With the winter solstice approaching on Dec. 21, many people are looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Whether your family is the outdoorsy type, or you prefer spending your time indoors, here are some options for making memories with kids of all ages this season.
There are many ways to engage minds young and old while stretching your legs. With very young children, keep your ideas simple so they can be successful. Perhaps become “explorers” looking for a specific item, such as the biggest/smallest rock, the brightest colored leaf, or a winter flower or bird. With older children, you might add a bird watching book or a native plant guide to find a certain item while you walk. Also, keep in mind that a fun way to engage young ones in walking as an activity is to change up the time of day you go. Maybe go on a night walk in your favorite place to see how different it looks and sounds.
Try this — take a plastic ice cube tray and fill it about half way with tap water. Then take your standard food coloring and add a few drops of color to each cube so each is a different color. The colors will be very dark and sometimes look black. This is normal. Freeze as usual. Once frozen, remove from the freezer and place on a counter to warm up for a few minutes to make them easier to remove. Place a single sheet of watercolor paper flat in the bottom of a shallow box. Pop a couple of the colored cubes onto the paper and paint away. Encourage your young artist to tilt the box to create unique designs. The cubes will slip and slide and turn from a solid into a liquid as the project progresses. Talking with younger kids about color mixing and how matter changes can be a fun science add-on.
Also, take a bit of time to make outside ice observations, if the weather permits. Plan some experiments. Start some conversations. Good, open-ended questions that encourage dialogue might sound like this: “What do you think the ice in the birdbath will look like if tomorrow is a sunny day?” “Which container of water will likely freeze if left out overnight?” “Why do you think there is ice only around the edges of the lake?”
Tearing the newspaper into strips allows air and other organic materials to aid breaking down of the paper. Just a couple of inches of shredded paper (it can be combined with old leaves, grass clippings, etc.) will help cover and insulate the soil now and then break down and mix with the soil come spring time. Gardening can be a great way to encourage children to get connected with food preparation from seed to table. So, when you finish reading this paper, you can just shred it up and put it to work in your yard.
Try this: Find an evergreen tree and pluck off a nice, plump needle or two. Carefully bite into the soft middle of the needle to release the flavor. What do you taste? Ask kids to describe what they taste and compare to a known citrus fruit.
Here is another sensory-based activity that will allow you to enjoy the woodsy smell indoors. After a windy day, take a walk to find fallen evergreen branches. Remove small twigs and needles and place them on a tray or in a basket in your home and enjoy.
If you are not up for trying something new, another way to restore yourself is to get in touch (or back in touch) with a passion that you have. Maybe building model airplanes, helping with a charity, or singing with a local choir has brought you joy in the past. Whatever the passion, make time to feed it and share it with your kids. You’re worth it, ... and so are they.