15 Cozy Screen-free Activities in the Winter

Okay Mama! Have you ever lived in Montana?! As a long-time Coloradoan I had experienced major snow storms every few years where our main interstate shut down due to plowing challenges and too many drivers thinking 4 wheel drive made them invincible buuuut . . . How about a cold so long and deep that your neighborhood streets turn into 5″ deep unwavering pit tracks your car cannot veer from until they enter a major intersection?! Whether your winters are long with rare respites above freezing or they are more of the bi-polar Colorado type Here’s 15 screen free activities and fresh connection tips therein to thaw us out.

1. Bake a treat and switch up the way you serve it!

I love making these Sunshine Muffins with my littles (2, 4 and 7). Now I’ll admit the first few times I baked with kids it was not super relaxing, but I’ve stuck with giving certain tasks to each kid: ie. 4-year-old always cracks eggs and locks the mixer in place, 7-year-old levels flour and counts cups, 2 year-old dump in seasonings after I measure them and gets to press the button for the food processor—you get the idea 😊).

MAKE IT BETTER:

  1. Double the recipe—if we’re going to go to all that work (getting out the food processor in my case for sunshine muffins)—let’s enjoy the culinary reward longer pulllease! 🥳
  2. Use different bakeware like these mini bundt pans instead of your standard muffin tray. I love mini-bundts because they make even ordinary recipes likes bran muffins feel special. Which makes my kids feel special or fun way of pampering a mom friend when they come over for playdate.
  3. For older kids, create a meal making challenge-mom hands off, but you are the food judge along with . . . dad or their peers invited to crash your house at said time. Give your tweens or teens reign to choose the recipe, gather ingredients and even make their own versions to compete against each other. Have them both make a veggie dip, cookies or even main dish (if you’re feeling extra brave or confident in your kids) and tell them they can have friends over later to vote on which dish is best. AKA your own version of Chopped—Homestyle!

2. Play Board Games-not BORED games!

Fine tune your choices at home. Truly find games you and your family can enjoy together. Board games can be SO FUN but find ones that truly humor YOU and your kids. Seth and I have agreed to not purchase toys or games for our kiddos unless we also could imagine ourselves really enjoying playing alongside them. Junior is going to ask you at least SOMEtimes if you’ll play with him right?!?

MAKE IT BETTER: See if there is a local game café in your area. Basically these cafes let you try out games first before purchasing them to make sure they’re a hit! 🥳Our local favorite “Game Cafe” Petries where you can actually rent games for 3+ days for $5 and then return them. Also shout-out to my home town Fort Collins with the Haunted Game Cafe.

I’ve created a guide to Top 10 Board Games Parents and Kids can BOTH enjoy. that includes more unique games that have kept our kids attention and also kept mom and dad from poking our eyes out 🙂

3. Play Hide & Seek and/or Lasertag in the Dark

Maahahaha! These early winter nights are perfect for a little round of Hide and Seek without younger kids staying up too late. We add glow sticks or maybe morph into playing laser tag.

MAKE IT BETTER: Strengthen the stealth incentive by offering a prize or a chore pardon to the family member who is the Best Hider: whoever the Seeker spends the most time searching for gets bubblegum or a left-over holiday candy. Our 4-year old kept me on my toes for 20 minutes last night after I found his siblings in the first 5 minutes of “Ready or Not, Here I come!”

4. Go on winter power walks with crampons, cross country skies or snowshoes!!

Some of my sweetest high school winter memories where cross-country skiing with my parents to a nearby golf course in our neighborhood.  There are also some GREAT opportunities to cross-country ski at Snow Mountain YMCA and snow-shoe in Estes Park.

MAKE IT BETTER: If you’re really feeling adventurous bring a little Jet Boil with you and make hot coco somewhere (a sweet date idea too)! or bring your own warm beverage prepared in a beverage thermos.

5. Create a holiday craft or birthday gift/card early

Imagine great Christmas ornaments made in February or March for grandparents and other loved ones. Beat the holiday stress! This activity can really go for any moment your mind runs a blank on craft ideas:

  • Valentine making
  • Birthday cards
  • Easter
  • Father’s Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Grandparents Day??–Isn’t every day this one 🙂
  • Teacher Appreciation Day
  • Thanksgiving

Easy button option: Check out Michael’s Craft Store for quick, small and inexpensive (often $5 or less) holiday-gifting crafts. While I love Hobby Lobby, I find Michael’s seems to have better quality for this type of gift-creating, mail-friendly crafts.

🐰Rabbit Trail Alert: Perhaps it was just the group friends I made in Germany as an exchange student, but it seemed like everyone was more at ease with making “art” there. They were comfortable with it not being perfect. Probably just a youth-filled, rose-colored glasses memory?! Nevertheless, we need this kind of mindset!

6. Send an old-school letter–even if it’s short!

Honestly, how often do we get a homemade anything in the mail? Friends in town or family across the country. Letter writing?! A lost art my friend. Let’s resurrect the wonder of a handwritten note! And remind yourself it doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect. Or uber lengthy.

