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Outdoor Winter Activities

Winter can be a tough time to keep the kids (and adults) entertained. That warm fuzzy feeling of a day off school wears off quickly when it’s the third time in two weeks! The creative folks at the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh – no strangers to hard winters – came up with the following five outdoor winter activities that might keep everyone from catching a case of cabin fever this year. 

1. Have a Bonfire. While it might be cold outside, the fire can heat you right up, plus there is nothing like s’mores and hot dogs in the middle of winter. Pick a spot you always have a bonfire at in the summer and have a discussion about what the difference between the seasons is. While you are there, you might as well take a nice winter hike...just remember your gloves. 

2. Make Some Candy With Snow. Heat 1 cup of pure maple syrup and ¼ cup unsalted butter. Slowly heat the two together over medium heat until the mixture is boiling, and continue boiling for five minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for a minute, then go find yourself a nice clean patch of snow and pour. Let the syrup harden for a minute and then use popsicle sticks to scoop it up and eat. 

3. Color the Snow. White snow is a ton of fun to play with, but think about the fun your kids could have with colored snow. Start out by saving some empty milk and juice cartons. Once you’ve got a couple, cut off the tops and fill with a mixture of water and food coloring (it can be any color you want). Put them outside to freeze and wait a couple of days. Once they are fully frozen, take them out of the cartons and you’ve got building blocks. As these ice blocks slowly melt, they will color the snow around them, and you will have colored snow balls for your next fight. 

4. Snow Ice Cream. Those cold winter days may not seem like the best time for ice cream, but when you make it with snow they certainly are. Start out by mixing 1 cup of cream, ½ a cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1 tablespoon of sugar-free, instant vanilla pudding mix, and the most important part: 6 cups of clean snow. Stir all the ingredients together until you have a thick, milkshake-like mixture. After that, cover the bowl and let it sit out in the snow for about 15 minutes to harden up. Finally, mix about 4 more cups of snow in until it is thick and looks like ice cream. 

5. Ice Artwork. Winter is that time of year when everything is sparkling and bright, and the perfect time to make some icy artwork. This is a great chance to teach your children about the value of reusing and recycling. Start out by saving some lids off of containers of ice cream and finding some elements of nature you would like to encase in ice (small leaves, berries, flowers, etc.). Fill your ice cream lid with about a ½-inch of water and place your items inside to freeze. Leave them out overnight, and in the morning when you rip off the ice cream lid, you will have a beautiful piece of art. If you are feeling more creative, place a loop of string inside the water before it freezes and in the morning.

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