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Chilling Out

Chilly temperatures and snow storms can often leave families in Central New York feeling trapped indoors during the winter. If your kids are crawling up the walls in search of something fun to do, don’t despair. Your entire family can fight the urge to become couch potatoes with a creative perspective on the elements and a commitment to beat the winter blues.

1. There’s snow reason to stay inside. Get everyone’s heart pumping with some outdoor physical activity. Hold contests to determine who can complete a snowy obstacle course the fastest or make the silliest snow angel. Run snow races, or create snow art by “painting” the snow with water dyed with food coloring and disposable paint brushes.

2. Taste winter. From Feb. 15-25 families can enjoy the more than 150 events happening at the 22nd annual Winterfest. With events held throughout Syracuse and Onondaga County, the festival features live music, food, human dog sled races, auctions, fireworks and more.

3. Getting crafty. Arts and crafts products allow kids to make stickers and works of art. For $3.99 to $12.99 you can purchase portable easels, rolls of paper and pads of paper that all have the trademark Post-it “sticky-ness.” Using non-toxic washable markers, colored pencils or crayons, your kids can nurture their artistic skills and create works of art that hang on walls without damaging the surface.

4. Make use of Mother Nature. Use different shaped cookie cutters, cups, plastic spoons, or spatulas as snow toys to create snowy treats in your snow-filled outdoor kitchen with your kids. Make a miniature golf course in the snow by burying a few plastic cups so their tops are level with the snow’s surface. Then give your child a long stick, club or bat to roll colored balls across the snow and into the cups.

5. Bring in the outdoors. Bring snow into the house for your child to play with in the kitchen sink or bathtub. Make snowballs or icicles to store in your freezer until the hot summer months leave you all longing for snow. Scoop up a cup of clean snow and top it with chocolate or maple syrup for an inexpensive, icy treat to enjoy before a toasty bath.

6. Mental activity. Keeping your family’s minds active can be just as important as moving everyone’s muscles. Challenge your family to beat Rubiks cube, hold a Scrabble tournament or make up new card games to clear out the mental cobwebs.

7. Brave the elements. Take a walk through Beaver Lake Nature Center (8477 E. Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville; 638-2519), Highland Forest (Route 80, Fabius; 683-5550), your local park or even your back yard for your family to learn about birds, plants or astronomy. While you’re taking a stroll, stop to sketch the position of the stars or the snow-covered tree limbs. Take a dark-colored piece of construction paper outside during a light, dry snow shower to show your child the delicate shape of the flakes as they land on the paper. Then show him how to catch snowflakes with his tongue.

8. Hop, skip and jump. Skaneateles parent and author Stephen J. Virgilio suggests using a six- to eight-foot piece of bubble wrap for your kids to burn excess energy and move their muscles by holding a long jump contest. “Place the bubble wrap on a non-skid surface and have them try to jump as far as possible onto the bubble wrap,” says Virgilio. Mark where they land with a marker to measure how far they can jump. Each time he jumps, use a different colored marker so your child can distinguish between each jump. Bubble wrap can also be used to create a noisy, indoor version of hopscotch. Give the kids non-toxic markers to draw a hopscotch grid onto the wrap. They can have fun jumping until all the bubbles are popped.

9. Mall alphabet. Stretch everyone’s legs at Great Northern Mall, Carousel Center or Shoppingtown and give toddlers and elementary-age children the chance to practice the alphabet. Start the game when your family enters the mall by asking everyone to identify anything they see whose name begins with the letter “A.” Once an item has been identified, move onto “B” and so on.

10. Skate the day away. The Clinton Square ice rink in downtown Syracuse is open seven days a week (through March 1, weather permitting) and offers first-time skaters, amateurs and would-be skating superstars the chance to skate under the sun or stars. No skates? No problem. The rink offers ice skate rentals ($3), a Learn-to-Skate program and group advance sales (regular admission $1.50 to $3; for more information call 423-0129).  

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York