December 30, 2019

Theme days and nights are among winter activities that can entertain kids on cold, gloomy days.


When children get antsy during holiday school break or later in winter, when all the fun of December holidays are over, there are many creative ways to keep them busy — even without turning to screen time. With four children, I have built a full arsenal of ways to keep children entertained during those potentially dreary winter days. Here are some great ideas that I’ve tried that worked to keep my kids entertained.

1. Hibernate.

My kids’ kindergarten has Hibernation Day and it’s hugely popular. We’ve done the same thing at home. Check out a few picture books on hibernation from the library ahead of time, drape a table or two chairs back-to-back with blankets, put the kids in their PJs and hibernate! Bring a flashlight, books and a snack into your cave and learn all about hibernation. Chances are, your children will play in their cave for the rest of the day.

2. Hold baking camp.

Both my son and daughter love to help me bake. Winter is a perfect time to let them choose recipes from their favorite cookbooks (we have a few kids’ cookbooks at home) and hold baking camp, teaching them a different recipe each day of the week. I have gotten them to try lots of different new foods simply by allowing them to help make them!

3. Visit the zoo.

Is there a zoo in your town (or a botanical garden or nature center)? Winter is one of our favorite times to visit our city zoo. Since we’re practically the only visitors there, we pretend like we own the place — and while some animals aren’t on exhibit, the ones that are (tigers, meerkats, lynxes, etc.) are far more active than they are during in the summer months. We also have the zoo playground, the aquarium and the carousel all to ourselves.

4. Make toilet paper roll puppets.

The DLTK website has tons of craft ideas and worksheets for young children, including a goldmine of toilet paper roll puppets, including animals, historical figures, and fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters. My kids have made dozens of these puppets and they play with them for months. Simply choose a template and print it out, let your child color it, cut it out and glue it around a toilet paper roll. Instant puppet!

5. Arrange a toy trade with a friend.

The magic of new Christmas toys starts to wear off quickly, unfortunately. One fun way to spice things up is to arrange a toy trade with a friend or neighbor. Let your child help put together a basket of toys he or she no longer wants and trade them in for a friend’s basket.

6. Go on a winter hike.

We love winter hikes, and have been taking our kids on them since they could walk. Choose an easy 1- or 2-mile wooded trail and you’ll see all sorts of things that are hidden during the warm-weather months. We’ve spotted owls, deer, coyote poop, animal tracks, winter berries and other small, furry creatures on our winter walks, and since we’re all walking, we stay toasty in our coats, hats and mittens, even on 17-degree days.

7. Have a “Summer in January” day.

Plan a picnic and eat it on a blanket indoors. Wear sunglasses. Watch a summer-themed movie. Read beach books. Let your kids get in the tub in their swimsuits and play with pool toys. They’ll love the novelty.

8. Watch “Little House on the Prairie” and plan a Pioneer Night.

My kids and I have watched “Little House on the Prairie” together, and it definitely withstands the test of time. It’s also a great jumping-off point to talk about pioneers and how they lived. Winter is a perfect time to have a Pioneer Night. Turn off the lights and electronic equipment, build a cozy fire, use flashlight lanterns and talk about what pioneer families would have done to stay entertained after dark. Pioneer Nights are a great time to read books and play games together — my kids have LOVED Pioneer Nights and begged for more!

9. Reserve a stack of winter-themed books at the library.

I have built a library at home of winter books, and I’m always looking for new ones at the library. Here are some of my favorites: “The Mitten” by Jan Brett (look up great crafting ideas to go with this book, like these Mitten masks), “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Keats, “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs, “Gingerbread Friends” by Jan Brett, “Frederick” by Leo Lionni, “First Snow” by Emily McCully and “Snow” by Uri Shulevitz.

10. Peruse Pinterest for winter crafting inspiration.

When it comes to keeping kids occupied, thank God for Pinterest! A quick search of winter crafting ideas led me to kids’ snow painthow to make a paper snowflake, popcorn snowmen, homemade snow Play-Doh and a cool indoor melting-snowman experiment. Great inspiration.

 Now your children have no reason whatsoever to be bored this winter. What are you all waiting for? Get busy!


This post was written by Lindsay Ferrier, who has has authored the award-winning parenting blog Suburban Turmoil since 2005. An avowed bookworm, she’s also blogged about how to turn your child into an avid reader.