Winter is not one of my favorite seasons. I live in the Pacific Northwest in the USA and here, winter is a long, dark, and cold season. The sun completely sets by 5pm and from October to April, most days include freezing temperatures, overcast, and rain- not the best combo.
Thankfully, one of my favorite sports is snowboarding. We are blessed to have the some of the most amazing mountains to shred snow on. However, it can be costly.
Lift tickets typically cost anywhere from $60-$100 and another $40 for snowboard and ski rentals. If you include the cost of gas and food you are easily looking at $200 for each snowboard/ski trip. Yikes!
Being the money conscious gal that I am, I have created a list of fun frugal activities you can enjoy with your family without breaking the bank.
Just remember: this is not a must-do list. It is an inspirational list to help you be a tad more intentional with those precious moments with your family. They are split into categories. Choose a few and put them on your calendar or bucket list if desired, or just do them spontaneously. Whatever works for you!
The winter months are an ideal time to bake together as a family. There are lots of recipes that are simple enough for even a toddler to help with. Note that some of these are just for adults (perfect for a date night!).
- Hot chocolate: Forget the weird powder and go for gourmet with 21 Delicious Hot Chocolates You Must Make This Winter.
- Cookies: Not just for the holidays! Kid-friendly recipes include Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Kisses and the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever used.
- No-bake treats: I absolutely love this foolproof fudge recipe. For the kiddos try classic muddy buddies, no-bake oatmeal cookies and many varieties of Rice Krispies Treats.
- Mulled drinks: 10 fragrant options for grownups only!
- Hot apple cider: Choose from 10 different recipes.
- Host a cookie swap: This is ideal for Christmas time, but why not in the middle of January? Invite a few families over; everyone brings a different kind of cookie and trades them.
The options obviously will vary depending on where you live and what the weather forecast is, but here’s a fun little winter bucket list.
- Go sledding.
- Go tubing: Check out a local golf course to see if they offer rentals.
- Build a snowman/woman/creature: Try decorating with candy!
- Build a snow fort or castle: Use plastic sleds and your sand toys as building tools. Here are some more things to build and create in the snow.
- Dig a snow cave: Use common sense and make sure kids are supervised so they won’t get buried.
- Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing: See if you can borrow the equipment if you’ve never done it before. Make sure you know how to navigate and stick to well-traveled trails!
- Do some squirt-gun snow painting.
- Play an outdoor group game: try capture the flag or freeze tag; the snow is an added fun variable!
- Do a scavenger hunt: Hide something in the snow and give the kids little clues to find it.
- Follow the leader: One person makes footprints, while others have to follow.
- Make snow angels.
- Have a snowball fight.
- Throw snowballs at targets: Make them out of cardboard or just pick some natural targets—like a big circle you can draw in the snow.
- Play tic-tac-toe.
- Blow bubbles: and watch them freeze! Just store the solution indoors.
Fun Places to Visit in Winter
If you’d rather be indoors (mostly) but need to get out of the house, try some of these frugal destinations.
- Local library: Are you aware of what programs your library has to offer? It may have a playroom, crafts and classes for all ages!
- Children’s museum: Many metro cities will provide free passes for locals or free days on the specific day of the week monthly. Take advantage of this!
- Ice skating rink: Indoor or outdoor, depending on your location.
- Roller skating rink.
- Bowling alley.
- “Open gym”: Sometimes local gymnastics facilities have a free time during which kids can run wild. Within reason.
- Zoo or aquarium: Our local zoo is open year round! In the winter it’s decorated with lights.
- Nature center: Do you have one nearby? See if they offer any classes, or if they’re open for visits.
- Free family or kids events at local businesses: toy shops, craft stores, dance studios and even hardware stores sometimes host free or low-price classes. Check your local listings.
Simple Winter Activities at Home
This is where you spend most of your time together, so make the most of it!
- Have a weekly family night. We like ours with popcorn and a movie!
- Play board games.
- Have a scavenger hunt.
- Play with building toys: These never get old.
- Build forts. Couch cushions are great, or kick it up a notch with these.
- Get creative with painter’s tape: go crazy on the floor! Build mazes, city streets for your toy cars, hopscotch, whatever!
- Do jigsaw puzzles.
- Easy winter crafts: Stuff you can do with little to zero planning. Try 6-sided snowflakes, snowflake painting, cottonball snowman, and winter tree finger painting
- Play balloon tennis.
- Give toddlers a bunch of straws. No joke. For added fun, have them stick them in a water bottle or open a discovery box.
- Have a dance party. Or a lip-syncing contest. Or whatever your jam is.
- Create an at-home puppet show or “stage” performance. Have your kids bring their favorite stories to life.
- Snuggle by the fireplace: You might appreciate this more once the kids go to sleep ;).
- Roast s’mores: You can do this indoors on a gas range, the fireplace or a microwave; for a little adventure try doing it outdoors in a portable fire pit.
Educational Winter Activities
These are not just educational but fun winter activities of course!!
- Participate in a service project: Here are some great ideas for all ages.
- Go on a nature walk: No matter what the climate, there’s so much to learn! Make observations with your kids about the natural world at this time of year.
- Visit a maple grove: This is something that you can plan for at the beginning of spring, and obviously it depends on where you live. But if you can do an educational visit on location where maple syrup is produced, it is truly fascinating.
- Read books aloud: Kids love to be read to at any age! For a suggested reading list I recommend Read Aloud Revival.
- Listen to audiobooks. Less guilt than TV!
- Study snowflakes: I love this book.
- Do simple science: jog your brain with 200 winter science activities for kids.
- Make bird feeders: I think these cookie cutters are a cute idea. Don’t tell the kids that the squirrels usually get them first.
I could go on and on! Aren’t you excited for winter?
What are some of your favorite family traditions? Leave a comment below.