by Sarah F. Berkowitz, Mother Nature Network
Kid on sled
Last winter, Atlanta was hit with a few inches of glorious, fluffy snowflakes followed by a deep freeze. Doesn't sound impressive, but what knocked us off our feet was the city's inability to clear the snow and ice. Schools and businesses closed, and what started out as an exciting snow day turned into a never-ending snow week.
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Kids dream about and pray for days like that, but parents can often be found in the opposite corner praying for schools to reopen their doors earlier than expected. And since the prayers of the young and innocent are more likely to be heard, here are a few tips to help you keep your sanity on snow days and enjoy some classic, memorable activities with your kids.
Sledding, then hot cocoa
Resist the urge to let electronics (television, movies, iPods) entertain the kids. There are so many awesome memories that can be created by doing a little pre-planning and lowering your expectations of how much work you can accomplish on the kids' snow days.
Start the day off slow by letting the kids use their imaginations to come up with their own homemade entertainment ideas. The second snow day during our unexpected week off of school, I looked out of the front window and saw our neighbor's kids sledding down our steep driveway using the lid of a recycling bin. No one here in Atlanta owns sleds, so the kids improvised. Before I could finish my morning coffee, our kids were dressed and outside sledding, bringing a trash can lid and a flattened cardboard box into the improv sled mix.
Sledding is one of the most wholesome, exhilarating (and cheap) activities kids can engage in during the winter. Most kids can spend hours outside as long as they're sufficiently bundled with winter gear from head to toe. For safety reasons, be sure scarves aren't trailing or they can get caught under the sled and tighten around a child's neck.
When little cheeks and noses are sufficiently red, the obvious next step is to enjoy a leisurely cup of hot cocoa indoors. You can give the kids cinnamon, whip cream, chocolate shavings and mini-marshmallows and let them whip up delicious drinks for the whole family. Make your own chocolate shavings by running a peeler along the side of a chocolate bar. Nutmeg or a few drops of vanilla extract also make great flavoring for hot drinks.
Make a home movie
For a fun mid-morning activity, have the kids gather funky clothing and accessories and film a home-made movie. They can incorporate both indoor and outdoor scenes to give the show more interest. With younger kids, you'll have to be on hand to supervise; older kids can write and direct their own scenes.
Sell tickets to the show
To take it up a notch, have computer-savvy kids make up a playbill, posters and tickets and consider inviting neighbors and nearby friends to watch the show. Let the kids practice their scenes until they feel ready to give the grand performance. Grab the video camera, and start filming what may go down in history as the best home movie ever made. If not that, it'll at least be something they can cuddle up and watch later in the evening as they roast marshmallows in the fireplace.
Create a photo book
Throughout the day, take pictures of all the different activities. Plan to use an hour or two of free time to load pix onto the computer and let the kids create a photo book of their snowy vacation. Outdoor photos usually come out better than indoors ones, so be sure to take lots of pix while the kids are out romping in the snow.
Before mealtime, create a menu and let the kids play restaurant. All it takes is a few props to turn a simple lunch into a fun activity. Print up some decorative menus, lay out colorable placemats and crayons, and let the fun begin. While you're at the computer, print up a few jobs such as setting the table, clearing, washing dishes and wiping down counters and tables. Let each kid pick a chore out of a jar so the work is shared by all. If you've got fine writing skills, you can sweeten the deal by writing a chore on the tiny paper strips of Hershey kisses, and then letting each child choose one.
Snowflakes under the microscope
For the afternoon, there are a few snow experiments the kids can do to have some good, clean educational fun. Take a black piece of paper and put it outside, safe from snow, but where it'll get nice and cold. Then stick the paper under falling snow to let it catch a few snowflakes. Examine flakes under a microscope and have the kids draw what they see.
Super cool frozen bubbles
You can also create some super cool frozen bubbles using simple ingredients and a bubble wand. Mix one-half cup soap powder, one-half cup sugar and three cups hot water in a bowl. Take bubble solution and wand outside. Have your child blow a bubble and catch it on the wand. Let it sit in the cold air until it freezes into your very own crystal ball.
Using these snow day activities along with some of your own ingenious ideas can turn a snow nightmare into a heavenly reprieve. And if a snow day doesn't come along soon enough for you, well, you're probably not praying hard enough.
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by Sarah F. Berkowitz, Mother Nature Network