9 Creative Ways to Erase the Winter Blahs

Do cold, gloomy winter days have your family on edge? Chase away the cabin fever with one of these fun, engaging activities.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #565

Now that the holiday dust has settled, your family calendar might look a bit bleak. Add winter whimsy to your life by planning some unexpected family fun. These cool ideas that will help brighten the rest of Old Man Winter’s stay.

Design a wintry scavenger hunt

A favorite activity for young and old alike is participating in a scavenger hunt. The creative possibilities are endless, and depending on the type of hunt you plan, you’ll have the bonus of eliciting problem-solving and teamwork skills.

You can create individual, family, or even a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Ideally, your adventure will take place outdoors, but for those buried in snow, an indoor hunt is also a blast.

Here are a few scavenger hunt tips.

  • First, brainstorm a theme for your scavenger hunt. (Valentine’s Day is coming!)
  • Create a list of items or locations your family members must hunt. You can mix practical and imaginative objects and places and even assign a point value—easy items receive a lesser value than those that are more difficult to find. You’ll discover tons of ideas on Pinterest for both your winter-based or indoor scavenger hunt.
  • Be mindful of the age of all participants so all clues, locations, and prizes are age-appropriate.
  • Do a walkthrough in advance to make sure you have the clues appointed correctly and try to gauge how long the hunt will take.
  • If your hunt is outdoors, make sure the kids stay together. Pair younger kids with an older buddy if necessary.
  • Have fun bags available to hand out at the beginning of the hunt so participants can collect the goods. 

Two years ago, my family enjoyed the most incredible scavenger hunt ever. After finding a dozen pet-related objects throughout our local discount store, they came home to discover their new Valentine’s Day puppy!

Create a family obstacle course

When freezing temps limit outdoor play, why not build an obstacle course for your kids? They'll love the challenge of having to complete each task, and you'll love how long they'll stay occupied while burning off excess energy. Best of all, you can build the course with things you already have around the house. 

A good friend of mine is an occupational therapist. Here are some elements she recommends for an amusing winter workout as well as a great learning tool.

  • Up/Over. Use pillows and cushions to create incline-decline movement.
  • Thru/Under. Pop-up play tunnels work well for this component and store easily. You can also create a tunnel by covering a few chairs with a sheet to crawl underneath.
  • Balance. Make a quick balance beam by laying masking tape in a simple pattern on the floor.
  • Puzzle Stop. Create a pitstop in your obstacle course with a puzzle or something else hands-on that will require a burst of brain power.
  • Finish Strong. Scatter items like blocks, stuffed animals, or Matchbox cars near the finish line that your child must quickly gather and put in a container.

Time your child each time he races through the course so he can work on his skills and break his own record!

Check out this fun YouTube obstacle course set-up. By watching other’s ideas, you’ll glean some creative ideas for your own course.

Concoct the perfect homemade hot cocoa

Cold winter days deserve the delicious taste of cozy comfort foods. A steaming mug of creamy hot cocoa is a surefire bet that won’t disappoint. Skip the readymade packets and enlist your kid's help to whip up a homemade batch.

You'll find most of the ingredients on-hand in your pantry. With a little imagination, you can vary the recipe to create signature flavors like Mocha Twist or Peppermint Frost. Hershey has a mouthwatering recipe that will warm your family’s heart and soul no matter how cold it is outside.

RELATED: Brewed Cacao: A Delicious Coffee Alternative

Treat your family to a winter wonderland mystery ride

Turn a ho-hum winter’s day into one supercharged with excitement—load your kids into the car for a scenic drive. The bonus: don’t tell them your destination. Turn it into a mystery ride!

You can plan ahead and pick a place like an indoor trampoline park or a matinee movie. Go with the flow and take in winter’s beauty by meandering on country roads you usually don’t travel. Eventually, your landing place might be an outdoor hike or checking out a newly discovered ice cream or pizza place. Create age-appropriate clues and let your family get as silly as possible as you enjoy time together out of the house.

Create a family YouTube video

Put your family’s imagination to work by starring in your own YouTube video. Most kids love to perform, so why not let them shine like a bright star in their own act? With the sophisticated capabilities of today’s smartphones and laptops, capturing live video and making simple edits, not to mention adding music and graphics, is possible for even the technically challenged.

Have a freezing good time with ice projects

Chill out on a freezing, cold day with one of these cool ice projects.

Paint ice cubes

Fill an ice cube tray with assorted colors of washable tempura paint or water with drops of food coloring. Freeze for approximately 45 minutes and then gently place a popsicle stick in each cube and return to freezer for about 3 hours. Once frozen, let the paint cubes thaw for about 5 minutes and watch your Picasso create a watercolor masterpiece on poster board or the back of some wrapping paper.

RELATED: 5 Clever Ways to Display Your Child’s Artwork

Ice candles

Light up your walkway or back porch with the dramatic glisten of homemade ice candles. You’ll need a large container such as a beach pail or Tupperware bowl, a smaller plastic cup, some rocks or other small weights, and a small board.

  1. Fill the larger container with water and place the smaller cup in the center
  2. Weigh the small cup with rocks to almost sink it
  3. Place a board across the top of the larger bucket to hold the small cup in place
  4. Weigh the board down with a rock if necessary
  5. Place the container outside or in the freezer until frozen solid

Once frozen, gently loosen the ice by running warm water over the large container’s surface until it is free. Do the same for the cup in the center if necessary. Place a small candle at the bottom where the cup used to be and—voila!—you have a stunning ice candle.

The variations of this project are endless. Let your kids find fun containers that you can use to change the shape of your candles as well as fun items you can add like  berries, glitter, or interesting trinkets that will add an extra wow-factor.

Ice Cream

Who says you need a scorching summer’s day to enjoy a refreshing bowl of ice cream? Homemade ice cream is easier to make than you think, and a great way to spend a snowy afternoon. My family’s favorite recipe can be found on Taste of Home’s website—delicious!

Make a scrapbook for the grandparents

Winter is the ideal time to preserve your family memories. You probably have dozens of holiday photos sitting on your smartphone just begging to be downloaded and enjoyed by family members—especially the grandparents.

Break out the cardstock, glue sticks, markers, and stickers and let your kids make a heartwarming memory book for grandma and grandpa. It makes a perfect Valentine’s Day gift!

RELATED: Preserving Family Memories

Get adventurous and try a new winter sport

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to try your hand (or legs!) at a new experience this winter. If your family lives in a snowy region, give cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or the thrill of snow tubing a try. Ice skating with your kids is always a favorite. When you’re done you can head home and cozy up with your homemade hot cocoa.

Makeover a family room or kids’ bedroom

When we’re cooped up indoors, we tend to be more critical of how our home looks. If you’re tired of looking at paint peeling in the high-traffic areas of your family room or your 14-year-old daughter’s princess bedroom is noticeably juvenile, use a cold winter’s stretch to take on a makeover.

A fresh coat of paint can liven up your tired décor and might inspire an early spring cleaning.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Organize Kids' Bedrooms for the New Year

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.