A snowstorm means different things for different people. For kids, it’s a day-long retreat from the woes of geography, Shakespeare and, even worse, algebra. For parents, it can be a nightmare. Thinking of interesting and action-packed activities to help keep your school-aged crew happy and entertained—without reducing the house to rubble—can be difficult, but we have plenty of fun snow day activities ideas for kids, including some travel-inspired ideas.
1. Play in the Snow
Naturally, a snow day theme is a great way to celebrate this seasonal spectacle!
Indoor Snowball Toss
A snowball toss is an excellent way to pass the time! Have the kids decorate 10 plastic cups to look like snowmen. Line the cups in a triangle on the floor, have the kids stand a few feet away, and then have them take turns tossing large cotton “snowballs” into the cups. Each sunken cup equals one point, and we suggest a total of six snowballs per turn (which means a maximum of six points per player, per round). Play for as many rounds as the kids are interested—it’ll be a while before they’re bored.
After the snow has let up a bit, take the kids outside and exercise their artistic sides with some snow painting. Fill several plastic bottles with water and food coloring, and then carefully poke holes in the tops of the caps. A snowy backyard makes for a great canvas!
Play a game of Project Snowman with a bigger group. Pile up some clothes—hats, gloves, scarves, sunglasses and whatever else you think would look good on your snowman—and then take a roll of toilet paper and let the fun begin. Like a Halloween mummy costume, wrap the kids up, and then let them use the clothes to transform themselves and each other into snowboys and snowgirls.
Pack the snow day away with some hot chocolate (with homemade marshmallows!) and some classic movies. Some of our favorite recommendations are Frosty the Snowman, Snow Day, Unaccompanied Minors, The Polar Express, Cool Runnings, any of the Ice Age films and of course, Frozen.
2. Go for a “Hike”
We know you’re missing summer right now, so why not recreate the season inside?
Plan a scavenger hunt! Make maps for each child, and hide items throughout the house. This will keep the kids busy as they turn the house upside down in search of their treasure. One of our favorite scavenger hunt ideas is a pirate-themed treasure hunt. Pick up a few chocolate “gold” coins (in advance) and create some treasure maps—the kids will be begging for a parrot and a loyal crew!
Pitch a Tent or Build a Fort
No trip into the wilderness is complete without a properly pitched tent, and neither is your hike-themed snow day. Turn your living room into a makeshift campground, with an indoor tent, a couple of flashlight lanterns and an indoor campfire (if you have a woodstove).
Every experienced camper knows that marshmallows can make or break a campfire. And making your own is an excellent (and kid-friendly!) way to pass the time. All you’ll need is some unflavored gelatin, sugar, corn syrup, a little salt, some vanilla extract (if you want plain vanilla marshmallows), water, confectioner’s sugar (for dusting) and a candy thermometer. You’ll never buy pre-packaged marshmallows again—we promise!
Make Trail Mix
This traditional mix of grains, dried fruits, nuts and dark chocolate isn’t just a healthy snack for hikers, but is also great to have around the house and fun to make. Create your own mix with a variety of foods, such as M&M’s, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds and pretzels.
National Park Trivia
This one will take a bit of prep work, but it’s a great way to end the day and bring a bit of education into the mix. Download some quizzes, and prepare to test your kids’ knowledge. Find small, fun, scouts-style patches, or make your own, and use them as prizes to reward correct answers.
3. Host the Olympics
Setting up small, moderately physical activities will help your youngsters burn off extra energy, especially after being cooped up inside all day.
This is a simple way to kick off your indoor Olympics. And while involving zero prep time and very few resources, it’s a great way to keep the kids busy and physically active for a while. Clear out a room and make a “net” by tying a length of string to the ends of two chairs. Fill a balloon with air (if you don’t have one, small beach balls or even crumbled-up paper will work) and let the games begin! Stir things up a bit by adding two or more “balls” to the mix.
Another challenging variation of the game involves having the kids crawl around, belly-up, on their hands and feet, using only their feet to volley the balloon over the net. It requires a bit more space, but it’s a great time consumer.
Kids and mini-golf go together like salt and pepper, and just because it’s turning into the North Pole outside doesn’t mean your kids can’t brush up on their putting skills. This activity can work whether you have all the gear and a practice putting green, or nothing more than a cup, a ball and a club. And get creative! Have the kids build obstacles from shoeboxes and building blocks, and don’t hesitate to toss a couple action figures, dolls or toy cars into the mix. The possibilities are endless, and the kids will love the challenge.
Find a basket, reusable bag, milk crate or anything that can serve as a “hoop,” and get a few balls. Tennis balls, Wiffle balls and small bean bags work well. Place the hoop far (and high enough, if you can) away from the kids to make reaching it and scoring a challenge. Each sunken basket is worth one point, and the kids get three to six chances to score per round. Play as many rounds as they’d like, or until they start trying to “dunk” on one another.
