A moment-by-moment guide to memorable snow days (Plus! How to Make Mocha Snow Cream, scroll down!). Be prepared!
BCP Note: Not every family is up as early or moves as quickly, but even if you can’t fit in all this during your own snow day, these ideas will definitely help you set a schedule that gives your upcoming snow day a little more structure while also being very memorable and fun!
As of this writing, winter weather has set in, though we have been gifted with warm days in between. But we’re primed for a snow day any day now!
As always, the first snowstorm comes down to whose prayers have more power: those of working parents, driving adults, those sane, boring people who actually value schedule and routine, and my neighbor Joe and all of his fellow hardworking DPW employees, or schoolchildren, teachers and those of us supposed adults who have never quite grown up.
In the event that the latter group wins, as we often do, I have prepared a moment-by-moment guide to a most enjoyable, meaningful snow day filled with memories your children will treasure forever.
Of course, no one family will find every aspect applicable to them, as ages, stages, interests and parental availability vary, so feel free to take what you can and disregard the rest, or switch things around at your whim!
Timetable for a Snow Day:
6:00-7:02: Obsessively call all of the snow numbers to see if they have updated their status. When they all break the blessed news, pass it onto the eager army awaiting your report outside the bedroom door. Then let them know the first snow day rule: You must go back to sleep and not get out of bed until after the time you would have left for the bus stop, had there been school today. After all, what would be the fun of snow days if you cannot sleep in? Depending on your bus time, which depends on your school and the gender of your children, this would bring you to about 8:30 or so.
8:30-9:15: Get dressed and daven. Make sure to dress warm and snug. For those teens and Mommies who mark days off with long comfy skirts, today might not be the right day for that particular outfit. Long skirts get wet in the snow, making them longer, and then wetter, and you get the drift. You also don’t want to go lazy on the tights if you will be spending any significant amount of time outdoors.
One of the dangers of snow days, or midwinter vacation days, or any day without the school structure, is the possibility of skipping davening to get right to the action. Every great day starts with a great davening, so model that for the kids. It’s not enough to just have them daven, because davening can’t be that thing we speed through to get it over with so we can get to the rest of the day. Make davening special and exciting. While your big boys, if this theoretical snowstorm is serious enough to keep them home as well, will hopefully be able to make it to a minyan, find a way to make the davening exciting for your girls and younger boys. Sing all of the davening out loud together. Make a makeshift shul, complete with a mechitzah if you do have both genders represented. Give every child a turn to lead the davening, with the little ones taking on the songs they know and the older ones taking over from there. Promise snow treats for a beautiful davening. Which brings us to:
9:15 – 9:30: Snow Treats. One of my all-time favorite childhood snow day memories is the Mocha Snow Cream my mother made us, which we simply called Snow Treats. And yes, it involves eating snow. So what?
This has to be done when the snow is still fresh and new, which is why I put it in the morning, assuming that it has been snowing all night and you are now faced with a fresh and crisp morning snow. If it continues snowing, leaving you with fresh snow at night, feel free to enjoy again before bedtime. Snow that has been “sitting out” a few hours exposed to the elements will already contain all kinds of unpleasant particles, so keep it fresh. You also need to have enough snow so that you are not scraping the floor but rather skimming the top few inches.
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon coffee, dissolved
- 1 teaspoon cocoa
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
- Add clean snow, slowly, until the liquid is absorbed. The texture is like soft sorbet. Trust me, you will be making this again and again.
9:30 – 10:00: Get ready for snow play. Yes, it can take half an hour just to sort through the jumble of gloves and scarves and hats. Make sure everyone is well bundled, and that gloves are waterproof.
I always warn my children that we are going out into the snow only once, because I don’t want to deal with four different changes of clothing in one day. We go out enjoy, come back inside, change into warm clothing and then stay inside for the rest of the day. If I am feeling especially charitable, I will allow them to go out one more time a little later, and then change into pajamas. Of course, if you are one of those super chilled parents, you will probably let them go in and out all day, and just smile fondly at the accumulating puddles of melting snow tracked through your home and piles and piles of laundry to wash.
10:00 – 12:30: It’s snow time! Before anything else, make sure to shovel! Shovel the sidewalk in front of your home really well, for the sake of all those who will need to walk past your home in the coming days. If you are feeling especially kindhearted, shovel the walk of a neighbor or two who can use the help.
The kids can get involved with some shoveling contests, including who can build the highest mountain with the snow they shoveled, who can shovel the most square feet per minute, and start one kid at one end of the walk/ car/ driveway/ steps and another at the other end and see where they meet, among others.
Once all of the obligatory shoveling is taken care of, you can get to the real fun: snow angels! Snow men! Snowball fights! Forts! Igloos! The options are endless, and your kids can use their creativity here. Here are some tips to help you create the best snowman on the block:
- Start with good snow. Texture is important and you can’t make a good snowman from powdery snow. You need the slightly wet stuff. Not slush mind you, but the kind of snow you get when it’s just above or just below freezing. Slightly wet snow packs easier and holds onto buttons better.
- Make the balls. Start with a big snowball you pack in your hand and then roll it on the ground, allowing it to pick up snow and get bigger. Remember to roll it in different directions so that you don’t wind up with a cylinder instead of a nice sphere. Keep the ball from making contact with the snowless ground and from picking up dirt and twigs and such. The bottom ball is the biggest. Place it where you want the snowman to reside; if you can see it from inside the house, all the better. Try to pick a place that’s shaded and not in direct sunlight. This will help increase the snowman’s longevity.
