Icy cold wind has been whipping through our New Jersey town this past week, making me thankful I ordered a new coat for my 5 year old. (We generally deal in hand-me-downs, but the coat she was slated to wear this year survived 2 winters with each of her sisters and one with her before falling apart at the seams.) I’m also thankful (just this once) that I no longer live in Michigan – where my Dad spent his weekend shoveling snow and salting icy paths in preparation for a week of – you guessed it – more shoveling and salting.
When the weather turns more bitter than chilly, we all spend more time indoors. If your kids are anything like mine, they start getting restless – and inventive – and downright insane – when they don’t have a chance to run and shout and climb. But rather than lose my mind, I try to celebrate the change in weather with books and activities that help kids discover and celebrate the wonders of winter.
The exciting new History of Fun Stuff series from Simon Spotlight brings us this cool book with enough illustrations for young children and plenty of interesting facts for older readers. Stephen Krensky’s The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate! makes for a great winter read. Follow it up with hot-cocoa-themed family activities. How about making up a big batch and inviting friends and neighbors over to sample hot cocoa with different tasty add-ins? Our favorites? Marshmallows (of course), candy cane stirrers, cinnamon sticks, a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, flaked coconut or whipped cream. My little one insists on adding Goldfish crackers – but I cannot in good conscience recommend that.
Other fun cocoa stories include:
Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate by Carol Diggory Shields (ages 2-8), Snow Monsters Do Drink Hot Chocolate (A Bailey School Kids Junior Chapter Book) by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton (ages 6-9), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (ages 8-12), and How We Fall by Kate Brauning (young adult). Or get a great cookbook like Michael Turback’s Hot Chocolate and try a new “haute” cocoa recipe every week!
We don’t often get enough snow, or the right kind of “packing snow,” to make snowballs here. That’s no reason to fret – it’s much warmer to have a snowball fight indoors! One of my favorite tutorials for a DIY snowball fight comes from blogger Crystal Underwood of Growing a Jeweled Rose. Crystal suggests using rolled up white socks as snowballs – but we’ve also done pom poms, balled up tissues, and balls of yarn. You may have heard that my husband built a castle in our basement for the girls. A great snowball game is to station equal sized teams inside and outside the castle. Then I set a timer for 5 minutes and everyone starts throwing. When the timer sounds, we count how many balls are inside vs outside the castle. The side with the fewest wins that round! You don’t need a castle to play, though – how about opposite sides of a couch or blanket stretched across the room?
More great snowball/snowfall books to enjoy with the kids include:
One of my forever favorites: Snowballs by Lois Ehlert will inspire you and your little ones to make fantastic snow creations (ages birth-6). For emergent readers, Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter: Snowball Soup is a great book (ages 5-8). I personally loved reading about Almanzo Wilder’s snowy adventures in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy every winter from age 9 until…well, I just read it again with my eldest last week – so no end age on that one. For those with a Kindle e-reader, Snowball Wars by Marcus Emerson and Noah Child is the latest in a series for 9-12 year olds. The series also includes Water Balloon Wars and Dodge Ball Wars and keeps reluctant readers’ attention! For young adults, Let It Snow, Three Holiday Romances includes intertwining winter stories by superstar author John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.
When you’re done fighting with (make-believe) snow, it’s time to think about the animals that have to survive the cold wintry weather. Animals In Winter (from the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series) is a great introduction to the various ways animals handle the change of season. It’s also perfect to get kids ages 2-6 thinking about how they could help nature! My children enjoy even such simple things as tossing leftover snacks outside to feed the winter wildlife. We also make our own bird-feeders with pine cones, peanut butter and birdseed. (Peanut allergies? Try using Crisco instead of peanut butter.) We once went totally old-school and made garlands of cranberries and popcorn (beware – this is WAY more work than it sounds like!) And when you’re done, how about holing up in a cave of blankets to “hibernate” with a good book?
There are so many great fiction and non-fiction titles about animals in the winter! Some of my favorites include:
The beautifully illustrated Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston and Jim LeMarche (ages 3-8), Jack London’s classic White Fang (ages 9-15), and Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich (12-adult).
What are some of your favorite winter books and traditions?
I can’t wait to hear from all of you!