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The Ultimate Winter Bucket List for Families

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The cold winter months are hard on many of us. Icy sidewalks, dreary landscapes, and bone-chilling temperatures can leave you counting down the days until spring.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! The good news is there are plenty of meaningful and fun winter activities if you look for them.

I’ve assembled a winter bucket list of ideas to make this season more bearable and, dare I say, even downright enjoyable. I hope you come away with a new favorite winter activity! 

➡️Looking for Christmas-specific activities? Check out my ultimate holiday bucket list

Contents

Winter Bucket List for Families – Embrace the Cold

Just because the weather is frigid doesn’t mean you can’t find fun outdoors! Here are some ways to have a good time in the snow and ice.

Get serious about your winter gear.

Take a walk outside in cold weather – just a short one — and pay attention to why you’re miserable. Then troubleshoot!

Do you need warmer socks?Taller boots? A balaclava to protect your cheeks? Lighter snowpants that allow for easier movement?

I upgraded my winter gear during the pandemic and can’t believe what a difference it makes. It only took a few decades of living in Minnesota 🤦‍♀️to figure out that warm, comfy boots (I have these) and a longer coat make a huge difference!

Make snow angels.

Here’s the secret to avoiding footprints in your completed angel.

Have a snowball fight.

Use these snowball makers to build up your arsenal quickly.

Go sledding.

There’s no winter thrill quite like zooming down a snowy hill. This has got to go at the top of your winter bucket list activities. 

Go on a winter nature walk.

To keep the kids engaged, consider making it a scavenger hunt. You could also give them a list of items to take pictures of (with a kid-friendly camera like this one). Look for animal tracks and bursts of color in the drab winter landscape.

Play snowball games.

Set up targets with different point values, or build a pyramid of cups or cans to see who can knock down the most. Or put out a bucket and play a snowball version of the basketball game PIG.

Build a snow fort or igloo.

Here’s a tutorial. Use a snow brick maker to speed up your work.

Build a snow family.

Get the whole family involved and make snow people to represent each family member. Bonus points for snow pets!

Paint the snow.

Mix food coloring and water to create paint. Put in spray bottles or in cups to use with paintbrushes. Let your kids turn your white snowy yard into a colorful masterpiece!

Create a snow obstacle course.

This post from What We Do All Day contains great ideas for obstacles.

Play with sandbox toys in the snow.

Have your kids use shovels to dig for buried treasure or to rescue a Lego figure stuck in an avalanche. Get out the buckets and containers so they can make snow soup or snow muffins.

Dump trucks, bulldozers, and other vehicles are also fun for snow play.

Make frozen bubbles.

It has to be super cold for this to work, but the beautiful results are well worth the effort. Here’s a tutorial.

Fly a kite.

Take advantage of a windy winter day to fly a kite.

Keep finding new outdoor activities to enjoy.

Happy Hooligans has some great ideas, like giving kids baskets of natural materials to decorate a snowball and making colored ice sculptures.

1000 Hours Outside and the 1000 Hours Activity Book are also full of great ideas for all seasons.

Venture out for some winter stargazing.

Bundle up in cozy layers, grab some hot cocoa, and venture out to gaze at the stars. Download a simple stargazing app like Star Walk 2 to help identify stars and constellations and learn more about them.

Try out a winter sport.

There are so many options!

  • Downhill skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-country skiing spots
  • Hiking
  • Hockey
  • Broomball
  • Snowshoeing
  • Fat tire biking
  • Ice skating

With the right attitude and the right gear, winter can be a great time to be active outdoors.  

Go ice fishing.

Kids love this one (especially if it involves good snacks while you wait for a bite😊).

Take part in a polar bear plunge.

Start out the new year with a horrific refreshing plunge into icy water.

Make homemade ice lanterns.

This guide shows six different ways to make lanterns. There are also kits if you want the materials already assembled for you. This would be a fun activity to do as a family, ending with magical light for winter nights.

Host a winter bonfire complete with s’mores.

If you don’t have your own fire pit, check out local parks and nature centers.

Take up winter birdwatching.

Fill your feeder or make your own to nourish feathered friends during the cold months. You might also consider providing a water source.

​Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.

This random act of kindness will feel good for both you and the lucky recipient, and is a great way to teach your kids kindness.  

Make ice wreaths.

These beautiful decorations add color to the dreary winter landscape. Here are instructions.

Check out winter offerings at nature centers and your state’s DNR.

Learn from the experts and enjoy time outdoors through a class or event.

Go on a winter picnic.

This would be a fun activity to combine with hiking. My state’s DNR website had some good ideas!

