Every year as the nights draw in and the air grows colder, I conjure romantic images of the children playing outside in the snow before coming inside for snuggles and hot chocolate. I have no need to think of entertainment ideas as good old Jack Frost will take care of that by supplying a healthy covering of snow, in which my children will toboggan and play all day.
And this does happen, but only for two or three days over the whole Winter. The rest of the time the garden is a muddy bog of goo, and I am desperately racking my brains for play inspiration.
So to celebrate and embrace the winter season, but without the need for snow, here's a run down of my favourite play ideas.
#1 Cardboard Snow Men Save the cardboard boxes from your Christmas presents, and decorate them with white paper. Then stack smaller boxes on top of a big box to create your own cardboard snowman. You can seal the boxes together with thick tape, or leave them unstuck and play skittles with him.
#2. Ice Marbles You can make these on those infuriating days when it is freezing cold but the snow just will not fall from the sky. Fill some balloons up with coloured water, and before you tie the ends up, add a drop or two of food colouring. Then leave in the garden to freeze overnight. In the morning, cut the balloons off, and you will be left with giant, coloured ice marbles.
#3. Make Your Own Snow Put your water play table or redundant splash pool to good use, and create a homemade snow sensory bin. There are a number of different recipes you can use to make your own snow, but my favourite uses just shaving foam and bicarbonate of soda. Start with a couple of tablespoons of powder, then add in the foam and keep adding and mixing until you get the desired quantity and consistency. The 'snow' will be light and powdery, and thanks to an endothermic reaction, it will also feel cold. For added fun, mix in some glitter. If you keep the 'snow' covered it should last for a couple of days. Then when it's dried out, or it no longer interests your children, you can use it for another activity. Add some vinegar and the powder will foam up. If you add some paint or food colouring, you can hold paper over the foam to create bubble pictures.
#4. Ice Preserved Toys Take a handful of small plastic toys, like dinosaurs or action figures and freeze them in ice blocks. You can do this by squeezing them into a balloon and making ice marbles as explained earlier, or freezing them in food bags in the freezer or outside. Then ask your children to set their friends free. Watch and admire their resourcefulness as they try to liberate their toys.
#5. Make Bird Feeders Even without the snow, the hard ground can make it very difficult for birds to get a good meal. You can make simple bird feeders by threading hooped cereal onto a piece of string, or smothering an empty cardboard tube in peanut butter and rolling in seeds. Put some clean drinking water out too.