The prospect of harsh winter weather brings anticipation and superstitions designed to secure the certainty of a Snow Day: ice cubes flushed down the toilet, pajamas worn backward and spoons tucked under pillows. (That’s just what teachers do; kids probably have their own snow day superstitions as well.)
In Michigan, however, the glittery sparkle of a snow day can wear off quickly (even for teachers); work still has to get done, childcare arrangements need to be made and, eventually, often sooner than later, the two most grating words to the parental ear are heard: “I’m bored!”
To help save your snow day sanity, keep the kids busy without becoming their referee/playmate and maybe, just maybe, keep screen time to a minimum, here are some hacks to try to help you manage the impossible:
This is a great hack for summer vacation, too. Develop a list of activities that needs to be accomplished before your kids can lay eyeballs on a screen. I use a modified version of it with my 16-year-old on weekends. Try a list something like this:
BORED? Have you:
Outside play? (This might not be possible on a snow day, but older kids could shovel.)
Read for 20 minutes?
Done something helpful?
Post the list where your kids will see it, such as on the refrigerator or (gasp!) on the screen of their favorite device. If you are a working parent whose kids are home for the day, text them your list and then ask them to text back with photographic proof as each task is completed.
Here are some suggestions for different ways they can accomplish those BORED tasks:
Being creative on a snow day can take some pre-planning, but then the activities should take care of themselves.
A trip to a dollar store can fill a box with art supplies like foam sheets, craft sticks, poster board, tape and markers for a day of creative crafting. While you’re there, grab a shower curtain and some dry erase markers. The shower curtain can double as a crafting mat and a giant dry erase board. Pulling cardboard boxes out of the recycling can also add to the crafting fun.
If you have board games that have lost pieces or the kids have outgrown, keep a box of those old game parts so kids can create games of their own.
If weather does permit the kids to go outside, spray bottles filled with water tinted with food coloring are beautiful and fun new snow toys. The kids can spray designs in the snow, paint faces on snowmen or snow angels, or just turn a winter wonderland into a rainbow-colored landscape.
Public libraries are often also closed on snow days. Good news: you can take a trip to the library without leaving the house. Check out your public library’s digital resources. Your library may have ebooks, audio books and music available that you can download to your computer or the kids’ digital devices. Your library may also have databases or educational resources that can help with homework.
Learn a language: Okay, you’re not going to learn French in one snow day, but you can challenge your kids to learn phrases in a new language and try them out at dinner that night. My teen loves all things Japanese and enjoys teaching us new words in Japanese. Suggest your kids learn new words that go with your family’s culture or a culture or country they are interested in. And guess what? They have to read to find the words.
Our third-floor apartment gets small, even after a few hours, and when we entertain active kids, we have to get creative to keep small bodies busy and everyone getting along. When restlessness threatens, we turn to the Internet. A quick Internet search turns up great videos to get the wiggles out: anything from five-minute dance videos of your kids’ favorite songs to calming yoga designed for kids. With a little research ahead of time, you can have a playlist ready to go on your laptop or Internet-capable TV.
Lip-sync battles: Though not exactly exercise, older kids could probably be convinced to pull some of their favorite videos up on the computer and engage in a lip-sync battle. They’re sure to get their heart rates up trying to outdo each other with the best dance moves.
A snow day can be a good day to tackle an organizing project, and depending on the ages of your kids, they can be great helpers. I know that sounds crazy, but as long as you aren’t asking kids to clean up their own stuff, they often have great ideas about how to tackle household projects. Younger children can help organize all those single socks that roam freely about the house. Older kids can be given a closet or a cabinet to tackle.
Snow days are a certainty of Michigan winters, but just like Michigan winters, they are unpredictable. We may get a few well-placed snow days, or we may get so many snow days that the children are going to school until August. But with a few hacks in your repertoire, you can get through all of them with your sanity intact.