End your indoor Olympics with a bang! In the same fashion as a potato sack race, this indoor Olympics event only requires two things: pillowcases and caution. Have the kids hop into the pillowcases, line them up and let them go—first one to the finish line wins!
There’s no better way to wrap up a successful snow day—and your family’s first annual indoor Olympics—than with a few kid-friendly sports classics. Some of our favorites include Little Giants, The Mighty Ducks trilogy, Space Jam, The Rookie, Remember the Titans, Miracle and, of course, the best kid-friendly sports movie of all time—The Sandlot.
4. Make Some International Cuisine
School might be out for the day, but there’s no reason your kids can’t learn a thing or two. Teach them about the culinary culture of other countries with some easy international cuisine.
There are delicious, kid-friendly recipes all over the internet, ranging from delicious homemade Italian pizza to interesting twists on traditional Mexican tacos. Rather than focus on one item specifically, let the kids design a whole meal, featuring delicious and easy-to-make cuisine from around the world!
Get the party started with some crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside French bread. Warm the baguette up in the oven, and serve it in a bread basket with butter on the side, or split it open, cut it up and make garlic bread.
If you want to take the kids to Switzerland for a bit, break out the fondue set and melt some cheese! Did you know the big pot into which everyone dips their food is called a caquelon? We’d be willing to bet your kids won’t either!
Pasta is simple; take the kids on a tour of Italy with some delectable homemade ravioli (let the kids help make it!) or lasagna. Lasagna requires quite a few more ingredients and prep time than ravioli, and while it’s not the most kid-friendly Italian cuisine to prepare, your mini-Mario Batali will love to help layer the noodles in the pan.
Polish pierogies are also kid-friendly and make for a tasty entree. They can be filled with anything from cheese to potatoes and meat, and kids will enjoy making them as much as they enjoy eating them.
And for dessert, make some delicious Hungarian palacsintas. Closely resembling crepes, palacsintas are thinner, more convenient cousins. The dough is thinner and isn’t required to sit for several hours before use. With just four main ingredients—eggs, milk, flour and sugar—it’s a quick and easy meal that will surely become a breakfast, dinner and dessert favorite in your house. Because palacsintas are typically rolled with jams, jellies and sometimes cheeses, they’re perfect for a sweeter dessert.
5. Play International Games
Outside may be keeping flights grounded, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your children the world. With a little light prep work, Around the World Day can be a big hit with your kids. Find a children’s passport template online, print it out and put a few together for your kids. For each country you “visit” with them, put a corresponding sticker in their book.
Nestled between Germany and Spain, this European nation is famous for its wines, cheeses, art and architecture. While you won’t be taking them to see the Eiffel Tower, you can find children’s books that take place in France, such as the Madeline series by Austrian author Ludwig Bemelmans.
Republic of Ghana
The Republic of Ghana, located on the Gulf of Guinea on Africa’s western coast, is rich with history and culture. Kids will enjoy learning and playing the traditional Ghanaian game of Pilolo.
In a group, one child takes one item for each child and hides it around the house. The other children close their eyes as the first child (known as the leader or timekeeper) hides the items. When the leader has hidden all the items, he or she yells “Pilolo!” The other children then open their eyes and hunt for their assigned item. The first person to find their item and cross the designated “finish line” wins. Each time someone wins, they get a point. The leaders/timekeepers change after every round, and they can play until their heart’s content!
Germany is one of Europe’s finest gems, filled with an abundance of history, culture and beautiful landscape. Introduce your children to two of the country’s most legendary brothers—Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Brothers Grimm introduced the world to some of its most well-known and well-loved folklore, and their works include Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. Pick your favorite and herd the crew together for some good old-fashioned story time!
Play a round of Pass the Parcel, a U.K. kid-friendly favorite that’s somewhat similar to Musical Chairs and Hot Potato. While it requires a bit of prep work, it’s a game your kids will surely love. Before beginning, parents must make the “parcel.” Find something around the house that’s funny or silly, or if you want to make the game a little more special, feel free to pick up a small prize toy. Take the item and wrap it several times, layer ofter layer. Using papers of different colors and style designs will help kids differentiate between layers. After you’ve wrapped it to your desired level, let the game begin!
The game rules are simple: Have the kids sit in a circle. Give them the parcel, and begin playing music. (Since it’s Around the World Day, some international music would be fantastic!). Have the kids pass the parcel around, and when you’re satisfied, pause the music. The child who’s holding the parcel must remove a layer of wrapping from it. Repeat this until all the layers have been removed, and the winner claims his or her prize! Or, if you want to promote sharing, make the prize something the entire group can enjoy.
6. Plan a Vacation
When all else fails, let the kids use this time to think about your next family vacation! Ask them to research places they’d like to visit and what they’d like to do there. If they’re overwhelmed or not sure where to start, suggest popular vacation categories such as beaches, theme parks, all-inclusive resorts and cruises. That will surely get them excited!