Kids love winter. Here are some ideas and tips you can use without moderation to add to their fun and make it through to spring.
By Josée Bournival
1. Snow angels
The great thing about snow angels is that you can make them in all types of snow, powdery as well as sticky. Your child simply lies down on his back in the snow and waves his arms and legs back and forth to form an angel’s wings and dress. If you join in the fun, you can create a whole family of angels! Give your child a hand to get up so that he doesn’t ruin his angel. Snow angels can even be decorated like snowmen using buttons, pinecones or stones.
Snow not sticky enough to build a snowman? No problem! You can suggest making miniature snowmen instead, using Play-Doh, or even better, by making your own “snow dough”! Simply mix 750 ml (3 cups) of baking powder and 125 ml (½ cup) of white hair conditioner, and voilà! For even more fun, put the snow dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes before giving it to your child. This “snow” will last several days in a sealed bag (e.g. Ziploc).
3. Hot chocolate
The ultimate treat after coming in from the cold! It’s so easy to make your own homemade version: simply mix some warm milk with a bit of cocoa and sugar, and there you go. You can add cinnamon, vanilla or some Cayenne pepper for extra flavour. If you use a commercial brand of chocolate powder, mix it with warm milk instead of water. To make the treat more festive, top with whipped cream, ice cream, white chocolate shavings or mini marshmallows.
While you may find shovelling a tedious chore, your little one will love to help out. To start with, give him a kid-sized shovel. If the snow is heavy, he can just push it as though he were sweeping. You can then join in by throwing it further away. If your child doesn’t want to shovel alongside you, you can give him sand buckets and ask him to fill them with snow to make a castle somewhere nearby. What he uses to build his castle will be that much less for you to shovel!
In very cold temperatures, blood doesn’t circulate as well and has a harder time reaching extremities (cheeks, ears, chin, nose, hands and feet). In these situations, the skin can effectively freeze: it turns red, stings and in severe cases, eventually loses its colour. To treat frostbite, you need to get indoors, take off all your child’s wet clothing and gently warm up the frozen parts with your hands, or put them under your armpits or in lukewarm water. It’s very important not to rub the frostbitten parts and not to apply snow or any greasy substance. You should also refrain from dipping any frostbitten extremity in very hot or very cold water. For more information, visit:
6. Family time
Winter is truly a season to be enjoyed as a family. Take pictures of the snowmen you make together in the yard or at the park, of adventures at the local ice rink and of afternoons spent sledding. Film a short video with your smartphone and ask your child to narrate with the date and reason for the video. With positive images of the snowy season, your child will grow up liking winter. Thick hats and runny noses are perhaps less appealing than the healthy sun-kissed faces of summer, but photos make great memories to remind your child of all the fun he had doing these activities with you.
Kids can’t resist sliding down a snowy hill. Especially if you do it with them! The best thing about this activity is that you can do it no matter how old your child is: a very young child can be placed between your legs. A small slope is all you need to have fun. Sledding is also a great way to stay warm as you need to climb back up to the top every time!
8. Getting dressed
To survive the whole getting-your-child-dressed-for-the-cold ritual, why not turn it into a game? You can play at “who finishes first” or stick a sign in the entrance with drawings showing the order in which to put on hats, mittens, coats and boots. This reassures the child and helps him to become more independent. Setting aside more time in the mornings for dressing can also reduce stress for the entire family. That way, there’s no need to scream to hurry up. Using a little hourglass can also help your toddler see how much time he has to get ready.
Moving around outside promotes appetite, sleep, concentration and learning.
Children love building snow structures to play or hide in. If you make any kind of closed-off, igloo-type construction, however, you need to supervise your child at all times to ensure he stays safe. If an igloo collapses, the weight of the falling snow can suffocate a child. It’s also important to build any fort or igloo far away from the road and anywhere else the snowplough goes. To solidify the construction, you can spray it with a little water once you’re done. As the water freezes, it will glue everything in place. You can also keep your empty milk or juice containers to fill with water and then freeze. When you remove the packaging, you’ll have blocks of ice that will sparkle in the sun and make beautiful transparent “bricks” for the snowy walls.
Here are three ideas to add some spice to winter and motivate your child to set foot outside:
- Blow bubbles outside just like in the summer! With the cold air, the bubbles stay closer to the ground and freeze. Your little one can have fun popping them.
- Hold a precious stone treasure hunt. Mix food colouring with water in an ice-cube tray to make your own “precious stones”. Once they’re frozen, hide them outside and hold your own winter treasure hunt.
