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Tips for keeping kids busy (and parents sane) during Seattle-area snow days

Moments before this photo was taken, nearby parents were being pelted with snowballs — and responding with threats to revoke privileges.


Isn’t the snow fun and delightful? What’s that you say? You’re over it? Yes, in my house we are counting our blessings that the power has stayed on (knock on wood!) and that both parents are able to telecommute, but there also have been moments when tensions have flared over the smallest things. There’s been a lot of togetherness — and there's more on the way, thanks to the most recent robocall, which came even earlier than expected.


A few of us at Seattle's Child put our heads together to come up with some ways to fight the cabin fever. If you've got ideas, we've love to hear them.

Related: Slightly offbeat snow-play ideas, cold-weather safety tips for kids and babies


Enjoy it! Weeks like this are rare here in the Puget Sound area. Be sure to get your snow fix, because you don’t know when you’ll get this chance again. Go sledding, take snowy walks, drink hot chocolate and gaze out the window … I know one family who hadn’t gotten around to taking down the outdoor Christmas lights yet (don’t judge!), and they sure look festive against a white background.


Go outside as much as you can. There’s a lot of beauty in the snow and a lot of free entertainment value in the ways people embrace it.


Shovel your sidewalk. There isn’t a universal ethic of sidewalk shoveling here the way there is in places like the midwest, but you are responsible for keeping that walkway safe, and if every sidewalk turns into a rink (all too easy with a combination of foot traffic and freeze-thaw cycles), then it makes it impossible for many people to get anywhere. If it has already become a rink, then keep chipping at it. In the end, you will prevail. And while you are out there you can catch up with your neighbors.


Talk to your neighbors. There’s a built-in conversation topic (So much weather to discuss!) and many opportunities for collective problem solving. Like most of Seattle, I hit the stores on Thursday to find no salt of any kind for sale. Today, I was able to secure three scoops of rock salt for our steps. In return, I loaned my neighbors a shovel. You could also trade for grocery items. And in the event of more school closures, you can hone in on nearby teenage babysitters. Or, if you have neighbors with kids close to your kids' ages, set up a tradeoff system in which the kids all play together at one house, then another, giving parents rotating breaks.


Build stuff. If the snow is our typical, heavy “Cascade concrete” and it usually is, it’s magnificent to sculpt with. There’s your standard snowman, with variations. After the big snow on the weekend, a lot of families in my neighborhood made igloos https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-an-igloo/. Adrenaline seeking youth might fashion elaborate jumps. A snow pig would be a fine way to celebrate the new year. There are endless possibilities.


Be active inside. If you’re really tired of being outside, or if health or safety considerations make it unwise, get moving inside by checking out “fitness” offerings on cable or streaming, or just put on lively music and let it inspire you. Just like on a scheduled break, you don't want your kids playing video games 24/7.


Home schooling. I’m only half-kidding when I wonder when schools will reopen and how much learning will be lost. There are lots of ways (subtle and not) to sneak some learning into a snow day. My family has a big, overseas trip planned this spring, so we have divided up the destinations and assigned them as research projects. Yesterday morning we were treated to a great Powerpoint on pandas. You could plan a summer trip — real or imagined.

National Geographic has a great website, a YouTube channel and a kid-oriented website. Get extra practice on a skill that needs work. Our elementary school directed us to math-drills.com for printable worksheets. Documentaries: look for things on Netflix that you might normally overlook. Alternately, introduce your kids to the movies you grew up on. That's a sort of education. Suggestions that come quickly to mind: "Black Stallion" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Have your kids study the weather forecasts and patterns. That's a great science lesson.


Read books: Are your kids out of books? (is that possible?) They could always reread old favorites, try e-books or tackle something from the “grownup” library at your house. Don’t overlook magazines. My daughter loves paging through my Good Housekeeping and Reader’s Digest issues. Travel and food magazines also could spark their interest. If you are within walking distance of a library, many of them are open reduced hours, even when roads are bad, but check before you go: Seattle Public Library, King County Library System.


Play board games. Surely you've got some sitting around — or invent your own!


Community service. Go help a neighbor. Shovel someone else’s walk.


Feed the birds. Have you noticed them pecking around in the snow, looking for a bite? We put out some birdseed and they’ve been going crazy. Make sure you have actual birdseed and an actual feeder, though; otherwise you’re just spoiling the squirrels and possibly attracting rats.


Cook or bake. Try something new while we are lucky enough to have power. You may not have succeeded in buying bread at the supermarket before the storm, but you might have flour. Pantry challenge: Shelves looking a little bare because it’s tough to get to the store? Get creative with what you do have!


Make a movie. If you're going to overindulge in screen time on snow days, why not get a little more creative and make your own film? My kids are a bit too young to use a movie-making app, but older kids might love this project. As a parent, I'm totally on board with learning iMovie so I can document all the snowmen, snow forts and ridiculous sled jumps my littles are making. Snowmageddon: The Home Movies will be such a  lovely memory to look back on when the heat of summer arrives. 


Sensory play. You'll be amazed how long even the most energetic kid can contently squeeze slime. Here's a recipe for fluffy slime. You could also make oobleck — a mixture of cornstarch and water — or a bath fizzy.  Find more ideas in this big list of DIY sensory crafts.


Alone time. I don’t think there’s any shame in sending each member of the family to a different room for a set amount of time. Maybe you’ll be happier with one another when you’re back together.


Compiled by Julie Hanson, Fiona Cohen, Jillian O'Connor, and Jennifer Mortensen who, you have probably guessed, are feeling a little housebound with kids.


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