Friday, February 12, 2010


I thought it was just some movie magic or something you see in cartoons--when kids rolled little bitty snowballs into big giant snowballs that could be used as snowmen. But it actually works! Sis started doing it yesterday, rolling a little ball around in the snow. Soon enough, it was almost as big as she was! And impossible to move. So she left it there and started over again. And each time she rolled the ball, it would pick up all the snow, right down to the grass, creating this odd snowless path behind her. Bud got in on the action. And now there are about 8 giant snow rocks in our yard, strewn across the landscape, something like the megaliths at Stonehenge. I promise a picture soon.

That wasn't our only snow activity, though. The kids and I shoveled the last bits of the driveway and cleaned up the edges of the sidewalk, so that all the ice could melt and evaporate on what was a pretty warm day, relatively speaking. They love their new little shovels and were very eager to help clean up. So much so that we hauled down to our neighbor's house and helped her clean up her walk and driveway, too (and see, I didn't put help in quotes, because I think they did actually move some snow for her.). In the end, there wasn't as much snow as predicted--probably only about 4-5" and it feels like even less because it was actually above freezing during the snowstorm, which was odd because even as large amounts of fluffy white snow fell it was melting and compressing on the ground. But I have no need to compete with DC or Buffalo or the Midwest or the like; they can keep their snow records and I'll take a convenient few inches and a snow day.

There was a post over at Motherlode a few days ago about what to do with kids on snow days. And it never ceases to amaze me how argumentative, disagreeable, and judgmental people can be. She was asking for ideas to keep kids occupied for an extended period of time since school was closed down in DC for a week. And the commentors just blew up, with
  • Send the kids out in the snow, fools. No wonder Americans are fat!
  • What is it with stay-at-home-moms' needs to provide activities? Can't your kids entertain themselves?
  • You better make them do schoolwork since they're missing all that important learning time.
It was harsh and hostile. Some people did finally post suggestions, myself included, because we recognize that
  • kids can't play outside in the snow 12 hours a day, seven days at a time, especially when there is 36" on the ground with much larger banks and very cold conditions;
  • SAHM do allow their kids to play independently but when you are in the house together for days at a time it is a good idea to actually spend some time together having fun and ideas for new activities are always welcome;
  • schoolwork will wait; there are other kinds of learning that having nothing to do with books and everything to do with seizing a really unique opportunity for play and togetherness.
And so, in light of that, I want to include here some of the ideas that the helpful posters mentioned (cutting and pasting directly from the post so not all the words are mine. Can you find the ones that are?):

1. Use duct tape to connect your young child's mittens to his/her coat at the wrist. Yes, it looks trashy. But it works. You'll never lose a mitten, your child will never get snow up her sleeve, and when she comes in to use the bathroom, coats with mittens slip on and off so easily. The tape comes off easily when you want it to, leaves no residue.

2. Bring heaps of snow in for the kids to play with in the bathtub or sink. The kids must be dying to play with it even if they can't take the conditions outside. Let them make mini snowmen, push it around with dump trucks, create habitats for their plastic animals....

3. Make snow cream. (google it)

4. Drizzle maple syrup on snow like they do in Little House books.

5. Take advantage of the anomalous weather and google winter crafts. You can make frozen votives to put on your porch, colored ice wreaths, etc.

6. Use spray bottles filled with colored water to paint on the snow.

7. Take advantage of the forced indoors-ness to stock up on freezer meals and do some serious cleaning. Even if you can't get work work done, you can get domestic work done with kids underfoot (or even "helping"). And then you won't feel so frustrated at the end of the day because there's some sense of accomplishment.

Here come some ideas for young kids playing indoors:

8. Play school. Print off worksheets found online and take turns being the teacher who gets to correct with a red pencil. My kids also like to set up a school for all of their stuffed animals, and then pretend to be the teacher who uses the chalkboard easel. I'm usually the lunch lady.

9. Set up a post office. Young kids love to "write" letters, address envelopes, stick a sticker/stamp on, and deliver to pretend mailboxes scattered around the house. Or set up a library, with a stamper to check out books.

10. Let them take really long baths with all their army men and Polly Pockets.

11. Set up a carwash for Matchbox cars in the sink. Soap suds and a toothbrush will do. Plastic zoo animals are also fun to clean.

12. You can find patterns for legos online.

13. Let them play store with items from the pantry. They'll need to make money out of construction paper, which occupies them for a while too.

14. Drag out a pile of coloring or activity books, set them up in a circle, and set a timer. You have to switch every x minutes. This is also fun with pictures, where one kid (or parent) starts a picture, and the other finishes. Also fun with stories, but that's for older kids who don't need entertaining.

15. Make homemade notecards (folded paper that the kid draws a picture on). Make stamps out of potatoes or sponges and make homemade wrapping paper. Crafts with a purpose make me feel less useless.

