Snowday activities that will keep your family busy all day long

You've shoveled and made a snowman. Now what?

The snow is falling, school is canceled, and your kids already have a serious case of cabin fever. Need some motivation to pull on the boots and snowsuits one more time? Turn a snow day into a day of outdoor fun with one of these kid-friendly snow activities.

Do-it-yourself snowshoes

Sinking into snow banks with every step can make going for a family walk on a wintry day almost impossible. Have a few pieces of heavy cardboard or shoe boxes, a pencil, some string and a pair of scissors? Then you have all the materials necessary to make a functional pair of snowshoes.

Snowshoes work by spreading a person's weight over a larger area of snow, so the snow can support the weight. To make, place a boot on cardboard and trace around it a rectangle the size of a school lunch tray; repeat with other boot. Cut out rectangles and place each boot on its own rectangle. For younger kids, old shoeboxes are the perfect size cardboard for snowshoes — simply place each boot in a box. With a pencil, mark four holes on each piece of cardboard, two near the heel and two near the instep of the boot. Use scissors to pierce holes where you made your markings and then thread with string, tying string around boot to secure.

And you're off! Walking in snowshoes is like walking on dry land wearing a pair of swim flippers. The trick to staying above the drifts is to lift each leg as you walk, picking up the snowshoe and placing it back down on the snow instead of shuffling. Once your family has mastered a good snow-walking technique, take time to explore the parts of your backyard or neighborhood that are normally too far from shoveled sidewalks to access. Do you see any animal tracks? Ask your kids why they think some animals are able to get around so well without snowshoes. If you are lucky, you will come across the oversized tracks of the snowshoe hare. Snowshoes get their name from the shape of their back feet, which look like snowshoes and help the hare stay on top of the snow.

Yes, cardboard snowshoes will eventually become soggy and torn. Recycle after use and start fresh with a new piece of cardboard.

Skate the day away

When road conditions make driving to the local skating rink impossible, your own backyard can be turned into a gleaming sheet of ice for minimal effort. Make-you-own skating rink kits are widely available at sporting goods stores and are simple to install. But with a few low-tech supplies (PVC tubing, plastic sheeting, adhesive and water), building a hockey rink or figure skating practice patch from scratch is an easy and economical winter project.

First, decide how big you want the rink to be. If this your first time making an outdoor ice rink, start small. An approximate size of 10' x 10' or 10' x 15' is good to start with — you can always build up to an Olympic-size hockey rink later.

Next, clear the area in your yard where the rink will be located. Shovel snow until the ground is bare; if there is already quite a bit of snow of the ground, tamp snow with a shovel to compact. To create the frame the ice will sit in, measure and cut PVC tubing to match the dimensions of the rink; connect tubing with PVC corner joints. Lay plastic sheeting on the cleared ground and place rink frame on top. Cut plastic sheeting to match frame, leaving a generous amount around the edges. With the adhesive work your way around the frame, rolling the edge of the plastic around the tube to glue. (This will prevent water from seeping out).

Finally, flood the rink with a regular garden hose until water is approximately three to four inches high; allow time for ice to form. It may take two to three days for ice to be hard enough for skating, meaning this project should be done ahead of the next snowstorm. (Brush the snow off and you're ready to go.) Keep the rink maintained all winter long by spraying it regularly to smooth and resurface the ice.

Here's more information on building your own backyard ice skating rink.

Snowball pitching contest

Finally, a fun family activity that actually encourages kids to throw snowballs! For this snowball pitching contest, mound up snow to create three bases and a pitcher's mound.

Bases should each be about 2 feet high and 20 feet apart; make bases and distances smaller if playing with younger kids. Next, build a pyramid out of empty soda cans on each base. The challenge is to knock down the stacks in order from first to third base by throwing snowballs from the pitcher's mound. The child who succeeds with the fewest pitches wins.

Ice fishing

Got a fishing license?  If the conditions are right, your family's snow day could be spent out on the ice fishing the frozen waters of New Hampshire. Small- to medium-sized lakes and ponds scattered across the state are usually frozen over by mid-January and, according to the NH Fish and Game Department, most are home to good populations of fish that tend to be very cooperative through the ice, especially chain pickerel and yellow perch.

Some good fishing holes for families recommended by NH Fish and Game include Pemigewasset Lake in New Hampton, Hawkins Pond in Center Harbor, Lily Pond in Gilford, Grafton Pond in Grafton, Burns Pond in Whitefield, Forest Lake in Whitefield, Turtle (aka Turtletown) Pond in Concord, Northwood Lake in Northwood, Massabesic Lake in Manchester and Robinson Pond in Hudson.

Before heading out on the ice, NH Fish and Game encourages parents and kids who are new to the sport to take an ice-fishing instruction/safety class, held on various dates at locations throughout the state. Participants learn ice fishing basics, how to judge ice thickness (ice should be frozen solid at least 6-8 inches deep; more if you plan on bringing a vehicle on the ice) and how to safely drill holes in the ice. If you don't know how to do these things, don't go out on the ice. To find out more about classes, call NH Fish and Game at 271-5829.

Categories: Outdoor Sports, Winter Sports