If you are lucky enough to live where there's snow, making snowmen and snow angels, and going sledding are requisite activities for all families this winter. But, what else can you do to make this season not only a time of fun, but also a time of learning together?
Have a "Live like a Pioneer" night
Because it gets dark so early, winter is the perfect time to talk about what it was like to live in the olden days without electricity and modern comforts. Turn all of the lights out and use candles (wax or battery operated). Serve a simple dinner of something the pioneers may have eaten (warm stew and biscuits perhaps), then cuddle up under a blanket and read books (or better yet, prepare interesting facts about your own ancestors to discuss) by candlelight.
Make an indoor melting snowman
Mix one part water and two parts cornstarch to make a polymer that your family can shape into balls to form a little snowman. Place the snowman on a plate and add miniature details, such as googly eyes, a shiny brad for a nose, and tiny sticks for arms. Then, sit back and watch as the lack of pressure being applied to the polymer causes it to "melt" flat all over the plate. The best part is you can simply roll it back into balls and make a snowman all over again.
Teach your kids about how every snowflake is unique by placing sheets of black construction paper on a metal baking sheet and setting it outside on the porch for an hour or two so it can get cold. Then, go outside and catch the snowflakes on the black paper, which provides a great backdrop to see the intricate details of each snowflake. The snowflakes will still melt fairly quickly, but the cold baking sheet allows you a few more seconds to study these tiny works of art.
Tie dye the front yard
Fill a few empty ketchup bottles with water and about 20 drops of various colors of food coloring. You can also do the same with a squirt bottle for a different effect. Simply squirt the snow with the colored water in creative patterns.
Make snow shoes
There are several Web pages that give detailed instructions on how to make your own snow shoes. Duct tape, tree branches, twine, and PVC pipe are just a few of the inexpensive and easy-to-find items that you can use. Make sure you block out several hours for this project, though. It isn't very difficult to make snow shoes, but time and attention to detail are important.
Make a daily temperature chart
Place an outdoor thermometer outside and record the temperature and weather every day. It's fun for the kids to see patterns in the weather while they learn charting and graphing skills.
Put out a bird feeder
The winter months are the best time to provide the birds in your area with birdseed, since the snow makes it difficult for them to find food on their own. Take photographs of the birds that come around and do some research to discover what types of birds you have coming around. If you are finding it difficult to attract birds, try offering something else besides standard bagged bird seed. Fruits, sunflower seeds and peanuts might do the trick.
It may be chilly outside, but with a host of great ideas ready to go, your family will feel the warmth of fun times spent together.