Growing up in Baltimore's Bolton Hill neighborhood in the 1980s, our community was a mixture of working parents, single parents, parents trying to build a diverse community. Neighbors relied on each other, gathered together during difficult times, and celebrated in times of joy. When a child from one family outgrew his or her clothing, the items were shared with other families; and when a cup of sugar was needed, we had long blocks of friends from whom to borrow one.
Because my parents were artists and art teachers we were constantly making our own toys and games and enjoying family time. These experiences took on a magical quality in the winter, when the sloping snow drifts beckoned us outside to take in nature’s handiwork and to use the transformed landscape to explore our own creativity.
I continue to find inspiration being outdoors in the winter. Especially at a time when all of us seem glued to our electronic devices, spending an hour or two in the crisp cool air, listening to the sounds of nature and finding inspiration through art and culture are the best ways I know to prevent cabin fever. Below I’ve gathered a few meaningful projects and ideas for family outings that I hope you will enjoy. Happy winter break!
Take a moonlit walk
On a brightly lit evening (the next full moon is set for January 2!), listen to the sounds of near and far – have a destination in mind, a café or shop where you can enjoy hot cocoa or a snack to fortify your walk home. Or have it ready upon your return!
Combine several drops of food coloring with cold water into empty dishwashing soap or squirt bottles and mix, using one bottle for each color that you wish to make, and then head outside to paint patterns or pictures on the snow! Using a piece of paper try to capture a print of your art by laying the paper on top and gently pressing down! Make decorative snow balls. Watch the colors mix and the snow compact itself like colorful jewels.
In a bowl mix equal parts salt and self-rising flour. Add enough water to make it the consistency of pancake batter. Pour into empty dishwashing soap or squirt bottles. Using colorful construction paper or wax paper as your surface, squirt snowflake or other shape designs and microwave on high for 30 seconds (microwave times will vary) until snowflakes are dry and super-puffy!
This is a fun activity for the whole family. Experiment with walking in different ways to make tracks in the snow! Drag your feet, walk with your feet out to the side, like a penguin … maybe even walk on your hands!
Using an online guide that you can download and print, identify the many animal tracks you may find in your own back yard and learn what animals lurk nearby!
International folk tales
Spread the joy of world culture and read aloud to your children tales from far off places! Search the Caldecott Medal and Newbery Medal web pages for ideas. Plan together and prepare a meal from the country your story originates.
Plan a museum trip
Baltimore has many wonderful museums and some offer free admission! Plan day trips to one or two over winter break and share your top 3 discoveries with one another. Some fun ones to check out include the B&O Railroad Museum, the Fire Museum of Maryland, and the American Visionary Arts Museum.
Aquarium art outing
In winter I love spending time in the warmth of the National Aquarium. You can bring sketch pads and colored pencils and draw the many colorful creatures that fly, swim or crawl by! Half price Friday Nights run all year long!
50 essential winter activities, Today's Parent (Jan. 2017)
13 Winter Art Projects for Kids, The Artful Parent
Fun winter activities check list, Real Simple