Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow War Games

Hooray! We finally have our first real snow. The weather that has turned Minnesota into the icebox of the universe has the happy side-effect of bringing the cold far enough south to make our usual icy slush into fluffy, white, wonderful snow.

You know what that means -- it's playtime!

Now, I know that a large portion of the country has been under snow for some time now. So, I thought it would be helpful to share a few of our favorite things to do in the snow. Maybe it'll give you some ideas of something a little different to do with your crew.

  • First, the usual -- sledding. We have a small hill in our back yard, but when you are a flatlander (like most of us in the Midwest) you will find that there are certain places where most of the kids congregate when the ground gets white. Here, it's Harrison Park Golf Course. The entire population under age 16 (toting parents when appropriate) shows up to Harrison Park for the sledding. There is no doubt that we will be there later today. The grade is about 60 degrees in places, with sled runs that would rival Tuckerman's Ravine, were they but a little longer. (Well, at least that's how it seems to my five-year-old.) We use Harrison Park as a sledding hill only, but there are aspiring snowboarders here in town who, despite the fact that the hill isn't even big enough for a J-bar, magically transform into Shaun White whenever the snow is deeper than three inches.

  • For the preschool set, the most basic activity is making snow angels. My crew are as experienced in the art of the snow angel as any trio on the planet. They routinely walk up the block, blessing each household with an angel or two until all are covered. We have occasionally tried to vary the position of the arms and legs, making snow runners, snow horses, snow kokopelli, and many many snow blobs. Maybe they're snow amoeba. At any rate, the basic idea is to lay on one's back in fresh snow, with arms and legs straight out, keep your body still and move your arms up and down and your legs open and closed until you have made an angel-shape in the snow. For the amoeba, the instructions are similar, although less, shall we say, rigid. The trick for both is to get to the standing position without ruining the angel you just made. Here, your options are threefold: super-ninja flip-kick to a standing position, levitate, or have a friend give you a hand. (We use option #3.)

  • Of course, there is the snow-ball fight, which my boys have elevated to a fine art form. They put as much planning into an (inevitably failing) snowball attack on my husband as the US armed forces put into the landing at Normandy. As though they had read Sun Tsu's Art of War from cover to cover, my boys amass a stunning array of snow-ammunition to be thrown from no less than seven vantage points throughout the yard. They create a secret hide-out (every year, no less) underneath the snow-laden branches of our evergreens (forgetting, apparently, that their Dad just has to walk close to the branches and shake them to A. completely bury the boys in snow and B. completely destroy the hide-out.) Well, I'm sure they'll fake him out this year.

  • We also play a variety of outdoor games modified for the snow. That includes snow hide-and-seek, snowball tag, ring around the rosie (made fun by falling in the snow), and snow duck duck goose. We also love snow football! It is especially good when the entire family gets together and you get to see Uncle Matt (6 foot 4) completely bury his older brothers in a snowbank. Can you say 'revenge'?

  • Which brings me to the next fun idea... victimizing your family members when they least expect it. This is what all outdoor snow play eventually degenerates into in a family where there is more than one child. At some point, the kid who got stuck on the slower sled or had to ride with his sister or kept falling down during snow duck duck goose is going to yearn for revenge. He'll stuff snow down the neck of someone's coat or accidentally-on-purpose give his sister a 'flat tire' making her boot come off (wet socks, yuck). She will tackle her little brother as he puts the finishing touches on the meticulously-crafted snowbear he was making, knocking the head of said bear clean off while shoving her brother's face in the snow. He will dump an entire shovel full of snow onto his mother's head as she's walking up the sidewalk with the mail in her hand (having noticed both that she's not shoveling snow or wearing a hat today).

  • And then, all pandemonium will break loose. No matter how old the group of playmates in question (even when they are -ahem- older than thirty), everyone will behave with the maturity level of someone approximately one-third their actual age. A three year old will lay down in the snow and cry because he can't get up again in this puffy snowsuit. A nine year old will start calling people doody-head and start flinging snow with wild abandon. A thirty-six year old will discover that neat snow hide-out you can make under the evergreen bushes. His wife, however, will remember the shake-the-branches trick and run for her life. This can/should continue until approximately 51% of the participants are in tears.

  • Then, it's back indoors for dry clothes and hot, dark chocolate cocoa with marshmallows and/or a dash of cayenne pepper (at least that's how *we* like it.)

I hope this list gives you and your family a place to begin when you're getting ready for some winter fun of your own. As for a place to end, that I can't promise you.

I only know how it works at our house.

- Midwest Mom


  1. This Californian is jealous. Hail is the closest we ever get to snow. And you can't make a decent snow angel in a pile of hail.

  2. You and I like all the same things in the snow! Have you ever played FOx and the Goose? You make tracks like a pizza cut into 8 slices and play tag--staying only in the tracks. My family LOVES to do that.

  3. I'm a fellow flatlander! (I just used that term in a post from yesterday.) We are having the nasty cold weather here in Kansas, but no snow. Boo! We normally get about 21 inches of snow per year, but we've had less than 5 inches this year. And I hold the philosophy that if it's going to bitterly cold, we better have some pretty white stuff to go along with it. Oh well! Have fun and enjoy!


  4. Robyn,
    Ew... hail. I guess you can just make teenie tiny snowmen with hail?

    Green Girl,
    Thanks for the game! As soon as there is no danger of frostbite, we'll give it a try out back. :D

    Are you telling me that Kansas is flat? (ha.) I checked out your most recent post and my dear, minus 4 is not a temperature I would be going on a coffee run in. Can you say Taster's Choice? ;) Thanks for visiting the blog.



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