Sometimes, it just works:
- The stars are aligned
- The kids are healthy
- The baby’s not napping/nursing
- The boots, gloves, and snow pants are ready
- The weather’s not too cold or windy
- There’s nothing on the stove, and you can go outside with your kids to enjoy the snow, ice, and fresh air of winter.
Other times, though, it’s not one of those days.
Instead of feeling guilty, I’ve learned some simple tricks to bring the outdoors in, which inspire lots of creativity and exploration.
1. Bring something small inside
One of our favorite things to do is to bring a bucket of snow inside. Use plastic or a light metal rather than glass, scoop up snow until it’s mostly full, and bring it inside.
We put down towels and then work in bowls and trays on the floor – scooping, creating, molding, smushing….
2. Pull out some tools
When interest starts to lull, introduce new tools. Play-doh tools, magnifying glasses, various shaped cups, straws, things to hide…
3. Follow the rabbit trails
Last year, we used Playmobil and created a winter scene. Another time, they wanted to store snow in the freezer and see how it changed over time. Yet another time we set up different amounts of snow to see how long it took until they melted. Follow their leads… if they have ideas, and it’s convenient, go with it. Add suggestions, but don’t take over or dictate how they interact with the snow.
One day, we took salt and food coloring, shook it in a closed container, and then melted ice in various patterns.
Another day, we found icicles and painted them with washable tempera paint. It was really fun to watch the layers as the ice melted and flowed into the pans.
4. Keep your supplies prepped
If you have a Ziplock bag or bucket that all the snow toys goes into, and they get pulled out for that purpose & returned, it doesn’t create extra chaos or demand extra setup energy.
This winter, now that the kids are older, we’ve been keeping our little water table outside. It fills up with rain, freezes over, and then I can bring it in to explore whenever the time is right. It’s been amazing, because the weather does all the prep for me.
We’ve even been hammering (with safety glasses and supervision) the ice to explore how it breaks, the crystal patterns or lines.
5. Keep cleanup easy
The biggest thing that keeps me from play ideas is the mess they make. Putting towels down, working over trays or in a confined space, and limiting movement make it really easy.
You don’t want to be exhausted when they’re done. This is the lazy way, remember?!?
Your turn – how do your kids like to bring the outdoors in?