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Winter Family Fun

Great things to do when the weather keeps you indoors

Family Plays in Kitchen With Pots and Pans

If it's not too cold, hand out some disposable cameras, assign a topic and roam the neighborhood. For example, if the subject is lions, you may be surprised at the number of door knockers, statues or team mascots that fit the bill.

 

We asked you to let us know how you

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We asked you to let us know how you keep your family entertained and happy when winter weather keeps you all indoors. And you sure responded! Here's a small selection of your many great ideas-plus a few of ours-which run the gamut from sock volleyball with balloons to campouts and s'mores in the living room. Thanks again to all of you who shared your wonderful suggestions

Bring the outdoors in

Camp out inside. Susan G. and her kids, from Stratford, CT, set up tents and sleeping bags in the living room. They make hot dogs, popcorn and s'mores and watch a movie or listen to their favorite music. "Instead of going upstairs for bed, the kids just camp out. The next morning, it's pancakes for breakfast served tentside!"

Serve up a living-room BBQ. Relive the warm and lazy days of summer by cooking up a batch of favorite summer foods usually done on the grill. Try burgers, potato salad, strawberry lemonade and more. Enjoy everything together while dining on a blanket spread out on the floor.

Exercise the mind

Snuggle up. Daphne R., from Portland, OR, explains how her family will "take advantage of the cozy factor and snuggle up with lap robes...reading good books in front of the fire."

Read aloud. Andrea has five children and tells us they gather together and take turns reading chapters from their favorite books. They also play board games and sing songs. "Winter is a wonderful time for togetherness. I love it!!" she says.

Put together a puzzle. Kim T., from Topeka, KS, has her family of six (ages six to fourteen) do a puzzle together, usually 500 to 1,000 pieces. "We don't try to do it all in one night. We leave it up for several days and work on it little by little. It's amazing how into the puzzle the kids will become, even over watching TV."

Revive old favorites. Turn off the TV and video games and get together for an old-fashioned game night. Let the kids take turns picking a game for the whole family to play, or resurrect half-forgotten (or never-learned!) card or board games.

Try a no-repeats weekend. Make a game of trying something new every weekend, with no repeats! Eat new foods, learn something new as a family or go places you've never been before.

Get active

Try a game of sock volleyball. Betsy M. and her boys, from Westmoreland, OH, clear off the family-room floor and blow up a couple of balloons for "sock volleyball." They mark off the court and, wearing only their socks or playing in bare feet, "play volleyball using our feet instead of our arms....It keeps us laughing hysterically."

Feel the rhythm. Put on some great music and dance, dance, dance. You'll have a great time introducing the kids to your favorite moves, and they'll be able to show you what they're into now. You could even take the opportunity to learn some partner dancing (waltz or mambo, anyone?) together!

Bond with family

Make it a family affair. Cheryl has "Family Time" once a month. "We all gather at maw maw's (my house) to have a quick meal and then we play games like bingo." She also gets inexpensive prizes from the dollar store to add to the fun!

Relive old memories. Chrissy V., from Greensboro, NC, plays family videos and she and her family "are all entertained for hours!" They especially love "the older videos of when the kids were really small. They can't get enough of seeing themselves."

Host a film festival. Introduce your kids to Charlie Chaplin or other old movie greats. Or take turns choosing a genre (comedy, scary movies or adventure). You can extend the theme by cooking meals that fit the films. What could be more fun than eating spaghetti and meatballs as you watch Lady and the Tramp during your "Doggone Great Dog Movies" weekend?

Pamper and primp. Tamera finds that her two little girls, ages three and four, are easily bored when they're stuck in the house. "We have a few things we do ... but a fun one is Beauty Parlor Day! We style hair, paint nails, put on dress-up clothes, and have an indoor picnic on the floor."

Bake and create

Let everyone cook. Jennifer E., from Oradell, NJ, bakes with her three children (ages ten, seven and two) whenever it's cold or nasty outside. She gives each of them a job so everyone can help in his or her own way. "Cookies, cakes or brownies ... we always have so much fun!"

