'SNOW FOOLIN'. The kids love it, but they don't get all that many chances around here. So don't think about the snowsuits in your dryer for the second time in a day, or the puddles of slush and piles of boots on your floor. Just get ready to make the most of whatever snow we get. Here are a few suggestions to keep everyone rolling merrily along.
SNOW PAINTING -- Fill some plastic squeeze bottles with water and then add food coloring. Kids can squeeze and paint and write in the snow. Some monitoring is necessary to avoid a rainbow effect on the kids, dog and the house. (Squeeze bottles work better than spray or mist ones.)
CUBE SEARCH -- Use this same batch of colored water to make ice cubes. Draw a large circle in one area of the yard and hide several of the cubes. Have the kids search for them.
TREASURE HUNT -- After a fresh snow, give everyone a treat wrapped in a plastic sack. Each child should make his or her own trail through the trees, behind rocks and around the house. At the end of the track, each child should dig a hole, bury the treat, and return to the group. Once the treats are all hidden, everyone can exchange paths and follow the footprints to the buried treasures.
FOX AND GEESE -- In the snow, draw a large wheel with six spokes. Pack down the snow so the wheel and its spokes are wide paths. One child is the fox and the others the geese. The fox chases the geese, who can jump from spoke to spoke or follow the paths. The fox must stay on the path. The hub is the safe spot, and only one goose can be there at a time. The game continues until one goose remains.
RELAY RACE -- Place a bag of mittens, hats or scarves by a landmark such as a tree, a fence or the top of a hill. Kids can run to the bag, exchange clothing, and eturn.
Allowing for some foot-dragging and spills, summer-time fun games can also be used in the winter. Games such as Red Rover, Tug of War, Red Light, Green Light, Giant Steps, Freeze tag or Sardines all offer fun and a gentle tumble into the white stuff.
BUILDING, BULLDOZING & SCULPTING Sand toys are also snow toys. Make designs with a plastic rake or with a strainer for a waffle effect. Use different-sized plastic pails as molds for snow sculptures, or stack the forms the pails make to build a fort or a house. A wide-mouthed plastic sand shovel is perfect for digging and scooping.
Toy bulldozers, cranes and dump trucks can provide hours of snow moving and building entertainment. Be sure to dry any metal toys thoroughly when you bring them inside.
Have a snow sculpture contest. When judging, make sure you have a category for each entrant: funniest, tallest, fattest, etc. As a variation, follow the sculpting with a Show and Tell.
Try group sculpting. Instead of a snowman, build a field of them, a whole family, in fact. Don't forget baby.
What about a snow train with a car for each child? Even an airplane or an auto can become a group project.
Snow sculptors can also erect a mini city. Make tiny buildings, houses and roadways surrounded by hills -- for mini cardboard sleds, of course. If city construction falls flat, try a mini castle, a fort surrounded by an Indian village, or a space station. Be sure to have your camera ready to preserve their efforts.
SNOW IMPRINTS Make an angel in the snow by lying down spread-eagled, moving arms up and down and legs together and apart, or trace the outline of each child as he or she lies in the snow. Decorate with pine bough hair, twig smile and nose, or some other natural material. Place an item of the child's clothing, such as a scarf, on the artwork to let everyone know who it is.
If the time of day is right, trace the shadow cast by one of the children. The shadw distortion will look like a monster. Make a multi- headed creature by having two or more kids stand close together while you outline their combined shadow.
It's also fun to try to jump onto your shadow, or write in the snow with footprints. SLIP SLIDING AWAY Meet friends on a hill for a sledding get- together or make your own hills by building them with snow. Add some gentle dips. You might want to lay out an obstacle course. Guide sleds around and through snowball markers. (Don't use ice balls.)
Old inner tubes aren't just for floats in the ocean waves. They make terrific sleds, too.
An impromptu sled for an impromptu ride in the snow: Keeping the four sides of a large cardboard box intact, remove them from the base of the box. To flatten the sides, slit one of the seams, leaving the other three side seams attached. Make two holes in one end of the box for a piece of rope. Take to the hills.
WINTER TREATS On a bitter-cold day, when outside play is impossible, bring the snow indoors. Fill the sink -- or even the bathtub, if you're really brave. Supply scoops and containers and other sandbox gear, and the kids can mash and mold the snow before it melts down the drain. A warning from one who's done this before: Have the kids wear raincoats or snow clothing, and no carrying snow around the house.
Or plan a winter picnic indoors. Spread an oilcloth tablecloth on your child's bedroom floor, invite some friends (some stuffed animal ones will do), then lunch with some snow ice cream for dessert. Snow Ice Cream 1 cup milk 1/2 cup sugar 1 beaten egg 1 tsp. vanilla
Blend the above ingredients well. Put the mixture into a large bowl and have the kids take the bowl outside and fill it with enough clean snow to absorb all the liquid. It will be the consistency of soft sherbet, and it's delicious! Variation: Add other flavors -- peppermint, orange juice concentrate, even sarsaparilla.
For another sweet treat, have the kids tightly pack some clean snow into a pan, then an adult can spoon boiling maple syrup over it. The syrup will get thick quickly. Twirl it onto forks and enjoy.
If you have any extra freezer space, either save some snowballs or loosely pack some snow into a container. Pull out the snow on some sweltering summer day and have a quick snowball fight or use the packed snow to make snow cones. For snow cones: Put clean snow into a small paper cup and pour either fruit juice or orange juice concentrate over it. Enjoy your summer slush.