Open fire: I love a fire in Winter! If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, now is the time for warmth and crackle. If you don’t, choose a clear day to build a fire outside, or turn up at your chimney-toting friend’s house with some firewood and a hopeful expression. You can toast marshmallows, make damper, roast chestnuts, have a go at making billy tea, or just stare peacefully into the flames.
Lego challenges: I promise you: this article is not sponsored by any Danish toy corporations, but surely Lego is the greatest toy ever? Winter is the perfect time to build a complex set with instructions, or to freestyle with a box of mixed bricks. Watch Lego Masters (also not a sponsor!) for inspiration or look up challenges on YouTube or Instagram.
Move over Monopoly, there are some truly wonderful board games out there that are addictive and satisfying. Here are just a few to get you started.
- Telestrations: This is like a cross between Pictionary and Chinese Whispers (which in America goes by the much-more-culturally-sensitive name “Telephone”). Pass dry-erase flip books, alternating between illustrations and descriptions. Prepare for much hilarity when the completed books are read aloud from start to finish!
- Catan: An absorbing game of strategy and luck. Collect resources and build your empire
- Secret Hitler: Fascists walk among us! Can you decide who among you is to be trusted and who is on the side of Secret Hitler?
Much like board games, but quicker and more portable. Here are just a few:
- Sushi Go
A deck of cards is passed around the circle like a sushi train. Players select different types of sushi cards from it as it reaches them to accumulate points. A game of risk and reward.
- Spot it/ Dobble (US/UK)
Every card has eight pictures on it. Every card has one – and only one – matching picture with every other card (it seems like strange witchcraft, but that’s how the deck works). There are many variations of gameplay, but all require you to be the first to recognise the matching picture. Great for kids, and harder than you think!
- The Train Game
This brightly coloured game is a favourite in our house. The original is based on the Melbourne train system. Be the first to collect a hand of stations along the same line, with a matching train. But beware of the ticket inspector!
I know, it’s miserable out there! Who would want to go walking in that? Just trust me. Rug up in raincoats and boots and splash out through the mud. It might be hard to get out the door, but you’ll enjoy yourselves once you get there. Afterwards, it feels great to have hot showers and baths and put dry, cosy clothes on.
Winter is all about great soups. But not everyone is excited by soup for dinner. My trick is to make a soup bar. A buffet of soup. A soup-mas-board. I cook one soup, reheat the leftover (different) soup from last time (note: freeze the leftovers of the new soup this time!) and warm up a tin of tomato soup (the only sort my five-year-olds will tolerate). I have a large family, so this is how we do soup on a regular night. But this would also work well for when you have people over. Home-made bread makes things extra special.
Cosy movie night
Get the blankets and popcorn and snuggle in for an old-school movie night. You could watch an old favourite or a new release, or perhaps educate your children on a cinematic classic. But I can promise you there will be more awkward scenes in that film than you remember. I blame the 1980s!
You can use chairs, tables, clothes horses and blankets to build an indoor wonderland. Toy tea sets and play cookware can also be used here. My children love this activity and I try my best not to let it drive me slowly insane.
I participated in one of these a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun. My sister’s very clever friend put a call-out on social media for five people to make a large pot of soup and bring it to her house with six containers. The next day, we each picked up six containers of different soups to try out.
DIY spa day
Time for some pampering! You don’t need to go out to have a spa day. Set things up at home like an exclusive resort. You can put on mud masks with cucumbers on your eyes, run scented baths, and give each other manicures and pedicures.
Is there anything better on a cold winter’s day than the smell of dinner roasting in the oven? Give yourself plenty of time and experiment with roasting different vegetables. Roast cauliflower, parsnip, beetroot or Brussels sprouts are a great way to add interest to your standard meat and potatoes.
If you live close enough that you can make a day trip of it, drive up to the mountains for some time in the snow.
Make sure you’re well-equipped for gear. You can ask around to borrow from friends or raid the ski sales. Stomping through snow in jeans and sneakers gets old fast!
Epic hot chocolate
There’s hot chocolate and then there’s hot chocolate. Move beyond basic and work out the most decadent recipe to suit your tastes. Experiment with melted chocolate, whipped cream, sprinkles and marshmallows. Your family might tell you that you need to keep working to get it just right. At least, they will if they’re smart!
Bob Ross Painting
Get yourselves set up with paints and canvas, put a Bob Ross episode on TV and let the ‘happy little accidents’ flow! This can also be done with watercolour tutorials on YouTube (I love watercolours, they’re much more portable and washable).
Best in the state
Drive to regional towns to find the best chips, best vanilla slice, best meat pie, best hot chocolate. This is a delicious way to support regional economies. If you are feeling extra-ambitious, you could establish a family food blog to keep track of your rankings and reviews.
Script and record a play
The play’s the thing! Get to work on a script and start rehearsals. You can use puppets, stop-motion animation or a cast of siblings and friends. Don’t forget to make a recording on opening night!
Bring on winter! The weather might be gloomy but that doesn’t mean you have to be! With the right approach you will find winter is a season to be relished, not merely endured.