February is here, the month when I often begin to feel the real bleakness of winter. It's cold outside, it gets dark early, and the few holidays between New Years and Easter are (in my opinion) anticlimactic. With little to look forward to except the eventual coming of spring, the latter half of winter can tend to drag. Plus, with COVID-19 in the mix, there is even less to do than before.

But winter months don't have to be boring and depressing. Even if there aren't any regularly scheduled fun events, you can always invent something! After searching my brain and the internet, I've come up with 30 fun activities your family can do in wintertime. These cheap activities can all be done from home (mostly indoors), should occupy children for at least half an hour (up to several hours), and in most cases do not require much parental prep.

On to the list!

  1. Do a scavenger hunt.
    This can be done either indoors or outdoors. If indoors, try searching for things like a button of a specific color, or a penny from a particular year.
  2. Build a “campfire.”
    Roast marshmallows, make s'mores, maybe include hot dogs for dinner! This can also be a location-versatile activity, depending on whether you have a fire pit or an open fireplace.
  3. Make a bird feeder.
    Birds are more likely to use it in winter and are more easily seen in the bare trees!
  4. Have a game night.
    I am a huge fan of board games (Sara Jones has a few ideas here and here), but if you don't like them or don't have them available, here are a few ideas of games that can be done with simple materials.
    • Charades
    • Dictionary
    • Twenty Questions
    • Trivia (via online quizzes or an app)
    • Heads Up (smartphone app—my kids love this!)
    • Fishbowl Game (a combo of charades, Pictionary, and Password/Taboo)
    • Hunt the Thimble (my kids loved this as littles)
    • Farkle
    • Yahtzee (printable scoreboards are available online)
  5. Create a home movie theater.
    Real movie theaters may be unavailable, but you can still have popcorn, candy, and soda in front of a movie at home!
  6. Watch educational videos online.
    Have the kids take turns picking a subject that interests them (a favorite animal, historical character, etc.) and try to find a short-ish video about it. YouTube can be surprisingly educational if you know where to look!
  7. Read aloud.
    I can think of few things I enjoy more than reading a book together, snuggled in blankets near a fire.
  8. Build a blanket fort.
    A rite of childhood, yes?

    Jessica's kids build a blanket fort to ward off winter blues!

  9. Build a box castle.
    With people ordering everything online these days, it shouldn't be much trouble to collect a stack of boxes. Use them as blocks to build a house, fort, or castle!
  10. Make instruments.
    See what kinds of instruments you can create from everyday objects (plastic containers, pots and pans, toilet paper rolls, rubber bands, etc.). Then make a band or have a parade! Great for preschoolers.
  11. Do a play / make a movie.
    My siblings and I used to do this regularly, and my kids kept up the tradition in their elementary years. Perhaps I can convince them to try again even as “mature” middle schoolers?
  12. Put on a puppet show.
    You can make puppets from old socks or cut-outs taped on craft sticks, or just use stuffed animals.
  13. Have a pillow / stuffed animal fight.
    Pillow fights are fun, but my personal favorite growing up was to gather all the stuffed animals in the house and pelt them at each other. Good times.
  14. Have target practice with rubber bands.
    My siblings and I used to get a kick out of setting up small toys (action figures, etc.) and seeing how many we could knock over by shooting them with rubber bands. An instant classic.
  15. Build an indoor obstacle course.
    Or tell the kids that the floor is lava. Just make sure glass tables are off limits. . . . My five-year-old self learned that lesson the hard way.
  16. Set up a domino chain.
    You can buy sets of dominoes specifically for tumbling (cheaper than real dominoes), or you can use substitutes like blocks, or even books.
  17. Have a Lego building competition.
    Who can come up with the most unique creation?
  18. Create a home salon.
    Your little ladies might enjoy a makeover with nail polish, hair styling, makeup, and/or pretty dresses.
  19. Have a tea party.
    One lump or two?
  20. Hold an art contest.
    If the competition is fierce, make sure there are enough categories that everyone can win something.
  21. Write a family newspaper.
    Even if there's not much going on, have the kids try to write about something interesting in their everyday life. Don't forget to draw or print pictures to include with your stories!
  22. Make homemade playdough.
    Here is one easy recipe.
  23. Bake cookies.
    Maybe try a new type of cookie each week and see which kind you like best!
  24. Have an apple tasting.
    Buy several varieties of apples and rate them for different qualities (sweet vs. tart, crisp vs. soft, etc.). Then vote on which ones you like best! (Credit goes to Sara Jones for this idea.)

    Jessica's kids taste-test various types of apples and record their findings!

  25. 25. Play restaurant.
    My kids and I did this for my husband's and my anniversary last year. You can read more about it here!
  26. Have the kids make dinner.
    If your kids are a little older, have them decide on a dinner they want to make and then let them have at it. Try not to help!
  27. Have an indoor picnic.
    If you're itching for summer and warm weather, you can at least pretend. Maybe turn on a video of summery sounds and scenery in the background.
  28. Camp out in the living room.
    Grown-ups not necessarily included.
  29. Have a Valentine's party.
    Have a special dinner, watch a special movie, make special treats, create special Valentines for one another—anything to make the day special for the family, even if the grown-ups can't do much on their own!
  30. Have a second Christmas.
    Didn't get enough of Christmas the first time around? Put up a few lights, hang the stockings, and turn that Christmas music back on. Buy cheap items for one another at the dollar store or make them by hand, and then open them up like it's Christmas morning. Make it extra special with a big breakfast or dinner!

And there you have it! Now to see which of these ideas my family wants to try over the next several weeks. What would you add to the list?

—Jessica

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of author.