I’ve always loved snowstorms. Beyond the simple beauty of a thick blanket of snow, all that powder transforms the world into a moldable landscape. As a kid, that usually meant building forts, tunnels, and sled jumps. The smallest spark of an idea could turn into a daylong project. We rounded up some advice—and some Winter Olympic-inspired fun—to kickstart that creativity in your own family.
“Even simple games are made really exciting by being on snowshoes,” says Kyla Alterman, a program coordinator for AMC’s Outdoors Rx who leads activities for Boston-area families throughout the winter. In Alterman’s sessions, having fun is the motivating factor—not competition.
To increase the joy quotient, she plans more games than she’ll need. Then she watches to see what her flock is enjoying. “I’ll be ready to scrap my plan if kids are really excited by a given activity,” she says.
Check in frequently to make sure your little ones are staying warm and dry. “I try to trust the kid,” Alterman says. “If a child says, ‘I’m cold,’ that’s really important to listen to.” A cocoa ceremony is a great way to take a break, warm up, and reward your winter gamers. Without further ado…
DIY WINTER PENTATHLON
1. Full-Family Bobsled. The Olympic form of this sport takes place on an icy track, but you can mimic it on any hillside. Gather the family and take a running start: Can you all jump into the same sled? Give it a try and see how fast you can reach the bottom of the hill.
2. Hillside Slalom. Set up a few gates using extra ski poles, broomsticks, or mounds of snow. Even a simple slalom course can help your child learn and reinforce turning skills, whether on skis, a snowboard, or in a sled.
3. Medley Relay. OK, OK: There’s no such event in the Winter Olympics, but you might recognize the name from watching Michael Phelps’s swimming exploits. A medley relay involves a different event on each leg. A skier could hand off to a snowshoer who then tags a sledder….
4. Snowball Biathlon. This Winter Olympic staple is easily adaptable to the backyard, subbing in snowballs for the aiming element. Practice cross-country skiing or snowshoeing for one half of the biathlon, taking breaks at your snowball range. To create a target, build up a pile of snow and draw a bull’s-eye on its side using a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of food coloring.
5. Cross-Courtyard Ski. Your kids might be a few years away from moving boulders for AMC’s teen trail crew, but they can blaze a trail today in the snow. To create your own cross-country course, use colorful strips of fabric to tie knots on branches, bushes, or whatever landmarks you choose to line your route—and, of course, remove them once you’re done. Blaze your path up, around, and over any obstacles; draw a finish line in the snow with your spray bottle; then hit the course on skis.
The options don’t end there. See what direction your kids take these activities or if they come up with events of their own.