Do you ever find yourself on Facebook staring enviously at your friends’ winter photos? You know, the ones that have them out in the front yard building snowmen or sledding down a hill with huge smiles on their faces? I do. My envy is only momentary, as I quickly remember that they are also shoveling snow from their driveways and miserably scraping ice off of their car windows, and I go back to enjoying sitting on my patio watching my children play in beautiful 70-degree weather.
However, as someone born and raised outside of Arizona, I do sometimes have this irrational fear that my children will grow up without any concept of the four seasons. They will forever think that summer means hot, spring and fall mean beautiful, and winter simply means having to occasionally put on a sweatshirt over their t-shirt. While there is nothing wrong with this, there is something magical about the little joys that each season brings. I can’t help but want to bring a little of that winter fun here to the desert. Here are a few simple ways to give our Arizonan children a small taste of winter (no shovel needed).
- Have an indoor snowball fight ~ I’m pretty sure my son would do this every day if I let him. It’s super simple and you can enjoy the fun of a snowball fight without the freezing fingers or ice down your back. Grab a bag of cotton balls, dump them on the floor, and start throwing! It doesn’t get much easier than that. Don’t forget to ambush Dad when he walks in the door from work!
- Get some Insta-snow ~ I love when I find something that I enjoy playing with as much as the kids. This stuff is fairly inexpensive, and once you make it, it will last for weeks. It is a powder and when you add water it “grows” into a fluffy substance that looks like snow (it’s also non-toxic, so safe for even the littlest hands). While it doesn’t feel exactly like real snow, and unfortunately doesn’t form well into snowballs or snowmen, it does have a fun texture and provides a great sensory experience. Pour some into a plastic container along with some various buckets, scoops, spoons, etc. and you have hours of entertainment. Once your little ones are bored of simply scooping and pouring, try adding some people or vehicles to promote imaginative play. You can also try “painting” your snow with food coloring and eye droppers or spray bottles.
- Make snowflakes ~ I can still remember spending hours cutting out paper snowflakes. There is something so exciting about opening it up to see what you created! In addition to being just plain fun, there are many learning opportunities involved in creating snowflakes. Little ones are developing fine motor skills, you can talk about shapes, and with older kids, it’s a great opportunity for a science lesson on how all snowflakes have 6 points (yes, that is actually true!). Here’s a tip for creating great snowflakes: use coffee filters instead of paper! This saves you from having to create a circle, and they’re nice and thin, so even those terrible child safety scissors can cut through them. When you’re done, throw them in the air and pretend it’s snowing, run string through your snowflakes and hang them up as garland, or use watercolors to paint them and make tie-dye snowflakes.
- Paint your snow ~ If you have a little artist in your house, you will love these ideas for puffy snow paint and icy salt painting. The puffy paint is perfect for making snowflakes and snowmen and gives it a great texture effect. The ice paint is made by simply mixing Epsom salt and water, and when it dries it sparkles like real snow. Create a winter scene, paint a snowman, or add some shine to your paper snowflakes!
- Sing a winter song ~ We were still singing this song well into summer last year it was such a hit. Get some use out of the hats and scarves you have in your drawer and use them for props as you sing this song and do the actions.
“I’m a Little Snowman” sung to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot
I’m a little snowman short and fat (hold your arms out to the side to make yourself round),
Here is my scarf and here is my hat (put on the scarf and hat).
When the sun comes up I cannot play (make a circle with your arms, then shake your head and wave your finger),
I just slowly melt away (fall down to the ground and “melt” into the floor).
*Make sure to be very dramatic in your melting, as this is the part that will get tons of giggles!
- Make an ice slide ~ Take an old Tupperware, plastic container, or cookie sheet and fill it with water. Put it in the freezer overnight (to make it more of a slide, try propping one side up slightly). The next day, have fun using your ice for some dramatic play. Get some play people and having them go “sledding”, or let toy cars have races across the ice. This is also a great opportunity for a science lesson! Discuss what is happening as the ice melts throughout the day. Try adding salt or water to your ice and see what happens. Eye droppers and food coloring have a surprisingly therapeutic effect (for you, Mom) as you watch the colors slide down the ice in different directions.
- Play with your food ~ I am not one of those people who is always creating cute, elaborate meals for their kids. However, I do find it fun to occasionally turn our food into fun shapes and objects. Snowmen are actually quite simple to create out of many different foods. Use some circle cookie cutters to turn an ordinary sandwich into a snowman, or stack up three banana slices on top of each other. Cheese quesadillas also make great snowflakes. Fold them up, then take bites out of different parts, just as you would making a paper snowflake. They may not turn out looking exactly like snowflakes, but they are quite fun to make. Be creative! Once you start looking, you’d be surprised what food can become.
- Read some winter books ~ Seasonal books are one of my favorite ways to help my children experience the different aspects of each season. If you have a child in school, Scholastic book orders are a great way to find seasonal books that are fairly inexpensive, or take a trip to the library. Here are a few current favorites in our house:
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Flip and Flop by Dawn Apperley
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
When Will It Snow? by Lisa Broadie Cook
Snow Friends by M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Snow Day! by Patricia Larkin
- Plan a trip to the snow ~ Last but not least, plan a weekend trip up to the snow! Living here, we really get the best of both worlds. We don’t have to worry about shoveling our driveways, but snow is only a relatively short drive north. There are also many places around the Valley that bring in snow for special days throughout the winter. It’s a great opportunity for family fun and a true winter experience!
What are your favorite winter playtime activities?