- Take the dolls and stuffed animals for a walk. Does your toddler refuse to go out and leave a favourite doll or stuffed animal behind? Suggest dressing them up warmly and bringing them along for a sleigh ride!
Winter colds are a nightmare for children who can’t blow their own noses. Rinsing the nose with salt water and using a baby nasal aspirator can help. Around age 2 ½, toddlers can start learning how to blow their noses. Here are some games to help your child understand how to blow air from his nose:
Have him blow into a straw while blocking the other end with your finger. This will force him to let the air out from his nose.
Place him in front of a mirror holding a feather under his nose and ask him to blow with his nose to make his moustache move.
Place a little cotton ball on a table and ask him to blow through his nose to make it move to the other end of the table.
With a bit of practice, he’ll get there and will simply have to repeat the action more forcefully to blow his nose like a big kid!
It’s a special moment when you read to your child, nice and snug on the sofa, as the snow falls gently outside. To make the activity even more magical, why not go read outdoors? Grab a warm blanket and some hot chocolate and choose a story. Any favourite book or magazine will do, but one with a winter or snowy theme is ideal.
13. Lonely mittens
Who hasn’t had a child come in from the cold with one mitten missing, two mittens of different colours, or even two left-handed ones? Not losing their mittens is one of life’s great challenges for young children. Buying several pairs of identical mittens would be the ideal solution, but it’s not the most cost-friendly. A better idea is to take a long woollen cord and sew each end of it to each mitten. Insert the cord through the sleeves of your child’s coat so that the mittens hang slightly from each sleeve. You can also teach your child to always put his mittens away in the same spot, for example in his hat, which he then stuffs into the sleeve of his coat!
14. Night-time escapades
During winter, it’s already dark come suppertime. Walking the streets after dark is seen as a big-kid privilege, so your child will feel all grown up if you take him out. Take a flashlight and explore the local streets with him. Kids love to see their neighbourhood in different lighting, and since there are always a few neighbours who keep their Christmas lights up until the spring, there’s sure to be a little extra magic along your walk.
15. Window art
To add some colour to your windows, ask your child if he wants to make a stained-glass window. He can cut or rip different-coloured tissue paper into various shapes and then stick the pieces onto wax paper or parchment paper using a blend of white glue and water applied with a paintbrush. Next, let everything dry completely on a piece of plastic film. Once dry, the “stained glass” should be rigid enough to place up against your window. Younger children can draw directly on the parchment paper with wax crayons or markers.
16. Large-scale painting
Are you getting tired of seeing white everywhere you look? Add some colour to winter with this homemade paint.
You’ll need : water, Jell-O powder, a container (vaporizer or water bottle)
Mix the Jell-O powder with some water. There are no exact ratios to follow. Just note that if your child wants to create very detailed drawings, you shouldn’t add too much water. The mixture will be thicker that way and have a more syrupy texture. Also, the less water you add, the more vibrant the final colour will be. Unlike food colourings that stain, Jell-O comes out easily in the wash. Once the powder has completely dissolved, place the mixture in a vaporizer or water bottle. Your child can then use it to “dress” a snowman or to paint something in the snow.
17. Coughing fits
Coughing isn’t a sickness in itself, but rather a means for the body to rid itself of secretions that accumulate in the respiratory tract. Since coughing can make it hard for toddlers to sleep and irritates their throats, here are some tips on how to relieve it. You can raise your child’s head in bed by placing a pillow under his bottom sheet or mattress. In this position, the secretions will accumulate less in his throat. Drinking plenty of water is also recommended, since this helps to thin out the mucus. If your child is over a year old, you can also give him some honey before bed. If coughing makes your child vomit, don’t worry: it’s not dangerous. It’s simply a side effect of the effort it takes him to cough. You should, however, consult a doctor if the cough persists for over a week.
18. Paper garland
Grandparents, aunts, family friends, teachers and educators: alongside you, other adults participate in ensuring your child’s well-being. On the Naître et grandir website, you’ll find a template to make your own paper garland featuring the most important people in your child’s life. He’ll love to put it up above his bed or to decorate another wall.
To make sure winter fun stays fun, here are a few useful safety reminders:
Children under the age of five should never slide alone on a sled.
A bike helmet does not protect as well as a ski or hockey helmet. Bike helmets haven’t been tested in temperatures below -10 °C. Moreover, they must be replaced after every impact.
It’s better to sit or kneel on a sled. Lying down increases the risk of head and back injury.