Learn more about your family. Margaret Z., from Westland, MI, has "Scrapbook Weekends" in the winter months for grown-ups and kids. She says they learn a lot about their family history, especially from older family members, and the kids can tell stories using their latest vacation pictures. If you do this, consider videotaping it for a visual record of your family's history.

Put on a play. Work together to make up a story, create costumes and design a set with things you have at hand. Then sit back on the sofa and get ready to applaud the entrances and exits that will be treasured memories for years to come. Videotape this too!

Give back

Craft it. Annie G., from Spencer, IA, taught her daughter how to crochet last year. "We now make afghans out of all the leftover yarn from other projects and donate them to the women's shelter."

Volunteer. Linda K., from Nyack, NY, says her family volunteers at a soup kitchen once a month and the kids serve meals. "It feels good to know you are helping someone who has no place to go and who really appreciates the hot meal on a cold day!"

Donate. Roseanne K., from Warminster, PA, sometimes gets her husband and kids to sort through their clothes and toys when the weather is bad. They then donate whatever they can to a local charity-run thrift shop.

Note: A Ziploc® Brand Big Bag comes in handy for organizing and transporting clothing and large items you plan to donate.

Brave the weather

Sometimes you've just gotta get outdoors — even when it's cold. Here are a couple of fun ideas to help everyone focus on something besides the weather.

Make snow paintings. Brenda G., from Sheridan, IN, tells us her daughters are older now, but they used to play inventively outside on snow days. "I would save squeeze bottles and fill them with water colored with food coloring. We would take them outside and draw pictures on the snow."

Go on a photo scavenger hunt.

Make Your Home Winter Ready

Follow these steps to prep your house for cold winter weather.


  Looking at a giant to-do list is overwhelming. To save frustration, break it down into two or three jobs you can tackle over the next three to four weekends. First up, windows. Check each one in the house for drafts and insulation needs. The following week, inspect pipes to avoid an unfortunate burst in January.

You can make things even easier by Everyone enjoys cozy evenings by a crackling fire? Ensure your fireplace is ready to provide warm nights all winter. 

Be sure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before the first frost. Also, have a professional Everything (almost) In Its Place

By: Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore

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WeatherproofingWinterHome ImprovementTips and Hacks

Getting yourself ready for winter is a snap. Gloves? Check! Scarf? Right here. But readying your home for a long, cold season is another story. So, until someone invents a turtleneck sweater you can put around your house when it gets cold, there's some organizing to do. We've got the tips to help you.

Strategy for Saving

Organizing your home for winter can seem like an annoying and perhaps unnecessary chore. But the financial benefits will outweigh any feelings of being "put out." Winter heating costs can skyrocket if your windows are poorly insulated, your plumbing breaks, or if the heating system is out-of-date. Ensuring your home is prepped properly can save you a nice chunk of change while protecting your property for years to come.

Break It Down

dividing the job among the family. Assign each person a room to inspect and report back on whether it's ready for winter.

Three Steps to a Safe Season

#1: Prep the Plumbing

Drain the water from your outdoor faucets and garden hoses and arrange to have any in-ground sprinkler pipes blown out. Roll up the garden hoses and store them inside. Identify any "problem" pipes that are prone to freezing in the house and consider using heat tape to keep them warm during extremely cold weather. If the worst happens, ensure everyone in the family knows how to turn off the water at the source. This will minimize leaking when and if a pipe bursts.

#2: Heat Things Up

perform a routine check of the heating systems before cold weather arrives. This should include vacuuming the vents and other heating components. If your furnace has a filter, check to see if it needs replacing. For more energy savings, consider installing a setback thermostat that keeps the home cooler when you are asleep or away.

#3: Seal the Leaks

Keep drafts to a minimum this winter. If you have them, install storm windows and doors -- and don't overlook the basement. Add or replace worn weather stripping around the doors and windows and caulk any gaps. If doorstops are worn, replace them. If any pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall, be sure to use caulking and weather-stripping around all entry points. These steps will block any potential entry points for cold air. That's an idea you can warm up to.

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed people get themselves organized. They are also co-authors of