SNOW MUCH FUN
Who needs spring? Cool temps and, if you’re lucky, snow can actually make for some pretty awesome outdoor play. Try these ideas!
BLOW FROZEN BUBBLES
No need to save all those jars of bubble solution you’ve got around for summer! They’re fun to use now—and a mini science lesson at the same time. Here’s what to do:
1. Pick a day that is below 32°F and not windy. (It has to be below freezing for the bubbles to, you know, freeze.)
2. Put your container of bubbles outside to chill for a little bit before heading out—not so long that it freezes, though.
3. Blow a bubble, catch it on the bubble wand, and wait for a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on how cold it is. It will freeze into a magical-looking crystal ball!
4. You can also try blowing bubbles straight up in the air (rather than catching them on the wand) and watch them freeze midflight. This works especially well on a really cold day.
TAKE A HIKE
Snowshoeing allows your kids to explore your favorite hiking spots in a completely new way, and you can get them pretty inexpensively at secondhand sports stores. When my kids were little, we bought them Tubbs Snowflake snowshoes ($40; tubbssnowshoes.com), which have plastic grippers on the bottom, rather than metal ones, and are really easy to put on— great, because after getting them all bundled up, the last thing you want is to wrestle with more gear. They were a huge hit! A few things you can do while you’re tromping around:
1. Challenge your kids to find as many different kinds of animal tracks as they can. Bonus points if they can match the footprint to the critter that made it. (Not sure? Snap a photo and look it up later.)
2. Bring binoculars and do some bird spotting. Not exactly a birder? Me neither. So I downloaded Audubon’s free Bird Guide app, which helps you ID the species you’re looking at.
3. Play games you’d normally bring to the beach, such as Frisbee or paddleball. The hilarious irony will not be lost on your kiddos, which makes it that much more fun.
MAKE A SNOW VOLCANO
Remember that old-school science-fair project? This snowy version uses the same explosioninducing ingredients—all of which you probably have in your pantry. Round up the kiddies and build your own lava-spewing volcanoes. Warning: My kids had such a blast making one after another that our yard looked like a crime scene by the time they were done.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
• A small, narrow plastic cup or old pill bottle
• Baking soda
• Dishwashing liquid
• Red food coloring
WHAT TO DO
1. Nestle the cup in the center of a pile of snow and mound more snow around it to form a volcano shape. (Leave the top of the cup exposed.)
2. Add a few spoonfuls of baking soda, one spoonful of dishwashing liquid, and some food coloring to the cup.
3. Now pour in a big splash of vinegar and watch the eruption!
BUILD SNOW MONSTERS
They’re more fun than your basic snowman and even easier to create: Pick up a bunch of glow sticks from a dollar store, then get your outdoor gear on and make big mounds of snow just before dusk. Poke two holes for the monster’s eyes and place a lit-up glow stick in each hole. (Depending on the type you get, you might need to use more than one per eye.) Cover the hole lightly with snow, so you can still see its glowing eyes.
RENT A FAT-TIRE BIKE AND GO FOR A SPIN
Known as “fatties,” these bicycles are outfitted with wide tires and rugged treads that can handle snowy roads and trails. And while they’re pricey to buy, many bike stores, ski resorts, and mountain-biking areas rent them. Bikes with fat tires ride a bit differently than regular bikes— pretty much the equivalent of running in the sand—so you’ll definitely get a workout. But they’re unique in that they can roll over almost anything. (Trust me, my kids have tried!) On a warmish day, hit a bike path or do a little off-roading to get some fresh air.
UP YOUR SLEDDING GAME
What would winter be without sledding? You can put a fresh spin on this classic by going sled bowling. (Yes, you read that right.) Make snowballs and set them up like pins at the base of a hill, then zoom down and see who can knock the most over. Or how about a sledding relay race? Divide into two teams, and mark a start and finish line. Then have one racer from each team whiz down to the bottom and hand off the sled to the next person—who must dash up the hill and sled down. First team over the finish line wins! Of course, you’ll need some speedy sleds. So I asked a pro— Christopher Stockdale, PH.D., an associate professor of physics at Marquette University in Milwaukee—which kind works best. He suggests going for one with a smooth, hard plastic base, as opposed to a sled with runners or an inflatable tube. It gives you maximum contact with the snow, which means less friction and better glide. My kids are obsessed with these Zipfy sleds ($41; amazon.com). They’re light, portable, and fast, and they’re easy to steer and stop. Bonus: They come in a ton of cheery colors and are virtually indestructible. (Ours have survived many an exposed rock and root.) And, yes, we do recommend wearing helmets while sledding!
We made a whole slew of monsters just as the sun was setting ... ... and watched them come to life in the darkness. So cool!