By Dana B. Patterson
As kids, most of us looked forward with eager anticipation to snow days. We peeked out windows way past bedtime, pestered our parents about the latest forecast and said special prayers requesting just enough snow to cancel school. Now as parents, the day before a predicted snowfall is a little different. When school is canceled, many of us have to work out child care, figure out how to keep the kids warm while they play outside and make sure we have enough food feed them.
Growing up in Georgia, I was lucky to see one snow day a year, so last year’s 16 snow days here in Hopkinsville were incredible. Even as a teacher (maybe especially as a teacher) I would act like a kid by peeking out windows, checking the forecast and saying my own special prayers. But after about snow day 10 last year, I was tired of it.
I knew we would have to make up all of those missed days and that would shorten our summer. My kids were a little tired of it too. They had sledded down our driveway enough times, made enough snow cream and thrown enough snowballs. So, they were trapped inside with me, and I needed a plan.
We couldn’t go on field trips, even to the grocery store, so we had to utilize all of our indoor resources (and the ideas on Pinterest and Quirkymomma.com). With the winter predicted to be even worse this year, being prepared is key. I’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you and your kids stay busy and sane while indoors.
1. Board games
Most families have board games that they rarely have time to play. Snow days are the perfect time to pull them out and refresh turn-taking, strategy-making, family-fun time of playing a game together. Older kids can come up with their own games by combining pieces and parts of multiple games to come up with a new game.
My kids love to paint. A new way to make water-color painting more interesting is to sprinkle table salt on the picture after it’s done but still a little damp. As it dries, it leaves a cool snowflake effect.
3. Make paper snowflakes
On occasion, I would have time in my classroom to teach my students to make paper snowflakes. I was always surprised by how many kids had never done it and didn’t know how. It was always fun to watch them learn and see the amazing designs they made. If you need tips, you can Google it or visit www.instructables.com for great instructions.
5. Spaghetti and marshmallows
When I was teaching geometry, I would use spaghetti and mini marshmallows to allow the kids to make two- and three-dimensional shapes. When I did this with my two kids, they loved making abstract and really cool shapes. Since the kids can break the spaghetti into just the right length, and the marshmallows allow for any kind of angle, the possibilities are endless. You can even challenge them to make the tallest structure or see if they can make one that will hold some weight, like napkins or quarters.
6. Post-it note challenge
Write the alphabet or words on individual Post-it notes and stick them around the house. The kids have to find them and put them in order. When we did this, I had my kids crab walk, bear crawl or Army crawl from one note to the next. They had to work together to find the last few and put the notes in order.
7. D.E.A.R. Time
Drop Everything And Read. I used this in my classroom and now use it in our home. When things get to be too much and my kids need to calm down, we have DEAR time. Just pick a book, set a timer and everyone reads. It may take a little practice before everyone gets the hang of it, but it’s worth it. You can either read silently or read together, but I’m always an advocate of reading.
Have you ever noticed that when kids are given a paper towel tube, they put it to their mouths and begin making this noise: der der der der der der? Since my brother and I often did this, my mom began calling the tubes “der-ders.” Many crafts can be made from them, so I have a drawer where we collect them and mini-der-ders (toilet paper tubes.)
A favorite activity of my kids is when I punch holes in the der-ders and give the kids unsharpened pencils. The castles and other structures they build are pretty cool. And free.
9. Pull from the mailbox
We have a small, cardboard mailbox full of ideas. We made a list of activities and wrote them on little pieces of paper. When we are bored or need a new activity, we pull from the mailbox. Because the kids contributed to the box, they are more open to the ideas in it.
10. Get help
If all else fails, do a search for “Snow day activities.” So many parents are in your shoes and are willing to help. Of course this is not all inclusive. Add your own ideas, and share with your friends! Who knows how many snow days Hoptown will have this year, so start saving those der-ders now.