Just as we humans experience days when our bodies force us to call in sick, every once in a while nature says enough is enough, and a snow day is declared.
It is said that the Inuit, a group of northern indigenous people for whom every day is a snow day, have over 50 words for snow and even more for ice. For example, tlamo—snow that falls in large wet flakes, or hiryla—snow that is stuck in beards. We will borrow from the more precise language of the Inuit to organize our snow day plans.
Pirtuk – Blizzard!
Perhaps the most common and most disappointing to children and their parents is the snow day that results from a blizzard with blowing winds and sub-zero temperatures. There’s no playing outside in a storm like this. There is only one thing to do—bring the snow inside!
Make Snow Ice Cream
8 cups of white (not yellow!) snow
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (or half-and-half, or milk, with a tablespoon of sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir quickly and eat!
Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike? Conduct your own experiment: place a piece of black construction paper in your freezer. Once it is cold, step outside with the paper and collect snowflakes. Bring them in quickly and examine through a magnifying glass.
A wonderful book about snowflakes is Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. This is the story of photographer Wilson Bentley who photographed snowflakes.
Check out SnowCrystals.com for interesting information about snowflakes and other fun activities to try, including making paper snowflakes. Every child should know how to cut snowflakes! This activity can be very addictive; by the time you’re done you’ll appreciate the counting book, Millions of Snowflakes, by Mary McKenna Siddals and Elizabeth Sayles.
If your family likes a little competition, try this! To be fair, everyone must be given the same type of bowl and the exact amount of snow—use a measuring cup. The challenge is– whose snow will melt the fastest? (Banning the stove and microwave for this activity seems fair.) Will someone find a beam of sunlight, or know where a vent blows warmest? Each person watches their snow melt in order to be the first one to shout “melted!”
Cover your kitchen table with plastic, because it’s going to get wet! Gather a variety of materials that can be used for eyes, noses, etc. Stay natural with carrots, celery or radishes, or, go crafty with craft foam and pipe cleaners. Dump a load of snow on the table and begin! (Pop the heads into the freezer if they are melting too fast.) Finally, festoon your porch or balcony with the garish display!
Your kids will be inspired by Snowballs, by Lois Ehlert. Warning…they’ll want to move outside to build an entire snowman.
Rotlana – Quickly accumulating snow!
The perfect snow day is the kind that has the snow coming down in buckets with a temperature that isn’t prohibitive. There is usually some work involved with this sort of snow, and shovels make fast work. Memories are built from that moment when you open the garage to a vista of neighbors working together to clear each other’s driveways. It is a heartwarming camaraderie that teaches our children the value of community and it is an opportunity not to be missed.
The Fox and the Rabbits
Here’s a game that’s perfect for powdery snow. Trample the perimeter of a large circle. Next, trample spokes going across the diameter of the circle until it would resemble a giant bicycle wheel if seen from above. Choose one person to be the fox; the rest are the rabbits. The rabbits must stay on the trampled paths! If the fox tags a rabbit, he is put in the fox’s lair and the game continues.
Illusaq – Good building snow!
A child never forgets the snowman/horse/fort he built with his family. Igloos are tricky, but check out www.igloobuilding.com for a how to. Using a bucket as a mold can speed up the process of any construction.
Building an Igloo by Ulli Steltzer is a wonderful non-fiction look at the real thing.
First, it needs to be very cold! For best results, trample and smooth a large patch of snow. Hook the hose up (no small feat!) and spray the patch. Let freeze, then spray again, etc. (Of course, this isn’t such a good idea if the kids don’t have skates!)
The truth is that the buzz and rumble of our world keeps us so busy that we just don’t know how to relax. Even our days off are over-planned and over-scheduled. The enforced leisure that a snow day offers us is nature’s gift to us, a reminder that above all else, spending time with family is the best gift we can give or receive.
“Every day is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present.”