Winter is a great time for families to have fun together.
First, however, let me disclose some things about myself. I live in Pennsylvania Dutch country, so winter means long, dark nights, chilling temperatures, occasional snowfall, and the smell of wood smoke in the air. I am the father of four children between the ages of three and ten years, and am a Christian of the conservative Mennonite variety. I am a bookworm, disinclined towards sports, and would much rather be warm than cold. My ideas for family fun in the wintertime reflect these factors.
I believe that having fun as a family is important. It is, however, only a part of a greater whole: the relationships which exist as a result of living together as a family. Without the underlying relationships, the activities meant to be fun will fall flat. I’ve concluded that people, not activities, are truly fun. I’ve also come to see that fun is often an incidental result of living together as a family. Pursuing fun so easily defeats it. And I’ve learned that, at least with small children, fun comes in small doses. Too much fun leads to bored, tired children who certainly aren’t having fun.
So with that in mind, I offer a number of suggestions for family fun which my family has experienced.
- If there’s sufficient snow on the ground, go outside and play in the snow. My children love to sled, tunnel through drifts, and make snow forts. As I indicated above, I don’t really like the cold. But I have learned that sledding with my children can be fun, even though I usually spend more time pulling them up the hill on the sled than anything else. With small children, though, we don’t usually spend more than an hour or so outdoors before going in to warm up and to drink the hot chocolate which my wife has prepared.
- Read to your children. Actually, this shouldn’t be a winter activity, it should be a year-round activity. Reading as a family cultivates a love of knowledge and has definite benefits: improved schoolwork and imagination, for example. But I’d like to point out that reading a good book to your children is also fun!
- My older children really enjoy playing card games. Our family particularly likes to play UNO and Dutch Blitz, but we have others: Phase 10, Skip-Bo, and Rook. And my youngest daughter is beginning to enjoy Go Fish (her older siblings find it a bit boring now.)
- My children also like to play board games. Obviously, there is quite a range of skill levels between Candyland and chess, so we can’t always play one which everyone finds exciting. Some games, though, suit most of us: the marble game called Cat & Rat, checkers, and Uncle Wiggily. I believe that playing games such as these (and many sports also) can teach children good sportsmanship: being humble when winning, gracious when losing, and trying their best.
- Recently my wife and children really started putting puzzles together. I honestly am unable to feel any attraction for this activity; in my experience, puzzles are frustrating rather than fun. But I can’t deny that they seem to enjoy it! Often several of them work on it together, while I relax in the recliner nearby and maybe read a book (often my youngest daughter sees this as an opportunity to climb into my lap with a book of her own for me to read to her).
- Some families find cooking and baking together to be a great source of fun. My wife occasionally bakes cut-out cookies, which my children enjoy cutting and decorating. And if it happens on a Saturday, sometimes I help them too. Usually, though, this kind of thing happens through the day during Christmas vacation, when my children are home from school but I’m at work.
- I don’t have much interest in crafts or woodworking, although I’m sure that many families find such things to be fun. I have already helped my children to make a birdhouse, using a kit, and we all found it to be enjoyable. My wife has interested my older children in counted cross-stitch, sewing, and weaving pot-holders, all of which she enjoys doing.