snow with kids
caption Snow days. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

How to make winter cool for kids

By Catherine Buni
AMC Outdoors, November 2008

When asked what’s to love about winter, the answer, at least to our two kids, is obvious.


Lots of it. This is good, because where we live, tucked between Vermont’s Worcester and Plainfield ranges, there’s no shortage. We got 10 feet last year. On the first day of spring, we were still up to our eyeballs. Literally. It wasn’t until late May that the last traces of snowbank evaporated from the driveway.

“Snow means snow days,” Frances, who is 7, explains. “And snow days,” says Ben, who is 3 years older but just as wise, “are play days.”

We’ve all heard about those hardy, possibly apocryphal, Arctic dwellers driven by bitter clime to name the endless forms of freeze. Our kids understand. Puffy snow, Frances and Ben will tell you, is no good. You cannot pelt your mother and father with puffy snow. In fact, one cannot roll a snowball of any size with puffy snow. For this you need sticky snow. Sticky snow, as anyone who’s wanted to build a snow kitten or snow castle will tell you, is good. Icy snow is good too, for different reasons. Sleds and toboggans slide really fast on icy snow. Haily snow is good for snowballs too, but bad because these snowballs sting, which, if you’re fighting, and you often are, is actually good. Grainy snow is also good. On grainy snow, small skiers can finally slalom through the gentle glades of young maple that surround our house.

OK, snow is good, got it.

But any parent trying to herd children into winter knows this. The challenge is not snow, or even ice for that matter. The problem is cold.

It helps to have kids who pride themselves on their ability to brave windchill. Frances, on a particularly nippy day last year, fought off my attempts to pull up her neck gaiter. In haunting, anachronistic echoes of Black Sabbath, audible only to my middle-aged ear, she intoned, “I Am Icicle Girl.” And then skied away, pink cheeks to the wind. Ben knows exactly where in the mudroom he’s buried his face mask, glove liners, and goggles. In the breast pocket of his snowsuit, he keeps a stash of chemical hand warmers, “in case of life-and-death circumstances.”

It’s never come to that, thanks to heaps of determination, study, proper bundling, and good humor—on all our parts. With a little expert advice and a lot of patience, even the frostiest snow day can melt into play.

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