Snowed-In Ideas for the Family

2 Feb

Looks like half the States are experiencing serious winter weather, which means kids are home and moms (or dads) are going crazy all over the country. I even saw a tweet today from a mom calling for any ideas on what to do with her 6 “cabin fevered” kids. I feel for all of you if that’s your current situation, even if I’m not in the thick of it myself. (The weather outside where I am is “cold” right now, to me and my California sensibilities, but that really means it’s “hot and balmy” compared to what everyone else is experiencing.)

So I thought, to do my part in “sharing in your struggles”, I’d give my Top Ten List of “cabin fever” activities for kids. Hopefully one of these will spark an idea and help you get through one more day of Winter.

In no particular order:

  1. A Scavenger Hunt – There’s two kinds of scavenger hunts that I usually think of. First is the one where you have a list of things that need to be found or second, where you go from one place to another following clues along the way. Add a little twist to either of these ideas and you could sneakily get your kids to do things that need to be done at home (i.e. “Find one out of place toy in the living room and put it back where it belongs”) or just give them a chance to orderly run around your house. All you need is your ingenuity and some paper (post-in notes can work great for this).

    I did this for my girls this week with a dozen post-it notes. It can be as simple (for younger kids like mine) as “I’m tired. This is where I go to lie down.” or as complex as you want (for older kids or if you want them to really take time to figure out the clue), “I heat things up, but you can’t cook with me. Roll and fluff is what I do. I work hand in hand with another. What am I?” (Answer: Dryer). And the great part for younger kids is that you can reuse the clues and just change up the order each time (mix up the clues and just walk through the “course” as you place them out to make sure there aren’t any endless loops). Or if your kids are a bit older, set it up once and then commission them to write their own next and send their siblings off in fun pursuit.

  2. Classic – Cooking/Baking – If you have the ingredients (or just plan to have some basics always on hand – flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc) you could setup a day of cooking. From sweet desserts, to freezable breakfast or dinners or even some delish made from scratch meals. Personally, I’d do homemade bread, a batch of cookies and make some freezable poptarts and pot pies… yum!

  3. Snow activity (indoor or outdoor) – For younger kids if it’s not too cold to go out for a bit, take a little food coloring mixed with water in a water bottle and go paint the outdoors. If it is too cold to go outside (or you just don’t feel like bundling up the kids today) and you have a lot of snow, you could also bring it inside and “play” with it (in your kitchen in buckets or bowls). It’s like the saying goes “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Well if the weather is giving you lots and lots of snow, have some snow time fun.

  4. Classic – PJs and movie day – Another classic… it’s a “don’t fight it” pick. Let your kids stay in their pajamas, throw the schedule to the wind and let them have popcorn and their favorite movie. Then turn around and have soda floats and a picnic in your living room (for lunch or dinner).

  5. Put on a show – If your family is artistically inclined. Let them pick one of their favorite stories and have them put on a show. Help them find items to make the right costume, plan out who will play which parts and say which lines and if you’re really ambitious even create an amateur set backdrop. Not only will this get them all involved and take a good amount of time, you’ll have the memory of your home presented show.

  6. (Sneakily) Get things done that you’ve been meaning to do (and could use your kids help to do). This might not work if you have teenagers, but if you get really excited about what you need to do (for instance go through all your kids clothes for things that are outgrown or need to be gotten rid of) and make a game of it, the likelihood of getting your kids cooperation is much higher.

  7. Fashion show/Dress up – This can be paired with the above (especially if tackling the clothes or closets is one of the items on your house to-do list). Host a runway fashion show. Let them even go through your closet and pair your fancier clothes with theirs. Or if you have boys, pull out those Halloween costumes and let them have a dress up day. Add a couple blanket forts and you could have a whole buccaneer adventure. Can you say an “Ahoy” to that?

  8. Classic – Board games and puzzles – Pull out and dust off those classic board games and play a round or two. There’s a reason why they’ve been classic games for decades, they can be quite a lot of fun. If you’re planning ahead and have older children, you can also look into the new genre of Euro board games (lots of information can be found at There’s something for everyone, even those teenagers who won’t touch Monopoly with a 10-foot pole.

  9. Crafts, crafts and more crafts – Pull out those art supplies and make things. Draw, color or paint. Cut and glue. Bedazzle something. Get those creative juices flowing with stuff you have on hand. There’s a million and one ideas on the Internet and even free patterns if you’re not inclined to do a craft on the fly. You can gear it towards whatever interests your kids or start building up a “collection” that they can play with.For example, if your kids are older you could do oragami animals and make a whole zoo. Like an old school version of “Farmville”, right? Or if they are elementary school aged or younger create animals and a little play scenery where the animals can “live” after the crafting is done.

    Last but not least…

  10. Read – There’s nothing like a great book to send your kids off around the world and take a good chunk of the day (especially if they’re older and will read those long books). There are some great books out there, some might even reside on your bookcase. They could be classics that you haven’t read in a while but are your favorites and your kids have never read. Or they could be the original books of their favorite movies. Lots of free electronic copies of classics can be found on the Internet through Project Guttenberg ( or your perferred e-reader (or desktop client of your preferred e-reader if you don’t actually have an e-reader). Everything from Sherlock Homes, Doctor Strangelove, Jane Austen to fairy tale classics like Cinderella.

    If your kids are older, you could also start by recommending one of your favorites for them to try. (Some of my favorites – anything Jane Austen, the Wrinkle in Time series, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings Triology and Harry Potter.) And if your kids are too young, you can try reading it to them. Classics like Winnie the Pooh (the unabridged books) are great. It’s the ultimate “Princess Bride” experience.

So hopefully one of ideas sounds interesting or maybe got you thinking outside the normal “activities for kids” box. It’s great to know that with a little planning and preparation (or none at all), you could whip something together that will hold your kids interest for an hour and burn off some energy (creative or otherwise). So make your home bound days fun and memorable … and if you’re not currently snowed in, you can reserve it for when unexpected weather (or other situations) arrives!

2 Responses to “Snowed-In Ideas for the Family”

  1. Reggie February 2, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I like your list of things to do when you are snowed in better than this one someone sent me:

    • Gilda Spencer February 3, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks so much.

      For someone without kids (as the list you mentioned seemed to be geared for), this list might not be as useful. In that case, I’d still keep about half the suggestions and supplement with ideas like writing letters (hand written ones, remember those?) to family and friends because everyone loves getting real mail, reading up on a hobby, make some bucket lists or plan a nice summer vacation.

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