Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
We found ourselves running out of things to do with the kidlets at home on cold Sunday afternoons or chilly evenings when they’re not in sports, after school programs or art classes, so we need to pull out all the stops and make a huge list of things to keep them busy.
Without further ado, here’s our master list of cold-weather activities to keep the kiddos busy this winter:
1. Bake some cookies.
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart—cookies from a mix will do. It’ll warm you all up. Get creative with mix-ins and toppings to add to the fun. Check out these recipe ideas for cooking with kiddos.
2. Chart the weather.
Become amateur meteorologists by making a graph showing each day’s high and low temperatures. Write in on each day what you ended up doing outside or inside and you can look back at it after the winter is over.
3. Go sledding in the park.
It’s a no-brainer on a snowy day. Finish up with hot cocoa, of course!
4. Make paper snowflakes.
Or make and decorate paper airplanes or do some awesome origami. Plus, see more inspirational winter crafts here.
5. Make pizzas.
Ready-made pizza crusts are easily available and always handy to have around. Toppings can include loads of veggies, pineapple, sausage, and cheese. Lots of fun, and dinner’s ready when you’re done.
6. Build a fort.
A classic activity that’s always fun. Use sheets or boxes to build a fort in your living room or pitch a kid’s tent or two-person camping tent. Deck it out with pillows, rugs, and even have snacktime inside.
7. Bring the snowmen indoors.
Bring some snow inside and make (real!) mini snowmen at the table (on a plate or platter). You can spray the snow with coloured water. Too messy? Try these cornstarch snowmen from Modern Parents, Messy Kids.
8. Play engineer.
Make some seriously cool marshmallow structures with just marshmallows and toothpicks. This is the kind of activity that makes mom feel like a genius: screen-free, cheap, engaging, and creative. And it’s great for kids of different ages: Aubrey at The Mother Huddle found this to be a hit with kids ages 3 to 10!
9. Have an indoor beach party.
When it’s cold outside, turn up the heat inside. Put on shorts, lounge around on towels, whip up some smoothies with umbrellas and other summery food, and maybe put the kids in the tub for some water play.
10. Watch a movie.
Cuddle up on the sofa and watch something just for the kids: numb their brains for an hour…it won’t hurt you or them.
The kids are likely happy with hot chocolate alone, but to make it a super-special activity, plan a hot cocoa bar. Stock up on all your favourite toppings: marshmallows (in different flavours), sprinkles, whipped cream, coconut, white-chocolate shavings, mini chocolate chips, toasted nuts, cinnamon, caramel, Pirouette cookies, wafer cookies for crumbling or dipping…the sky’s the limit!
Or really go nuts and make these loaded hot-chocolate stirring spoons from Shae at Hello Homebody.
12. Make a Lego marble maze.
Most of use have more Lego lying around than we know what to do with. Here’s a new (to us, at least) twist: DIY marble maze! See Lego maze-making tips from Detroit Mommies.
13. Build an obstacle course.
Use cushions, blankets, coffee tables, chairs—whatever you have. Break out the streamers, too: see this idea in action from Teach Preschool.
14. Try potato stamping.
These potato-stamped penguins from the Babyccino Kid Blog are so cute! You will probably have the materials handy. Why not create your own cards for after-Christmas thank-you notes or mid-winter cheer packages?
15. Make a pinecone bird feeder.
These are so inexpensive and simple to do. And they’ll keep kids busy for a good couple of hours, from the sourcing of the pinecones to the messy rolling in birdseed, to the hanging outdoors. See instructions and a shopping list from The Outdoor Parent.
16. Make sun catchers or “stained glass”.
What are sun catchers and how to make them? The Artful Parent has no fewer than 50 sun-catcher crafts for kids to make. We are partial to the tissue-paper stained glass for little kids and the melted-bead sun catchers for older kids. But take your pick!
17. Make ice cream using snow.
Remember those old Snoopy Sno-Cone machines? (You can still buy them, BTW.) This recipe for DIY snow ice-cream is the same idea. Just be sure to find fresh snow. No snow? You can use crushed ice, too.
18. Bring the spa to you.
Plan a spa session, complete with massage hydrant, relaxing music, and chill time. Soak your feet, moisturize, trim and paint your nails, try a different hairstyle and make healthy smoothies.
