Winter can really take its toll on parents. Aside from the additional time spent at home when you should be/wish you were working, there’s nowhere for all that pent-up kid energy to go: no sending the kids out in the backyard or to the playground to release some energy. Playdates are great, but they have their limit as well. We even resort to letting our toddler run around the hallway of our apartment building when it’s really snowy and we can’t get outside. Oh yeah, our neighbors love us.
When we are stuck inside, and I can’t fit any more art projects onto the fridge, I resort to cooking and baking.
Cooking and baking with your kids isn’t the cleanest activity, but then again, neither is bathing, eating, or playing in the snow. So while it may seem like an intimidating activity for some, if you are relaxed about it, you can have a lot of fun, and maybe even produce something edible.
Once I resigned myself to the fact that my kitchen floors would be covered with flour, sprinkles, splattered tomato sauce, and any number of other food items, getting dirty in the kitchen with my daughter became a regular activity.
Here are a few EASY and fun ideas to avoid killing your kids on a cold winter day:
1. Dog treats
My daughter recently saw Giada making some dog treats on her show and turned to me to ask if we could make dog treats for our dog, Otis. I couldn’t possibly say no. There are lots of recipes out there, but my dog is allergic to peanut butter so I opted for Cesar Milan’s Basic Dog Treat Recipe. You can prep ahead and buy cute shapes like these, or just use whatever you have lying around the house. I doubt your pets will know the difference. The treats were very easy to make, and my daughter delighted in chasing around our dog to feed him the treats.
2. Decorated sugar cookies
Decorating sugar cookies is probably the messiest and most time consuming of the projects I am suggesting. You will need to prepare a basic sugar cookie recipe in advance, allow to chill, and then roll out pieces for each of your kids. Put out any cookie cutters you have, or even some cups to cut out shapes. Once the cookies have baked and cooled, put out a spread of different icings, sprinkles, jam, and candy for them to decorate. It will be messy, but they will love it.
If you are trying to be super mom, I suggest prepping the dough for them to cut AND having a batch of already-baked cookies ready to go. So while their cookie creations are baking, they can also get started on decorating the cookies you prepared. This strategy keeps them occupied slightly longer without any lag time.
A few other cookie ideas:
– Almond butter chocolate chip cookies (gluten free)
3. Oreo truffles
Have you ever tried oreo truffles? They are delicious, addictive, and oh yeah, you don’t actually even bake them. All you need are some oreo cookies, cream cheese, and chocolate for melting. You and your kids will both love making them, and you won’t even have to turn the oven on.
4. Pizza bagel party
I am in my 30s and I still absolutely love pizza bagels. And what kid wouldn’t get excited on a snowy day when you announce you are having a “pizza bagel party” today? Lay out tomato sauce, cheeses, colorful veggies, and bagels. Allow them to put together their own creations and then bake for lunch in a 375 degree oven until cheese is just melted. It’s one step away from them just fending for themselves while you sit back with a cup of coffee. And I daresay, your teenagers may even enjoy this one, though I doubt they would ever admit it.
5. Homemade veggie chips
I love any kind of crunchy chips, and I bet your kids do too. These are easy to make, healthier than opening a bag of Doritos, and can be a fun project to make at home together. Try Rachael Ray’s baked veggie chips, these beet chips with spicy honey mayo, or my perfect kale chips for a slightly healthier indoor baking activity.
6. Chocolate-dipped fruit
Break out some bowls of melted chocolate chips, lay out fresh fruit like banana, kiwi, apples, and even dried apricot and pineapple, and let your kids go to town. It will be messy, they are gonna lick their hands and then try to hug you, but it will be fun, delicious, and maybe even vaguely healthful. Here are a few other ways to make chocolate and fruit fun for you and your kids: