The dreaded snow day

Most parents know it well. The day when school is closed, children are home and the walls begin to close in around you by the hour.

Throughout the winter, snow, cold temperatures and rain can leave children aimlessly searching for things to do inside — and parents desperately searching for ways to keep their children active, entertained and educated.

Diane Jones, of Severna Park, says she is constantly looking for new ideas to occupy her three sons on bad weather days.

“Boys are high energy all the time,” she says. “It’s challenging to find intellectually stimulating activities that are fun and enable them to slow down and focus.”

But the challenge is worth the effort, child experts say. Even on snowy or rainy days, children crave play opportunities, says Wendy Blackwell, vice president of visitor experience at the National Children’s Museum in Oxon Hill. Finding those opportunities just takes a little creativity, she says.

“Turn off the TV and do things that are different,” she says. “Take a walk on the wild side, even if it’s in your own home.”

And don’t forget that on most of these days, children can still play outside, says Dr. Maria Brown, a pediatric hospitalist at Saint Agnes Hospital and pediatrics instructor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“Parents, teachers and children should see days with challenging weather as an opportunity for different experiences,”

Brown says. “Children often have the most fun on days they can slosh, jump and run through puddles or snow.”

On the next snowy or rainy day, give these easy and affordable activities a try.

1 Author a book
Whether children use a pre-made book kit or just design their own story on some construction paper, writing a book puts their creativity to work. Start off by asking your children to think of characters for the story and then a plot. Then, children can write and illustrate the story using crayons, pencils or markers. Ages: 4 and up

2 Freeze dance
Turn on the radio or the iPod and find some music the kids can groove to. Children can easily spend an hour playing freeze dance. Watch your children stop and start with a lot of giggles in between. Ages: 3 and up

3 Test the taste buds
Put small portions of five to 10 foods and condiments into bowls. Then, blindfold your child. Ask him to identify the food first by smell and then by taste. Sometimes, the smell and taste answers may differ. Then, ask him to describe the food. Is it sweet or salty, sour or spicy? Is it smooth or crunchy? Write down his comments. Finally, take off the blindfold for the big reveal. This test teaches children how to use senses other than sight to describe something. And, it could even lead to a new vegetable on the dinner plate. Ages: 2 to 10

4 Make a yarn obstacle course
Turn your living room, kitchen or hallway into an obstacle course with a ball of yarn and some painter’s tape. Start by wrapping the end of the yarn around an anchor point, like a chair or an end table. Then, slowly work your way around the room, unraveling the yarn and taping or anchoring it at different levels. Keep in mind your child will need to move through this course. Leave some low spots for them to crawl over, as well as high spots to crawl under. The goal: To make it to the end without touching the yarn. To make it more challenging for older children, place a prize at the end of the course and then have them move backward toward the start of the maze. Ages: 3 and up

5 Build a fort
Blankets, sofa cushions or even old cardboard boxes are all children need to make a fort. To extend play, serve a picnic lunch in the fort. Ages: All

6 Open a restaurant
Come up with a restaurant name. Then, design a menu, listing items that can be served for dinner that night. Use objects found around the house to decorate placements or make napkin holders. At mealtime, have children serve food to their family members. Continue the theme after dinner, with children washing dishes. Ages: All

7 Strike up the band
Grab the saucepan and wooden spoon and turn that rubber spatula into a conductor’s baton. It’s marching band time. Simple kitchen tools like pots can become drums. Paper towel rolls can become trumpets. This activity forces children to use their imagination. Have children take turns leading the band around the house, up and down the stairs. And make sure to keep those knees high while marching. Ages: 2 and up

8 Take a hike
Brave the weather and take a family hike. If it’s raining, put on the raincoat and boots and grab the umbrella. Walk around until you find rain puddles. Then, splash around in them, says Heidi Vorrasi, a Baltimore City mother of two. “That’s something we do all the time,” she says. Or, if it’s snowing, fasten the snow boots and look for things you don’t see when the weather is warm, like the skeletal shapes of trees or animal tracks in the snow, Blackwell says. Ages: All


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Dr. Maria Brown, a pediatric hospitalist at Saint Agnes Hospital, all children and adolescents should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. The types of activities differ by age:

1-4 Infants/Toddlers: Infants should have a safe, nurturing and minimally structured play environment. Infants and toddlers should be encouraged to develop enjoyment of outdoor physical activity and unstructured exploration under careful adult supervision. Ideas include neighborhood walks, unorganized outdoor free play and walks through the park or zoo.

4-6 Preschool-age children: Unstructured supervised play with emphasis on exploration and experimentation (while being mindful of safety). Preschoolers may enjoy running, swimming, tumbling, throwing and catching. They can walk tolerable distances with family members.

6-9 Elementary school age-children: Children improve their motor skills, visual tracking and balance at this age. Free play involving more sophisticated movement patterns and fundamental skill acquisition is emphasized. Organized sports may be started but they should have flexible rules, short instruction time, free time in practices and focus on enjoyment rather competition. Children this age have limited ability for team strategy learning.

10-12 Middle school-age children: As with other ages, physical activities should focus on enjoyment with family members and friends. At this age children are better with verbal instruction and information integration, so they can better play complex sports like football or basketball.

12+ Adolescents: To ensure long-term participation, teens should identify activities that are fun and include friends. Activities can be varied — dance, yoga, running, walking, cycling, competitive and non-competitive sports.

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