With gray skies, frigid temperatures, and only a few holidays to break up the monotony, the months between January and March can put a damper on you and your kids' spirit. If you're feeling the winter blues, try a few of these fun activities to add some adventure to your chilly days.
1. Indoor Obstacle Course
Everyone knows that kids have boundless energy, and when they're stuck inside during the cold winter months, that energy gets bottled up and can erupt in unpleasant ways! Let your kids burn off some of that excess energy by helping them create their own indoor obstacle course.
Chairs, pillows, blankets, blocks, balls, buckets, or pretty much any household item can be used in your course. Have children climb over furniture, crawl under chairs, jump over objects on the floor, and throw small items into boxes. Create certain parts of the course where they'll have to stop and do jumping jacks, or do a forward roll.
Once your course has been created and specific motions or activities have been agreed upon and assigned to different areas, take turns "running" the course. Use a stopwatch to time each runner and see who can do it the fastest, or just encourage each child to try to beat their personal best time.
When it's time to clean up, set the timer for 2-5 minutes and see if you can all work together to beat the clock!
2. Photo Walk
Winter may feel like a drab time of year in nature, but you may be surprised at the beauty you can find if you pay close attention. Get everyone bundled up, grab your camera (or phone), and take a walk around the neighborhood. Let children take turns "discovering" picturesque things as you walk, and let them snap some photos of what they find.
Be on the lookout for brightly colored birds, like cardinals and blue jays, or interesting leaves and bark patterns. Evergreens and bright red holly berries are another source of color; leafless trees can also be beautiful in their starkness and when they're covered in snow.
Encourage your children to have fun with it – photos are free, so let them snap away at whatever piques their interest.
3. Mysteries at the Museum
Pittsburgh is a treasure trove of museums, and in the wintertime kids will love getting a chance to explore and learn in the warmth of the great indoors.
The Carnegie Science Center has four floors of exhibits, including a ropes course, a giant cinema, and a planetarium. Children can also explore a miniature railroad exhibit, find out what it's like to be an astronaut, and learn all about robots in "roboworld."
If you have a budding artist or comic book enthusiast in the family, a visit to the ToonSeum might be a great way to spend an afternoon. The museum has an average of about 100 pieces of cartoon and comic art on display at any given time.
The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is another great wintertime destination for families. An art studio, live theater, and indoor water play area promise hours of fun for little ones.
4. Grocery Store Tour
Have you ever looked into the freezers of your local grocery store and wondered what was back there? Chances are good that your kids have wondered the same thing, and your whole family might enjoy a tour of your local grocery store.
Believe it or not, many grocery stores are happy to offer tours to small groups. Gather a few friends and schedule a tour to find out what it's like back in those huge freezers, see where the big trucks deliver their shipments, and find out how it all gets on the shelves. Young children are especially fascinated with how things work, and will be thrilled to get the inside scoop.
5. Ice Art
Sometimes the cold weather outside is just what you need to create – and display – some one-of-a-kind winter artwork.
Gather a few small items – they can be items from nature like holly berries, leaves, and sticks, or even just small objects from around your house, like toys, paper clips, or even food – and find a container that can be filled with water. A Bundt pan will create a unique wreath shape, or you can use an empty tin can or plastic cup, or even a large rectangular pan. Use your imagination!
Fill the container with water, and then add in your objects. Set it outside to freeze overnight, then when it's solid, bring it inside and run the outside of the pan under warm water to release it. Once you have your ice art free from its container, take it back outside and put it on display. You can hang your ice wreath in a tree or line your walkway with little ice art sculptures. (Hint: For clearer sculptures, fill the containers with boiling water. Use caution when doing this with children and be sure to select heatproof containers.)
If the weather isn't cooperating, just use your freezer and wait until it's cold enough to put the items outside for display.
There's no need to wish for the warm days of summer when winter has so many delightful wonders of its own!