19. Give back.
Collect old winter coats, hats, mitts, scarves and boots from family members and neighbours and donate them to a local charity. Or find other ways to volunteer or give back.
20. Have a dance party.
Dress up in your rock-star best, put on some ABBA, Sly and the Family Stone, or find a great mix on Spotify and have everyone shake what their mama gave them.
21. Make your own play-dough.
Use this excellent play-dough recipe from (add glitter for extra pizzazz) or gingerbread scented (!) play-dough. You don’t need lots of special play-dough tools to do something different: use kitchen tools or play-toolbox tools. See some fun play-dough activity ideas from The Imagination Tree.
22. Have a snowball fight.
Give the kids permission to get rowdy for a while. Bonus points: sooth cold cheeks and bruised egos with a hot cocoa extravaganza!
23. Make shoebox houses.
How cool are these shoebox houses from the Gold Jellybean? They double as toy storage. If you’ve got boxes of varying sizes on hand, you could get ambitious and create entire cities or, with a big box, a collapsible cardboard house. Or make a cardboard-tube castle with old paper-towel tubes.
24. Practice your ball skills.
Head to an open park, or your driveway to do baseball batting practice, shoot hoops, or do soccer drills inside.
25. Make a scarf.
No, we don’t mean you should learn to knit and then teach the kids! This no-knit scarf is easy enough for a child or someone with no crafting ability to make. A homemade gift.
26. Make shadows.
Turn off the TV and all the lights and make shadows on the walls with your hands using these hand-shadow tips from Artists Helping Children. Or cut out DIY shadow puppets like these from Where Imagination Grows.
27. Reorganize your living room.
Move everything around, with the help of the kids. It’s fun, exciting and you can always go back. (Although you may very well decide to leave it this way!)
28. Create a homework station.
Add some excitement to schoolwork by getting kids to help plan their own DIY homework area. Ask for their input and have them help decorate it, make labels, etc.
29. Make a movie.
Is there anything more fun for kids that watching themselves? Come up with a simple plot, get some props and costumes together, and write a loose screenplay. Older kids can help edit, too. Then screen it for everyone.
30. Build a block or Lego house.
Take out the building blocks or Legos and build a house for mini-figures, dolls, or animal figurines.
31. Make snow angels.
Be sure to get a photo from above!
32. Do some finger painting.
Make a frame-worthy piece of art with these A to Z handprint animals from Red Ted Art.
33. Make a life-size cardboard boat.
We are amazed at what can be done with cardboard! This cardboard boat from Hutch Studio is a serious project (and we’d skip the sail—that’s ambitious!), but if you’ve got an afternoon to kill, and some space to store this sure-to-be-used full-size boat, this is one kids will remember for years to come.
34. Build a snow fort or pillow fort together.
You’ve got to do this at least once this winter! Check out some structural tips for snow forts and igloos.
35. Make a race track.
For little toy car-lovers, try a masking tape race track. You can add cardboard ramps and paper-towel tube tunnels.
36. Do karaoke.
37. Take a walk outside.
Mother Nature is amazing. Appreciate where you live by bundling up and taking a walk in the snow.
38. Play board games and/or card games.
Do some research into age-appropriate games (Board Game Geek is great) and invest in a new one—it’ll be worth it for rainy or cold days and trips to the cottage for years to come. Don’t have a game on hand? Try a DIY game like the guessing game Boticelli.
39. Send the kids on a scavenger hunt around the house.
These are so much fun! Here are 10 original scavenger hunt ideas from Allison at No Time for Flashcards.
40. Make friendship bracelets.
Teach kids the important art of embroidery-floss bracelet-making. If you’ve forgotten how, here are some refresher tutorials. Or make bracelets with different-coloured beads. (For older kids, try these crave-worthy Morse Code bracelets from Honestly WTF.)
41. Make mix tapes.
Okay, not really tapes, but create playlists for someone as a gift or for special occasions. For example, a New Year’s Eve party mix, a car-trip mix. Introduce kids to new songs or covers of classic children’s tunes, or have them add their favourites.
42. Exercise together.
Pull out some yoga tapes and have kids do it with you (with supervision, of course) or do “interval training” with jumping jacks, moutain climbers, and squats. Skate down the all in your socks. Or, if all else fails… pillow fight!
This article was first published in November 2012, updated in March 2020.