- Stack the balls. Jim Sysko, an expert snowman builder who helped work on the largest snowman in the world, recommends that you flatten the top of the first ball. Then when you make the middle segment ball, flatten the bottom of that ball before you place it on the first ball. Flat on flat=more stability. Repeat this process so that the top of the middle ball and the bottom of the top ball are flat too.Once you have all the balls stacked on top of one another, pack snow in-between the segments to add further stability to the structure.
- Spruce up your snowman. Once you build the snowman’s basic structure, your next task is to bring Old Frosty to life. An old silk hat is key in this, although it stands a good chance of blowing away. A carrot for the nose and coal (although who can find coal these days? Little rocks work almost as well) and buttons for the eyes and mouth are classic add-ons. Just get creative and see what you have in the backyard and the kitchen. Prunes work well for the eyes and provide a snack for the birds. Place some sticks in the side for arms.
- Notes: Sysko recommends having the face face away from the sun, to prevent your snowman’s premature blindness. In lieu of physical add-ons, consider painting your snowman with a mixture of food coloring and water. You can paint on a smile or traumatize the little ones by adding some tears as Frosty starts to melt. Or if you really want to traumatize the kids, you can give your snowman a bleeding injury.
12:30-1:00: Get out of the cold. It’s time to peel off the layers and warm up those frozen bones. Have the kids take their wet garments straight to where you need them, instead of leaving them in a heap for you to take care of. Have them drape their coats over the bathtub, line their boots up in an out of the way corner, and then put their wet clothing into the washing machine right after they get into dry ones. Then, spread out blankets on the couches, on the living room floor, around a fake fireplace and have them snuggle under them as they drink hot cocoa.
- Our family recipe calls for mixing one part cocoa to two parts sugar in a pot with a bit of milk until it’s syrupy, and then adding milk to taste, stirring over the flame the whole time.
- Serve them in coffee mugs or styrofoam cups, so the little ones can get excited over their “real coffee,” and then, if you are feeling particularly generous, you can add some mini marshmallows on top, or a dollop of whipped cream.
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch Time! You’ve worked hard enough; let them take care of lunch! Here are a couple of fun snow day lunch options:
- Make your own pizza bar: Give each kid a round pita, or even a piece of bread. Let them heap on the toppings, including cheese, sauce, and all kinds of vegetables. If they are old enough, have them prepare the toppings, or have the older ones prepare and help the younger ones navigate the choices.
- You can also do any other kind of self-serve, mix-and-match lunch, such as a yogurt bar, falafel stand, breads and spreads, etc. Again, if you have older kids, have them prepare a “restaurant” style lunch menu.
The last time I did this, I scoured the house for choices, and trust me, there weren’t that many, but the concept was so fun, it didn’t really matter. Our menu (hand-written) looked something like this:
Yogurts: Strawberry, Coffee, Vanilla, Mixed Berry
Sandwiches: PB and Jelly, Cream Cheese, Toast with butter, Grilled cheese, Grilled Cheese with tomato
Rice Cakes: with cheese, with cheese and ketchup, with peanut butter
Fruit: Apple, Orange, Peach, Canned pineapple
Drinks: Warm water, Cold water, Apple juice, Seltzer
There was probably more, but you get the picture. The point is more to have fun with the concept than to go overboard with the food. Two kids can stand behind the counter and take orders, another couple can be waiters, and then turn the tables around.
2:00 – 5:00: Indoor Play. Now that everyone is well-fed and warmed up, it’s time for some indoor fun. Here’s where the kids can start getting whiny and bored, so you want to make sure they are not only occupied, but also that they understand and feel that this part of the day too is all part of the snow day excitement!
- Play some good old-fashioned board games.
- Write letters to grandparents.
- Work together to complete that 500-1000 piece puzzle gathering dust on your shelf.
- Create a life-sized Candy-Land game using a full piece of construction paper for each square and let the children be the pawns.
- Look through old family albums and yearbooks.
- Create a treasure hunt based on family jokes and memories that leads the troops through the house and toward the ultimate prize. (The opportunity to wash all of the dishes that have accumulated so far today?)
- Start Pesach cleaning. It’s never too early!
- Bake cookies.
- If you have a large, smooth, surface in your home (unfinished basement? Unfurnished rooms?) take out the rollerblades, turn up the volume of the music, and create your own indoor skating rink.
- Break out all of the project materials and let them create their masterpieces.
- Of course, if you were one of the brave ones who sent her kids back out, you are now doing a repeat of the drying up wet children routine, and would probably benefit from getting them bathed and dressed in pajamas, before continuing to supper.
5:00-6:00: Supper time! Snow days are great days for cozy comfort food. Our traditional snow day fare is a stew, which includes whatever we happen to have in the house at the time, and always comes out delicious. We start with a base of potatoes and beans, and then add vegetables, rice, barley, etc. according to our supply. Start early so you can leave it simmering a while, or even put it up in the Crock-pot!
Take advantage of the family togetherness this day has engendered to enjoy a family dinner, where you sit around the table, talk about your day and enjoy each other’s company.
6:00-7:00: Homework. This is for all the little tzadikim who had so much faith that there would be no school today, they didn’t bother doing their homework last night.
7:00: Start the bath and bed routine. Tonight is definitely an early night for kids of all ages. This is partly because they are so wiped out from playing in the snow and out of it for so long, they will be good and ready for bed, but even more importantly because Mommy needs lots and lots of time for herself this evening, after putting in so much effort to give her children such a memorable snow day.
So get them in early, and sit back and enjoy your own cup of hot cocoa as you savor the memories of a snow day well spent!
*This article first appeared in The Lakewood Shopper.
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