnamon, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, caramel, sprinkles, or whatever you like!
Take a walk in the woods
Sure, in most parts of the country, winter isn’t exactly the prettiest season — after all, everything outside is mostly brown right now. But, this season can provide a lot of lessons for kids about the natural process of the seasons and how hibernation, rest, and regrowth all work together to bring new life come spring.
Make a winter sensory bin
Warmer weather provides a ton of outdoor sensory experiences, but that doesn’t mean indoor time has to be totally dull. Grab a big bin and fill it with whatever you can think of: insta-snow, cotton balls, beans, gravel, potting soil, ice, buttons, cornstarch and water mixture, oats, or even just water.
Hide little animals or items, give your kids a few cups and shovels, and let them at it. Sure, it might get a little messy, but that’s life. We save this activity for the kitchen floor and always lay a shower curtain liner down underneath the bin.
Sort toys for donation
Post-holidays, we often have a huge influx of stuff in the house. This makes it a great time to dig through that stuff and get rid of what you are not using or no longer need. Get your kids involved in this and you can help set them up with a habit that could influence their lives for the better.
Do a puzzle as a family
This will differ depending on the age of your kids, but if they are a little older, you might be able to venture into larger puzzle territory. Puzzles are a great way for kids to hone their logic and critical thinking skills, and also begin to understand that process, persistence, and patience will always play a large role in the outcome of their work and life.
Bake for the neighbors
A cooking process that’s fun, takes hours, and is an act of giving all wrapped into one. This day will be one well spent.
Go to a museum
Whether it’s an art museum, planetarium, aquarium or science museum, your little one is sure to have a good time (and learn a thing or two!). Many museums have free days or offer discounts for certain employers, banks, or state/city residents, too.
Cook a meal that takes all day
There are few things more comforting than the smell of your favorite meal cooking away all day. Our family’s favorite meals are homemade bolognese or chicken makhani, but anything your family loves can do.
Cooking is a great way to introduce many concepts to young kids: science, literacy, math, patience, following directions, and rejoicing in the fruits of your labor.
Watch the sunset from an onlook point
One of the best parts of winter is that you can enjoy the sunset every single day without it getting in the way of bedtime routines. We often just watch the sun dip below the horizon from the top of our stairs, so going to a clearing in a park or a higher bit of land to take in the beauty of each day’s end would be very special.
Make paper snowflakes
Making paper snowflakes is a time-honored childhood tradition, and we bet you’ll get hit with a wave of nostalgia while doing this project with your own little ones.
Play Winter Hunter 3000
This one is taken right from on of our favorite PBS Kids’ shows, Nature Cat. In one episode, the Nature Cat gang goes on a hunt for signs of spring in their neighborhood. My older son was 3 years old at the time and LOVED the idea, so we went on our own hunt, camera in hand. It soon became a tradition, and one we continued through every season, as it’s such a great way to talk about the little, beautiful parts of life.
Visit a botanical garden or conservatory
We’re fortunate to live in a country that works to sustain nature and science, and it’s important for us to support the programs and people that work hard to do so. Not only are gardens and conservatories great daytime excursions for young children, but your admission dollars really make a difference.
Shovel another’s walkway
On a similar note, while you’re out there cleaning up after a snowfall, let your kids help you do the same for someone else. Not only will they tire themselves out for a good afternoon nap, but they’ll also learn through your example that we don’t always just look out for ourselves.
Stock up at the library
Long winter days are the best time to hunker down with books and movies, and your local library has plenty of both.
Have a “kid” day
Let your little one take the lead and let them pick out what the whole family has to do for the entire day. If your kids are like mine and want to do 20 things a day, give them a reasonable 3-5 thing limit, like going out for ice cream, having pizza for dinner, and going to the trampoline park. The joy on their faces will be bar none.
Swimming can be a great way to get in some good exercise in a way that doesn’t feel like winter. Use the indoor pool at your gym or rec center, or take a trip to a local indoor water park.
Take a staycation vacation
When those winter days seem long and dull, a little change of scenery can make you feel brand new. Spend the day exploring a nearby town, or book a hotel a few towns over and enjoy room service and a movie. It doesn’t have to be extravagant to be fun.
Join their adventures
Kids love to play pretend, and though it can be seriously boring to partake in what seems like sitting in a box all day, think of how happy they’d be if you played along for a whole day. This one is at the top of my winter bucket list this year.
Do a random act of kindness
Do something that you wouldn’t normally do. You can pay for someone’s coffee, offer to hold a crying baby, entertain another mom’s rowdy toddlers so she can grab her groceries, or send takeout to a friend for no reason. Just make the message clear to your kids: kindness and generosity is always something to strive for.