Imagine if we took ONE of the “only ten minutes” we surf social media everyday and instead wrote a quick paper note to a friend. I bet we’d be happier ’cause we encouraged someone and we spent 10 less minutes comparing ourselves to everyone else.

7. Check out free craft workshops in your area.

Pre-Covid, Home Depot hosted Kids Workshops and Lowe’s with all required supplies and a free apron with badge pins your possie could earn for each completed project. I’ve started to see these workshop begin again and I am super pumped. Just reserve your spots early. They tend to fill-up fast!

https://www.homedepot.com/c/kids

Home Depot also looks like they started a STEAM Program with activity worksheets for fun experiments to do with your kiddos at home. I haven’t tried this out yet, but we will be soon!

8. Listen to an audiobook and padiddle.

Consider audio theatre retells above purely narrated chapter books when your kids are younger for screen free activities. All our littles have loved listening to the Chronicles of Narnia. My daughter and I are currently enjoying Little Women. We’re still seeking out other full-cast audiobooks.

MAKE IT BETTER: The narrator can definitely make or break a book so make sure your storyteller’s voice is a solid fit. Reading The Mark of the Lion series by Francis Rivers–great character development, Roman Empire historical fiction and plot complexity–however the audio version? Ack. I couldn’t do it. The narrator’s approach was waaaay on the overly-dramatic side.

Also don’t forget your LIBRARY! You don’t have to get a subscription to an Audible to enjoy e-audiobooks. Any library today that knows the internet exists has a platform for virtually borrowing audiobooks for their patrons.

I’m sure this will date me, but I have the fondest of memories listening to NPR programs on family road-trips. Try streaming these programs or checking out their CDs–yes those still exist 😘at your local library:

  • Prairie Home Companion–Garrison Keillor is a great story-teller
  • Click N’ Clack–If you’ve watched Disney’s CARS you’ve already heard these two brothers
  • Saturday Cinema–band geeks of the world unite-name the score of famous movie soundtracks

9. Build a blanket fort–or better yet a snow fort!

Use sand pails or even 5-gallon construction buckets to really pack in the punch. In my experience pay a little more for better quality sand/snow toys has really paid off. The dinky cheap handles shovels break so easily, while other another set that I purchased well over 3 year ago is still completely solid. No broken handles, no cracks in pails. No rebuying toys!

10. Get modeling clay and have fun making little creatures, characters or objects.

We’ve picked themes such as forest animals, different bugs or Star War paraphernalia or different types of homes: log cabins, tents, tree houses etc.

11. Start seedlings on a cozy window in anticipation for Spring!

I like to use old paper egg cartons and plant herbs or flowers in my kitchen window. Honestly last year wildflower seedlings were a flop, but that was my fault. I didn’t buy a blue lamp and get gravel rich soil like the local Phelan Garden staff advised. But we did follow their advice about tomato plants and we had jungle of tomatoes!

MAKE IT BETTER: Visiting or calling a local nursery for growing tips for your area is priceless. The staff who work at these locations are typically more passionate about gardening and thus have accumulated more knowledge and first-hand experiences.

12. Do a puzzle!

Again like board games, choose subject matter intriguing to ALL: you, your spouse–should they choose to accept the mission😘–and intended kids. Puzzle count is also key. 🤬 Epic fail: A 1,000-piece Star Wars puzzle with your 4-year old and expecting her to stay in the game till the bitter end. Now a 100-200-piece Mandalorian puzzle could be just the ticket to whet their appetite for more if you’re a true puzzle plunker!

13. Learn a new hobby together.

  • Knitting (gulp)! I haven’t done this one yet, but my Guma aka Grandma created some amazing blankets, scarves and hats and *someday* I’d like to at least make a scarf or something.  
  • Drawing
  • Photography
  • Hunting
  • Dancing
  • Geo-caching

14. Check out your local library together!

Libraries have come a long way since I was a kid. Of course, this depends on your city a bit but as I’ve visited different Colorado counties I’ve seen great activity stations with play kitchens, puppet stages, lego and train tables, magnetic tile and gear walls, crawler obstacle courses, doodling desks, building block challenge etc.

There’s all kinds of freebies here people don’t take advantage of. Our own Pikes Peak Library District offers complimentary:

  • Makerspace workshops and private reserved time into their classroom
  • Yoga classes
  • Youth and adult bookclubs
  • World language instruction and app support
  • Homeschool support in multiple subject areas
  • State Park Passes you can check out for a week at a time . . .
  • Streaming subscriptions you can access at home for movies, music and audiobooks etc.
  • And much more!

Some libraries even host their own coffee bars or café’s so you can grab a snack if you stay longer than expected.

In the end . . .

Hopefully this list gave you some fresh ideas or new approaches to activities you’re already doing with your kiddos! We all need a little Creativity CPR once and while. I’ll continue adding to this periodically . . . please feel free to share other ideas below, especially “local hidden gems” across Colorado. Stay warm!

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