A Chill in the Air

So, the kids are home and the novelty of the presents will likely fade after a few days.  It happens every year and the remainder of your winter break will be spent wondering how to entertain your brood, indoors and out. Between family functions and movie nights, try some of these ideas. 

The Kids Winter Handbook J 790.1 D761k, written by Jane Drake & Ann Love and illustrated by Heather Collins has many wonderful ideas for enjoying this frosty time of year.  It’s full of ideas for winter crafts, outdoor activities and even some recipes.  Chances are, it’ll snow over break and if so, you may want to try Snow Science on page 30.  You’ll need a clear glass plate, hairspray and a magnifying glass.

Plan ahead for a snowy day by spraying the glass plate with hairspray and placing it in the freezer.  When flakes start falling, head outside with your plate and catch a few flakes.  For younger children, or if you have concerns about broken glass, use a dark-colored velvet fabric scrap instead or any fabric with a high nap (from Go Outside! By Nancy Blakey J796 B637G).  Stretch the fabric over a piece of stiff cardboard, attach with staples or hot glue, and for a deluxe model, hot glue a popsicle stick for a handle.  You’ll also want to put this in the freezer ahead of time – a cold surface will keep the snowflakes from melting on contact.  After some have landed and stuck to your plate or fabric, take a closer look with a magnifying glass. Page 31 of the Handbook offers a nice chart of snowflake shapes to help you identify your frozen treasures, or check out this website http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/class/class.htm

Snowflakes come in several basic shapes: stellars & plates (the most traditional snowflake shape), columns & capped columns, needles, spatial dendrites and irregular crystals.  Snowflake shapes are determined by air temperature and humidity levels; higher water levels in the atmosphere create bigger snowflakes.  According to Guinness World Records, the largest recorded snowflake to reach the ground was 15” across and 8” thick, reported by a rancher in Montana in 1887!

Create a winter wonderland indoors.  Cut plain white copy paper or any lightweight craft paper into circles of any size and then fold over 2 or 3 times.  Cut patterns or random shapes along all the edges and open up to reveal your one of a kind creation.  This is a great activity for younger children to hone their fine motor skills.  The rippled basket coffee filters also work well to create gauzy three dimensional flakes, or try wax paper to create "icy" snowflakes.  To make a non-traditional columnar snowflake, fold rectangles accordion style and cut out around all sides.  These are trickier because all the folds must match up otherwise it won’t work.  When my children were younger, it was a favorite winter activity to cut out snowflakes and tape them to our windows.  You can also take some fishing line or clear acrylic quilting thread and string the flakes along it, taping them in place to create a garland that can be strung anywhere in the house or even outside on a covered porch or patio.

If you’re landscape looks drab after the holiday lights come down, consider making garlands with cranberries and peanuts in the shell.  (Photo courtesy of http://gigglesgalore.net where you can see the whole tutorial) Both can be strung on a heavier weight thread or fishing line using a large darning needle.  Poke through the center of each peanut  - it’s the narrowest and softest part.  Younger children will need some supervision on this one!  For a fancier project, Winter Wildcrafts by Tessa Evelegh (in adult nonfiction 745.5 E93w) features a Cranberry Heart using floral wire (save that one for Valentine’s Day) but a simple circle or square might do the job til then.  While the cranberries will be decorative only, their tart flavor keeps the birds away, the peanuts are a favorite among birds such as jays, woodpeckers and even chickadees.  Just be sure the peanuts are unsalted.  Salt will dehydrate your feathered friends, especially so at this time of year.  Make several strings of peanuts and hang over trees and shrubs near your windows and the birds and squirrels will soon follow.  This could even spark some bird watching so stop by and pick up some books on identifying birds like The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America by Bill Thompson in juvenile nonfiction J598.07234 T468Y or Birds of Ohio: A Field Guide by Stan Tekiela in adult nonfiction 598.09771 T266B.

Another outdoor decorating idea from Winter Wildcrafts is the Eucalyptus Star on page 108.  Try this with boxwood which is readily found in many northeast Ohio yards.  On a dry day when the ground is clear, send the kids out to collect fallen branches (consider it a head start on your spring cleanup); you’ll need 6 similar in size.  Then prune your boxwood shrubs of enough branches (12-18) in similar lengths to your collected “sticks” to create two triangles.  Attach 2-3 branches of boxwood to each bare branch with some floral/craft wire and then wire three together to form a triangle.  Overlay the two triangles, one upside down, and wire together to create a star.  Loop a decorative ribbon through top point and hang. A simple square would also look nice or maybe a monogram if you're up for a challenge!

And whether you’ve been outside in the cold or crafting by the fire, treat yourself to some hot chocolate.  A fun twist on homemade hot chocolate appears in the November/December 2013 issue of American Girl magazine on page 22 or find it at this link for Cocoa Cubes http://www.americangirl.com/play/magazine/.  Melt some baking chips and pour into a silicone ice cube tray.  Sprinkle with topping of your choice like, mini marshmallows or crushed peppermint candy and let harden.  To make cocoa, melt one cube in 8 ounces of hot milk.  You can also bag a few in a decorative mug for a last minute gift.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and crafty new year!


For further frosty reading –

While the Bear Sleeps: Winter Tales and Traditions J398.2 M438w

Winter by Moira Butterfield J508.2 B988w

No Two Alike by Keith Baker JP

Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara JP

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats JP

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert JP




“Cool” YA fiction –

Trapped by Michael Northrup YA

Lindsey Lost by Suzanne Marie Phillips YA

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater YA

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett YA

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George YA

Frost by Wendy Delsol YA

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