Winter Bucket List for Families – Get Cozy Indoors

In the words of Edith Sitwell, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” Here are some indoor activities to help you enjoy the season.

Start a winter art gallery.

Check out Art Hub for Kids for all kinds of cute winter drawings you and your kiddo can create together.

Make paper snowflakes.

For the basic kind, here’s a good tutorial.

If you’re ready to take your snowflake game to the next level, there are so many cool designs in this book.

Make a snowflake sun catcher.

Brighten up your house with this colorful craft.

Enjoy some winter jokes.

Here’s a list from the Pioneer Woman. For fun throughout the season, print them on little slips of paper and make reading them a morning/dinnertime ritual.

Have an indoor snowball fight.

Grab a dozen pairs of white socks, ball them up, and ta dah! Indoor snowballs. If pairing and keeping track of socks is already had enough at your house (raises hand), you can also buy a set.

See ideas for more indoor snowball games here.

Make a snow sensory bin.

Kids can enjoy playing with snow indoors as much as outdoors.

Have a family movie night.

Do this on a regular basis! You might feel extra cozy watching movies with a winter theme.

Appreciate the beauty of snowflakes.

For a kid audience, Snowflake Bentley tells the story of Wilson Bentley and his lifelong fascination with snowflakes.

For adults, check out the spellbinding work of Kenneth Libbrecht, a physics professor and snowflake expert who served as a science consultant for the Frozen movies.

Relax with some winter coloring books.

Wind down together in the evening with winter coloring books for adults and kids alike.

Fill a basket with seasonal picture books.

Some of our favorite winter picture books include Bear Snores OnThe Snowy DayBlizzardSmall WaltBest in SnowSnowmen at Night, and Winter is the Warmest Season.

Master rhymer Kim Norman also has a winter picture book trilogy set to popular songs that my kids love hearing over and over again. The three titles are Ten on the Sled, If It’s Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws!, and She’ll Be Coming Up the Mountain.

Get your hygge on.

The hygge vibe is one of my very favorite things about this time of year. If you need a hygge primer, get yourself a copy of Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge.

Once properly inspired, create your own hyggekrog, the Danish word for a cozy little nook for snuggling on cold winter nights. Make sure your nook includes a spot for resting a hot drink.

Also designate a pair of hyggebukser, i.e. extremely cozy pants, to serve as your indoor winter wardrobe.

➡️Looking to add some hygge to your Christmas celebrations? Check out my collection of coziness and comfort ideas in The Ultimate December Bucket List.

Read by a fire.

Enjoy a good book while listening to the crackle of logs in the fireplace. Check out this list of winter-themed novels to double-down on the hygge factor.

Break out the jigsaw puzzles.

This fun family activity is great all winter long. If you, like my family, don’t have an extra table to store your puzzle in progress, get a puzzle board like this one I’m coveting.

Take up a creative hobby.

Painting, drawing, knitting, photography…so many options. Peruse this list of creative hobbies to find one that appeals to you, then dive in!

Put up seasonal décor.

Don’t leave your space bare and sparse after the holiday season ends! I’ve found that evergreen branches, pinecones, white Christmas lights or fairy lights, and candles create a warm, cozy atmosphere all season long.  

Listen to a winter playlist.

Find music that speaks to your mood. I love this jazz mix on YouTube.

Scatter quilts and throws around your living space.

Nothing says cozy like pulling a blanket around you as you settle into a comfy chair.  Consider an electric blanket for your cozy nook.

Decorate a seasons tree.

Go for a walk in a tree-filled area and find a sturdy branch about 5 feet long. Bring it home and prop it up in an empty corner.

Then decorate it according to the seasons. In winter, you might hang pinecones and snowflakes. (I cannot remember where I first learned about this idea, but will provide attribution once I stumble across it!)

Simmer some natural potpourri.

You might go for a simmer pot with a Christmas vibe or maybe you want one that helps fight cold and flu. Either way, giving some love to your olfactory sense is a great way to fight the winter blues.

Put up a winter quote on a letterboard.

Hang a letterboard in a location you’ll see it often (mine is in the kitchen). Then put up a quote about winter that resonates with you. Here and here are some places for ideas.

Do winter crafts with your kids.

Break out the glitter, popsicles sticks, and cotton balls. If you’re the crafty sort, here’s a round-up of fun ideas to try with your kiddos.

Have a family game night.

Playing board games together is a great way to create memories and share laughter. (Full disclosure that it’s also a way for someone to end up in tears when they don’t win, but hey, that’s also an important life lesson and best taught lovingly at home.)