Make windowsill snowmen, make windowsill snow snowcones, bake cookies, go outside, hot cocoa, movie, clean your room, run the dog around in the snow, do your homework in case there is school tomorrow, dinner, movie, bed. If the snow persists, invite a friend to come over tomorrow and repeat the above list. Feel free to add to it from your own ideas. I am your faithful chaperone and I enjoy your company, but I am not your birthday party clown!-- I don't get paid enough for that.

A few things to do with all that snow:
1. Snow ice cream (admittedly, something you have to plan for by putting bowls out the night before): 5 cups of clean white snow + 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk + vanilla extract optional = great treat.
2. Paint: food coloring + water in a squirt bottle = outdoor art
3. Snow Slushie: more clean snow + your favorite soda = an icee
4. Snow candy: boil 1 c maple syrup and 1/2 T butter on the stove + pour into clean snow in ribbons (or bring it inside on a cookie sheet if possible) = candy when it cools

Other ideas include
making peanut butter (or crisco/corn syrup if allergies) bird feeders (on pine cone or on 1/2 stale bagel);
obstacle courses (or living room floor labyrinths) with masking tape and couch pillows;
make your own books with drawings and captions;
science fun (oil and water w/colorings; boil ice cubes to steam; baking soda and vinegar messes; cornstarch and water goop);
art projects galore (try freezing water w/food coloring and using ice cubes as paint brushes!; homemade playdough with glitter/color/extract add-ins)

Have fun!

The same goes for when coloring books are filled, just print out pictures from the internet that are meant to be colored.
Do a 10 day trial of Netflix and give yourself a break by either letting your kids watch movies/shows that aren't on TV or residing in your DVD collection, or take advantage of the educational programs on the site and find ones related to what your children are learning in school.
Make homemade play-dough or bubbles out of dish soap.
Let your child take control of the digital camera and take pictures of the family having fun together, your pets in silly pictures (even better if they're dressed up), or the snow out the window. Print out a few of them each day and make a scrapbook of all the extra time you got to spend together.
Do you have a breadmaker that hasn't been used in years? Take it out let the kids help you find fun recipes to make.
Have you be planning on going through your kids clothes and sorting out what no longer fits? Use your unplanned days home to do it.
If you happen to be crafty, take some of the old clothes, cut them up and make doll clothes or bedding with them. Teach your kids to sew a simple stitch and how to sew on buttons. Make hand puppets out of unmatched socks, then have your kids act out their favorite stories.
I know many of you are going stir-crazy after so many days inside, but try to be grateful that you're getting so much time with your family.

Anyway, one of the ideas they had was to have a brownie bake-off. Give each kid a box of brownie mix, a bunch of add ins (choc. chips, cookies, gummies, rainsins, dirt off the floor) and have them make their own creation. Then the adult(s) get to judge each one. I like it because it gives me an excuse to eat brownies.

* Picnics in the living room
* Mix everything up: breakfast for dinner, dinner for breakfast. Pajamas during the daytime. Dessert before dinner. Anything out of the ordinary gets a laugh out of little kids.
* Also for the younger set: obstacle courses in your living room, dining room, etc., made out of pillows, furniture, anything you have.
* Teach a cooking class, and vow not to care about the mess your kids make. Or teach a class in whatever skill/interest you have. Again, promise yourself not to care about the mess or the results.
* Watch that movie your family has been too busy to put in the DVD player.
* If you've got a six-year-old boy: Star Wars Festival.
* Read something together.
* Read something else.
* For those kids who are inclined toward this type of creativity: have them write and illustrate their own mini-books.
* Get ready for the Olympics! Find Vancouver on a map, check out the different sports on the internet. Figure out which ones you'll want to watch. Plan a special dinner for Friday's opening ceremonies. (Hint: salmon & nanaimo bars.)
* Have your kids make a list of all the things you've done wrong since the snow began to fall. (This could take hours).
* Have them go through the list and try to do everything better than you did.
* If they complain too much, make them clean the house.

Today I read them some passages from Little House on Plum Creek in which Laura and her family endure blizzard after blizzard. I had to endure a little eye-rolling to get them settled down to listen, but they did enjoy it once we got going.


  1. What a shocking waste of duct tape. Thread a length of string up one arm, across the back and down the other and tie a glove to each end. You can re use the string at a later date.

  2. Furthermore, it does not look messy and they are less likely to lend a glove to some other wee mite.

  3. @Lambeth, I think the other virtue of duct tape is that it seals the mitten-coat joint/gap/thingy. Snow in places snow shouldn't be is extraordinarily uncomfortable. Still, for keeping hand-wear within a child-based locus, that's not a bad idea.

    On acerbic commenting: Mark Morford consistently brings this up in his column, and it's interesting to think about. He attributes it to a greater dissatisfaction that seems ever-present in American culture combined with the ready availability of mouthpieces that is the Internet. Randall Munroe of xkcd has a slightly different take: If you hover over the comic, the tagline is "It's easier to be [a jerk] to words than to people"

    For what it's worth, I think they're both right.