9 Skill-Building Activities to Do with Young Kids This Winter

During the cold winter months ahead, when young children may fall back on the common “there’s nothing to do!” refrain, parents need all the at-home activities they can get. Fun, easy, and inexpensive, the 9 activities in today’s blog post will help keep active young children busy and boost key skills essential to healthy development. Share these with the families you know, and keep them handy for those long winter days at home when young minds and bodies need something new to engage them.

Create a snow scene from whipped cream or another nontoxic material (fine motor skills, communication skills). With these materials, children can safely fingerpaint on a tray without making too much of a mess. As you observe your child or fingerpaint with her, describe the shifting patterns you see and encourage her to do the same: “Someone’s walking in the snow. Here come some footprints.” “Here comes a bunny—hop, hop, hop through the snow.”

Make a winter mobile (fine motor skills, communication skills). Help the child cut winter-themed pictures from old greeting cards, magazines, catalogs, calendars, and ads. Supervise pasting them onto construction paper or index cards and then using string or ribbon to hang the cards from a coat hanger. Talk with the child about the images he selected, and help him find others that he would like to add. Hang the mobile in a place of honor in your home.

Give favorite books as special presents (social skills, early literacy skills). If holiday gift-giving is a tradition in your family, you can give books as gifts to children and help them give books to their friends. Each gift should include a personal note about why the book is special to the donor or why it was chosen or created for the recipient. To make the gift even more special, include a recording of the donor(s) reading the story.

Invent your own board game (motor skills, problem-solving skills, early math skills). Begin by asking the child to choose a theme (a holiday-themed game might be fun, or a game based on the child’s favorite winter storybook). Sketch out a path and divide it into squares. Label the start and finish. The child can then illustrate the rest of the board and label a few of the squares as special theme-related places. You can also write directions, such as “Go ahead 2,” “Go back 1,”“Take a card,” or “Take a short cut to the Snow Castle” on some of the individual squares. Make a deck of index cards with theme-related directions, such as “Take a ride on the sled” or “You got lost in the woods. Miss one turn.” Players can use a die, spinner, or a flipped penny (e.g., heads for advance one square, tails for advance two squares) to move around the board.

Make Jell-O together (language and problem-solving skills, early science concepts)
. Read the directions one step at a time and talk about each step. Talk about what happens as the powder dissolves and as the Jell-O cools and begins to set. Try making different colors and using winter-themed cookie cutters to cut out different shapes: snowmen, stars, pine trees. Make up names for your creations together.

Set up an indoor snowball game (gross motor skills). Cut a few 8- to 9-inch holes in a big piece of cardboard and decorate the cardboard to look like a tree or a snowman. Give your child some “indoor snowballs” (beanbags or soft foam balls) and encourage your child to throw the snowballs through the holes on the target. Have your child start very close to the target and then move back a few feet to make it a little more challenging. Show your child how to throw both underhand and overhand, and be sure to cheer when the snowballs hit their target!

Write a winter storybook together (early literacy skills, fine motor skills). Invite your child to make her own book about a favorite winter activity or memory. Fasten a few pieces of paper together with staples or yarn. Ask your child to draw pictures or paste magazine photos to illustrate a story. Encourage her to tell you in her own words about the event she remembers or enjoys, and help her write the words on each page.

Have an outdoor adventure day (motor skills)
. Outdoor activities are the perfect way to give your child’s motor skills a pick-me-up. Bundle up for activities that involve both gross motor skills (running, hopping, sledding, throwing and catching snowballs) and fine motor skills (grasping tools, digging in snow, stacking stones or small snowballs). You might try making an outdoor adventure path or obstacle course for children to follow, or going on a neighborhood nature walk or scavenger hunt.

Snuggle up with a book every night (communication and early literacy skills). Chilly winter nights are made for cozy shared reading sessions—one of the single most important activities you can do with a young child. Not only is it a wonderful way to bond and relax together, it also strengthens your child’s communication and language skills and sets the stage for early literacy development. Choose some winter-themed books and engage your child while you read: ask them what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story, or have the child act out the story with you and pretend to be different characters. For some winter storybook recommendations, check out these lists:

Have fun trying these and other activities with your child, during winter break and beyond. And if you have a favorite winter activity of your own, share it in the comments below!

P.S. Don’t forget that activities should be supervised at all times by an adult. Any material, food, or toy given to a young child should always be reviewed for safety first.

Activities 1-5 adapted from Talk to Me, Baby! by Betty Bardige

Activities 6-9 adapted from ASQ®-3 Learning Activities by Elizabeth Twombly and Ginger Fink

We’ll be back soon!

Thanks for reading the Brookes blog—we hope the tips, tools, and resources we’ve been sharing have been helpful to you this year. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2021 and look ahead to the new year, our blog will be taking a brief winter hiatus as we develop new content for our readers. If there’s anything you’d love to see us cover on the blog in 2022, please leave a comment below and let us know. As always, we’re here to serve the needs of our readers who work so tirelessly to help every child reach their potential.
Happy holidays, and happy new year!

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