By Tiffany Doerr Guerzon
If the weather is too frightful to play outside, or if your kids are longing for snow, try one of these indoor winter activities. Play with pretend snow, grow crystals, jazz up plain old play dough, paint like Jack Frost or create three-dimensional painted snow people to liven up a dreary winter afternoon.
1. Pretend Snow: Pour 1 cup baking soda into a large bowl. Add shaving cream, a squirt at a time, mixing after each addition with a spoon. When the “snow” starts to form a ball, continue mixing and kneading the mixture with your hands. Once the “snow” is the consistency you like, stop adding shaving cream. If it gets too wet, simply add more baking soda. This pretend snow molds well and is lots of fun for kids to dig into and create their own snowballs, snow people or mountains. Refrigerate the snow before play for a “cool” sensory experience
2. Vanilla Scented “Cookie” Playdough: Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the ingredients of the Cooked Playdough Recipe (below) and then cook, cool and knead as directed. Give kids this delicious smelling dough along with a rolling pin and cookie cutters to create pretend cookies.
3. Scented Sparkle Playdough: Add three drops lavender or peppermint essential oil, plus a few drops food colouring to the ingredients in the Cooked Playdough Recipe and then cook and cool as directed. Place the dough on a cutting board or mat and sprinkle with glitter. Let the kids knead in the glitter, then play! Experiment with fine and chunky glitter in a variety of colours.
4. Coffee Filter Snowflakes: Flatten a white coffee filter into a circle. Fold the filter in half, then into quarters, then eighths. It should look like a pie slice. Cut shapes along the edges of the wedge, then open and smooth out for the perfect snowflake. The great thing about this project is kids can cut the folded coffee filter on any side and it will still open into a single, beautiful snowflake.
5. Overnight crystals: Gather a few small, clear glass jars. Clear glass candle votives, mason jars or even wine glasses work well.
The recipe for these crystals is simple: equal parts Epsom salt and hot water. For a quart-sized Mason jar, use 1 cup salts/1 cup water. For a pint-sized Mason jar, use ½ cup salts/ ½ cup hot water, and for a small votive or wine glass, ¼ cup salts/ ¼ cup hot water. You can adjust amounts according to the jars you use, just be sure to measure the amount of Epsom salts you use so that you can add an equal amount of water.
Pour the measured Epsom salt into the bottom of your jar. Next pour hot water over the salt. Use the hottest water you can get from your tap. Stir this mixture for two minutes. You can add a drop of liquid food colouring to the hot water to tint the crystals before mixing the water into the salts if you like. It’s best to make a few batches, just in case one doesn’t grow. Next, put your jars in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the freezer and place in the refrigerator and allow to grow overnight. In the morning, gently pour off any excess liquid from the jars and enjoy your crystals!
6. Jack Frost Paintings: Mix equal parts Epsom salt and warm water. Give kids paintbrushes of various widths and they can dip the brushes into the Epsom salt solution and paint snowflakes or other designs onto dark-coloured construction paper. Dark blue and black-coloured paper work best. As the water evaporates from the paper, beautiful crystals are left behind.
7. Puffy Paint Snow People: This fun, inexpensive puffy paint spreads like frosting and dries into beautiful 3-D paintings. To make puffy paint, mix equal parts white shaving cream and white liquid glue. This paint can be hard to wash out of bowls, so mix this in either a disposable container or in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag.
If you mix up the paint in a container, give kids wooden craft sticks or disposable, plastic knives for “painting.” Paintbrushes don’t work well. If you use a plastic bag, mix ingredients by kneading the sealed bag with your hands until well combined. Squeeze the paint into one corner of the bag, and then snip off the corner with scissors. Kids can “paint” by squeezing out the puffy paint from the bag as they would a pastry bag. It is difficult to make precise lines and shapes with this paint. The best kinds of pictures to create with puffy paint are ice cream cones, snow people, cupcakes, etc. You can colour the paint by adding a few drops of liquid watercolour paint, or use food colouring. Or, add texture to the paint by drawing lines with disposable forks before it dries. For added bling, give the masterpiece a sprinkling of glitter before it dries. Allow to dry 12-24 hours, more if the paint is extra thick.
Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer and the mother of three children. Read more of her writing at www.TDGuerzon.com
Cooked Playdough Recipe:
1 cup flour
½ cup salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball. Remove the dough from the pan to a plate or cutting board and allow to cool completely. When cool, knead the dough with your hands until smooth. Store in a sealed container or bag in the refrigerator.