It’s January. It’s Michigan. And so, as I look out my window, it’s snowing. We’re in the beginning stages of what promises to be a foot of snow, with sub-zero temperatures to follow. What could be more appropriate than family fun activities centering on snow—with a bonus activity for anyone faced with temperatures well below zero degrees Fahrenheit?
1. Of course all snow-based creativity has to begin with creating snow creatures, from traditional 3-sphere snowmen to snow creatures of every variety. (For those of you for whom the thought of snowmen brings a longing for Calvin and Hobbs, see this post from last winter.) But that may not work well this week. Those of you who live in winter climes know that the dry snow of sub-zero temperatures doesn’t “pack” into traditional snow sculptures. So why not try something new? Artist Simon Beck creates amazing snow art simply by walking. But what walking it is! Take a look at the intricate designs his careful paths form—then think about what you might do in a fresh snowfall. It would take some advance planning, but think of the freezing fun of creating a picture in the snow using nothing but your steps.
2. Or (perhaps if the temperatures moderate), think about how you could adapt traditional games for playing in the snow. Make a tic tac toe board in the snow, with sticks or pine cones as markers. Create a maze, obstacle course, or mini-golf course in the snow. Invent a game that involves throwing snowballs, or play tag in the snow. It would be a sure cure for cabin fever!
3. Maybe you’d like to try making snow ice cream. Snow ice cream is a quick treat made of actual snow—an annual event in my elementary teaching days in rural upstate New York. Traditional snow ice cream is a concoction of snow, milk, sugar and vanilla, stirred and eaten quickly. It was a lovely memory, so I thought I’d see if others had done the same. Sure enough, the web has many options—best done, of course, with fresh snow. Here’s a collection of snow ice cream recipes, but surely you could expand these to add adaptations of your own.
4. For those of you who don’t have actual snow—or who are tired of the cold–try making a snow globe. There are lots of directions available, from the basic kid-friendly variety to the elegant Martha Stewart variety. They are a bit more complicated, but if you have a way to laminate things, these snow globes with laminated pictures inside look like a lot of fun—and will keep your snow memories alive for months.
5. Try some science experiments with ice and snow. Here’s one good source to get started. Be sure to scroll down to see the variety of experiments available. Some (like sticking an ice cube to a string or making frost indoors) do not require freezing temperatures outside, others do. I particularly like the challenge to grow colored icicles from a can.
Bonus Activity: All these options make me wish for a snow day tomorrow, but now I’m positively anxious for the next day, when the temperatures promise to plunge below zero. As promised, here is your sub-zero activity—freezing soap bubbles. It had never occurred to me to try blowing soap bubbles in sub-zero temperatures. But obviously, some folks have been thinking much more flexibly than I have. Photographer Angela has taken stunning photographs of bubbles in various stages of freezing. If you need more inspiration, take a look at this film from the Mount Washington Observatory. They’ve kindly shared their bubble recipe. Are you as anxious as I am to try it? I’ve never wished for sub-zero temperatures before!
3 Teaspoons Dawn dish soap
1/2-1 Teaspoon Sugar
1-2 Teaspoons of hot water
Mix gently so as not to make bubbles in the solution
Enjoy your creative family (and school) activities in the snow. We’d, of course, love to hear more!
PS Two days later: Look, I managed a frozen bubble! I learned a few things in the process.
1. Optimum temperatures seem to be around -20. I had no success at all until -13 to -15 and even then bubbles froze slowly.
2. If your phone is your camera, you need gloves that work on a touch screen, at least if you want to keep your fingers.
3. Wind is your enemy, since it takes bubbles off before they freeze. Find a sheltered location.
4. When the recipe specifies hot water, it matters. It freezes more slowly in the dish that way. Otherwise it quickly becomes too thick to use.
5. If you want photographs, you need an assistant. I tried to juggle my bowl of soap, blow bubbles, and manage one-handed frozen-fingered camera work. It was not condusive to lovely photographs! But still, look hard and you can see a frozen bubble. Maybe next time the temperature plunge, I’ll do better. But I’m hoping that’s not this year!