When the thermostat drops and the kids are stuck inside driving you stir-crazy with their various tech devices, it’s important to have a Plan C, a.k.a. a few good cold-weather ideas on hand. Thankfully, we’ve found plenty of ways to keep kids busy and prevent boredom throughout the long and lingering winter months. From fun and games in the snow to board games in the living room to cultural and educational excursions outside the home, here are our 10 best indoor and outdoor winter activities for your family.
Go Ice Skating
A beloved winter weather pastime, ice skating is in full swing as rinks across the country have opened their gates for families. Whether your kid is a beginner or a star athlete, a boy or a girl, a figure skater or a hockey player, or just having fun with friends at the local frozen pond, ice skating is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise, burn off excess energy and just plain have fun. Ready to give it a go? Check out our guide to the best ice skates for kids!
Go for a Sleigh Ride, Sledding or Snow-Tubing
Winter sleigh rides and sledding excursions are exciting, but snow-tubing — especially when the kiddos are inside an inflatable unicorn, polar bear, penguin or ice dragon — is a snowy family winter activity par excellence! Take make-believe games up a notch with these super fun snow-tubes from GoFloats. ($30; amazon.com)
Play Games in the Snow
Encourage cold weather creativity and turn your backyard into a winter wonderland with outdoor activities like making a snowman (a fun winter activity for toddlers to help with), creating snow sculptures and building a snow fort — or better yet, a snow castle. As for older kids (including Mom and Dad!), a family game of snow laser tag, complete with blasters and vests, is immersive fun that will make everyone forget just how cold it is outside.
The Fansport 5-piece Snow Mold Kit ($36; amazon.com)
Flexible Flyer Snow Fort Building Kit & Sand Castle Mold Blocks ($23; amazon.com)
ArmoGear Infrared Laser Tag ($150; amazon.com)
Cook a Meal Together
If your crew usually makes microwave meals and orders takeout a tad too frequently, try learning a new skill as a family. Refer to any one or more of our healthy and fun recipe guides, or sign up the whole group for cooking classes (many Sur La Table stores offer family lessons) or enlist their help with your latest grocery box delivery. While you’re at it, consider purchasing a new Instant Pot and ask your little helpers for assistance making yummy soups, stews, porridge and even cakes. Top off the chef sesh with a special meal!
Instant Pot Ultra 3 Qt 10-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Slow Cooker ($90; amazon.com)
Watch a Movie, Trilogy or Series
Freezing rain: movie. Snowy day: trilogy. Weekend blizzard/Nor’easter: series. Stock up on the latest hits and classic DVDs, Blu-Rays and complete favorite TV series now before you and the kids are trapped indoors for 48-plus straight hours during that inevitable, huge winter storm. May we suggest Amazon bestsellers Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures and Friends: The Complete Series for nostalgic starters?
Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures Blu-Ray ($60; amazon.com)
Friends: The Complete Series ($56; amazon.com)
Read a Book or Two (or Three)
Movies can catch their attention for a few hours, but nothing beats a great book or, better yet, a book series for capturing your kiddo’s innate imagination. BigFoot Visits the Big Cities of the World, the You Are (Not) Small boxed set and the Judy Moody Most Mood-tastic Collection Ever are all top-ranked bestsellers in demand on Amazon that make a great indoor winter activity for kids.
BigFoot Visits the Big Cities of the World ($9; amazon.com)
You Are (Not) Small Boxed Set ($30; amazon.com)
The Judy Moody Most Mood-tastic Collection Ever ($36; amazon.com)
Play a Board Game Together
Playing board games together as a family bumps up the fun factor. Not only do they lure kids away from addictive video games, but board games can also be educational, giving kids lessons in decision-making, consequences and strategic thinking. Besides, we’re just a little bit obsessed with the Amazon Choice game Bears vs Babies. It’s from the creators of Exploding Kittens, comes in a furry(!) box, and it’s perfect antidote to those cold winter weekends indoors.
Bears vs Babies ($24; amazon.com)
Plan a Cultural Experience
Making memories as a family is the ultimate experience of togetherness. Chilly temps needn’t stop your crew from going on a group outing, such as a scenic train ride, a kid-friendly art museum or an educational science center. You can also buy tickets to a live arts event; some of the best shows from Broadway — Wicked, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast — hit the road each year and travel around the U.S. Or check out sites like Ticketmaster or StubHub to see what concerts, comedians, art shows and other winter activities might be happening in a town near you.
Create an Arts and Crafts Masterpiece
Check out these easy-to-make and easy-to-clean-up DIY ideas that make use of everyday items you probably already have at home (for instance, an old winter glove missing its mate!). If not, a quick trip to your local crafts store or an Amazon Prime order can deliver everything from paints, construction paper, beads, glitter, glue and more for creative indoor projects for toddlers and big kids. Art not only makes kids smarter, it can also make them more empathetic — plus, it can keep them occupied for hours when they’re cooped up inside on a frigid day.
Pacon SunWorks Construction Paper ($6; amazon.com)
Just My Style ABC Beads by Horizon Group USA ($10; amazon.com)
Crayola 25-count Washable Glitter Glue Pouch ($13; amazon.com)
Learn Something New
If they love music, winter is the perfect season to try educational activities and introduce a new instrument — piano or keyboard, flute or saxophone, guitar or the drums. They’re all popular options for aspiring musicians, as is an at-home karaoke session for your little vocalist with the big pipes. Equally interesting and potentially even more useful: language lessons. For kids who are curious about faraway places and foreign travel, download Duolingo or purchase a Rosetta Stone subscription. They’ll be practicing their new Spanish skills while you plan the family spring break trip to Mexico. Or, if your kid is a budding photographer, investigate photography classes — or purchase an inexpensive instant camera.
Karaoke Microphone Bluetooth Wireless Portable 3-in-1 Handheld Karaoke Machine Mic ($34; amazon.com)
Rosetta Stone ($179; amazon.com)
VTech Kidizoom Spin and Smile Camera ($60; amazon.com)