Stuck inside during a blizzard? Enjoy the moment by doing something special! Here are a few ideas to pass the time:
- Write a short story, and then disguise your children as the characters so you can take some pictures of them to illustrate your book. Priceless memories!
- Make a collective work of art. Take out crayons, paintbrushes, glue and some old magazines. Cover the table with an old tablecloth and place a large sheet of paper on top. The whole family can join in by adding drawings, gluing pictures, and so on.
- Play reverse hide-and-seek. Also known as “sardines”, this is a great game to play when there’s a group. One person goes to hide while the others count to 20. You can then pair up to look for the hidden person. Once you find them, instead of saying anything, stay quiet and hide with them! You soon end up all squeezing into a tiny hiding place and trying not to laugh so you don’t get found! The last person to find the group becomes the next one to hide. Little ones love this game!
It’s better to avoid baby carriers that go on your back in the winter because babies are less protected from the wind and cold. Front carriers are best.
More and more parents are opting for second-hand items to dress their children or equip them for sports. Classified ad sites, thrift shops, and parents’ exchange groups on Facebook can help you buy clothes at low cost that are often still in very good condition. It can also create an opportunity to talk about the environment with your child! Don’t forget about the library and toy library to borrow books and toys.
To enjoy winter, kids need to dress warmly. Here are some tips on how to make sure of this:
- Cover up your child’s ears, hands and feet. Children lose almost half their heat through their extremities.
- Follow the onion model by dressing your child in several layers. This is more effective than just putting on one thick sweater. You also need to make sure your child’s clothing and boots are big enough, as the air between the layers acts as insulation.
- Choose the right fabrics. Synthetic fibres (e.g. nylon) keep in the heat better. Cotton takes the longest to dry and your child may get cold if his clothes are damp from the snow or from sweating. Wool, on the other hand, is a good insulator; it’s lightweight and locks in heat.
Children love to be surprised and amazed. The tiniest little something can add “wow!” to a winter day:
Secretly prepare a thermos filled with hot chocolate before going outside to play with your child. Then surprise him by suggesting snack-time in the snow!
Draw a heart or a happy face in the frost that forms on his bedroom window.
When it snows, lay a black item of clothing on the ground outside and observe the snowflakes that fall onto it. Look closely: each one is unique!
Take advantage of power outages to have a candlelit supper or story-time.
Put your child’s bathrobe or socks in the dryer while he takes his bath. It will warm him up when he gets out of the tub.
Feel like kissing some freezing metal? Probably not! But if ever your child sticks his tongue on the pole at the park or on the balcony railing, here’s how to help him get unstuck. It’s actually not the skin that sticks to the metal. It’s the saliva that freezes between the metal and the tongue that forms the ice that sticks the two together. Never try to pull the child off, or you might injure his mouth. Instead pour some lukewarm water on the tongue to unstick it. No lukewarm water on hand? Try melting some snow in your hands. The water temperature will make the frozen saliva melt and let your child kiss you instead to thank you!
Like all imaginary creatures, the Abominable Snowman fascinates children. Why not suggest that your toddler turns himself into a snow monster with the following craft:
You’ll need : a cardboard box, a marker, scissors and two pieces of string.
Take your child’s winter boots. Place them on the cardboard and draw a huge monster-size footprint around each boot.
Make a mark on the footprints on either side of each boot.
Cut the footprints out and pierce holes with the tips of the scissors where you made the marks.
Place a piece of string under the first cardboard footprint and thread it through the hole on the other side.
Tie the string over the boot.
Repeat with the other footprint and there you go: your child is ready to make monster footprints in the snow!
Zambonis, hockey games and ice rinks: in Quebec, winter is most fun on skates! You’ll find outdoor rinks in several parks. If the weather isn’t cooperating, you can also skate at the local arena. Keep an eye out for free skating times to know when you can go. If you know how to skate, your child can learn with you while holding onto a chair, for example. And if you feel like it (and have the space for it), why not build your own ice rink in your yard or the alley by your house?
Your child will like winter more if you enjoy it as well.
To make the most of the cold season, you need to be active outside.
Building snowmen, skating, sliding and making forts: there are tons of things to do to keep kids happy!
Source : magazine Naître et grandir, janvier-février 2017
Rédaction : Josée Bournival
Photos (in order): Marie-Ève Nault, iStock.com/Imgorthand, iStock.com/Visualcommunications, iStock.com/Imgorthand, Shutterstock/Andrew Mayovsky, Maxim Morin (peinture sur neige et garçon en patins) et iStock.com/Vnosokin