We saw the year’s first snow at Mason Neck State Park this weekend. It melted much too soon for my taste, but got me thinking about all the wonderful things I used to do on snow days. I was surprised at how few people came out to enjoy the park. Do folks just hole up and watch TV or play video games when it snows these days? If so, they’re missing some of the best ways to appreciate the natural world this time of year, and some of the best family activities there are. Here are some fun activities for the next time weather cancels school or work, whether you explore the snowy wilderness or stay warm and dry inside.
- Watch wildlife
If the roads are safe for driving, visit a nearby park to see how wildlife responds to the snow. The birdfeeders at our Visitor Center are often extra-busy in snow or even rain. The same goes for food sources in the wild, too, like berry-filled bushes.
- Make a snow fort
Wet, heavy snow is perfect for making snowmen, snow forts, and other snow sculptures. You can even try adding color by misting the packed snow with colored water. Once you’ve finished a snow fort or two, of course the next step is to launch a snowball war. Passersby beware!
- Feed the birds
If you have a new birdfeeder you’ve been meaning to put up, just after a snowstorm is a good time. You can advertise the feeder by scattering dark sunflower seeds on top of the white snow.
- Take a walk
Familiar sights in your neighborhood are transformed by the new-fallen snow. Look for animal tracks in the snow. Can you figure out who made them and what was happening?
- Go sledding
If you don’t have a pre-made sled, use an inflatable raft from the summertime, or even a flattened cardboard box. Be safe and make sure your sled track doesn’t cross a road, since drivers might have a tough time seeing you approach.
Play Fox and Geese
If the snow is really deep, play chase games in the snow. For Fox and Geese, trample down a big bicycle wheel shape: a circle with several spokes crossing it. Then play tag on this course; what makes the game different from regular tag is that you’re not allowed to step on untrampled snow.
- Make homemade pretzels
Whether you make them from scratch or use refrigerated dough, fresh soft pretzels are especially welcome on cold snowy days. You can make soft pretzels by using any bread dough. Roll pieces of the dough into ½-inch to 1-inch thick ropes which you then twist into pretzel shapes, or letters, or any other open shape. Let rise, brush with a little beaten egg, and sprinkle with kosher salt before you bake them to golden toasty perfection. Yum!
- Drink hot cocoa
This is the beverage of choice for a snow day, whether you sip it while watching the snow fall, or serve it to rosy-cheeked explorers when they come back in from snowy expeditions.
- Play board games
While you’re enjoying your hot cocoa or fresh-baked pretzels, why not play board games or cards with family members? Jigsaw puzzles are a fun way to spend a snowy afternoon as well.
- Make snowflakes
While the snow is falling outside, you also can make a snowstorm inside: cut out your own snowflakes from white paper. Take a piece of paper and fold in half so you have a wide fat rectangle. Since snowflakes in nature usually have six sides, fold your paper into thirds like a pie slice, with the point of the slice at the middle of the folded edge from step one. Trim off the excess corners at the top of your triangle. Now cut different shapes out of the folded edges and the top edge. You can try triangles, circles, swirls, hearts, even stars. For inspiration, catch real snowflakes on chilled black construction paper so you can look at them through a magnifying glass. Take care not to breathe on them and melt them too soon!
- Make up plays or puppet shows
You can make puppets out of brown lunch bags or old socks, and decorate them with markers. For a play, use old “dress-up” clothes for costumes. Let your imagination run wild! The stage for a puppet show can be as simple as a table with a cloth draped over the front to hide you, the puppeteer, from the audience.
- Make an indoor fort
Blankets hung over chairs or a kitchen table create a cozy cave perfect for play. Maybe you could snack on your fresh pretzels there, and imagine you’re camping out in the wild, or pretend you’re a brave explorer in the cold Arctic.
Have fun exploring your snow day!