Build a blanket fort.

Give your kids permission to gather cushions, pillows, and blankets and grant permission to move certain pieces of furniture. Then watch the magic happen! For extra fun, serve them a snack while they’re hanging out in their fort.

Watch football as a family.

Liven things up for the non-hardcore fans with these bingo cards. It also creates a fun ritual to make a couple specific snack recipes for your football watching parties. Here’s a list to get you started.

Winter Bucket List for Families – Savor the Flavors of the Season

Food and drink are always one of the best ways to embrace the spirit of a season. Put these option on your family winter bucket list.

Find your favorite hot drink.

Try out different kinds of tea. Make some mulled wine. Pick up a latte mix. Keep the hot drinks flowing all winter long. A themed mug adds extra coziness (I really, truly do not need yet another mug, but Target always makes me want to add just *one* more to my collection).    

Host a chili cook-off.

Ask each guest to bring their favorite chili recipe. Provide toppings for the chili (chopped cilantro, Fritos, shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.) and cornbread on the side.

Enjoy hot cocoa.

Enjoy hot cocoa after sledding, ice skating, or winter walks.

For a fun group activity, make a hot chocolate bar!

Bake with your kiddos.

Fire up the oven during the cold months. Bake muffins, cookies, pie, a cake, bread…whatever sounds good and might be fun to tackle with a child sous-chef.

Make snow ice cream.

Take advantage of a fresh snowball to make this winter treat.

Find your favorite homemade soup recipes.

There is no meal quite as satisfying in the winter as a bowl of homemade soup accompanied by some crusty bread for dipping.

Have friends over for fondue.

Try your hand at fondue with this family-friendly recipe (no alcohol!).

Enjoy winter-specific festive drinks.

Find a new favorite winter cocktail or mocktail.

Get out that slow cooker.

Crockpot meals fill your home with delicious aromas while making dinner a snap.

Winter Bucket List for Families – Adventure Out!

Though winter is certainly a time for home, that doesn’t mean total hibernation! Get out and enjoy what the season has to offer.

Visit the library.

Spend a few hours perusing the stacks and giving your kiddos a chance to play with the library’s fun toy offerings.

Visit a bookstore.

Let each child pick out a new book. This is a great way to support local business and a cozy way to spend a cold afternoon.

Attend a hockey or basketball game.

Even if you’re not a huge fan, it’s hard to match the excitement of watching sports live.

Check out indoor play areas.

Giant climbing structures, bounce houses, and open gyms are a great idea for getting out the winter wiggles.

Hit up an arcade.

Laugh, stoke some friendly rivalry, and make fun family memories over games of air hockey and Space Invaders.

Go bowling.

This is a fun activity for kids of all ages. Check Groupon for deals.  

Stay in a cabin.

Find a cabin with a fireplace and a woodsy location to enjoy time away from the hubbub of the daily routine.

Plan a winter getaway.

Option 1 is, of course, to seek out warmer climes. Fun… but expensive!

 If plane tickets and an all-inclusive resort aren’t in the budget, go for Option 2 – a getaway that celebrates winter!

Whether it’s renting snowmobiles, staying at a resort that offers cross-country ski lessons, or traveling for a weekend winter festival, you can enjoy cheaper, closer-to-home getaways that still offer ample opportunities for fun and connection.

Find accommodations with amenities like an indoor pool and hot tub or a game room to enjoy after a cold day outside. 

Take a class.

Now’s a great time of year to learn something new! Whether it’s pottery or piano, consider finding a place that offers classes for both kids and adults to make it a family activity.

Visit a local conservatory or nursery.

Now’s the perfect time of year to add a new houseplant to your living room. Visiting a local conservatory or nursery offers a big hit of green and natural light that can do wonders for your winter mood.

Try igloo dining.

Embrace winter wonder by eating family dinner inside your own private igloo.

Go on a sleigh ride.

Get in the spirit of the winter season with this classic activity. This would make a fun day trip. I’m thinking of booking a ride and keeping the destination a secret from my kids until we get there.

Attend an ice sculpture or other winter festival.

Celebrate how creative people can be even in the coldest temps!

Go dog sledding.

Find an outfitter that offers kennel tours and education sessions to get the most out of the experience.

Be a tourist in your own town.

Go to a new-to-you museum. Eat at one of the highest rated restaurants. Heck, take a bus tour! Enjoy getting to know your own corner of the world a little better.

Winter may not be your favorite season, but it can still be a great time to enjoy the heck out of life. Hope this list leaves you feeling inspired to do just that!

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