5 Things to Do Indoors When It's Just Too Cold Outside

These fun winter activities will lift spirits and warm hearts.

Young sisters look at snowfall outside
Photo: Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

If the cold weather has you and your family stuck inside, let your kitchen be your destination to another world. This single room can be the respite we all need and deserve, offering fun, inspiration, and even a bit of science, on those long and dreary winter days when nothing much seems to be going on. Here are five ideas to keep you and your foodie family inspired this season, irrespective of the weather.

Build a Hot Cocoa Bar

Keep kids entertained — and engaged in the kitchen—with a family-friendly activity that's fun for adults and kids alike. Recruit the entire family to make a hot cocoa bar by blending unsweetened cocoa powder with spice rack ingredients, like nutmeg, cinnamon, or even a little bit of salt.

Set it all up on the counter with your cutest mugs and whatever else you happen to have lying around (leftover candy canes from the holidays can be smashed into pieces for a perfect hot cocoa topping, for instance) for a DIY-style hot cocoa bar that will fill up a solid part of a dreary winter afternoon.

Make-Your-Own Seasoning Packets

Scientists say that it takes a minimum of ten times for a person to become comfortable with a "new" taste, which makes it all the more important for kids (and even adults) to taste new flavors with regularity. One way to get the entire family involved is to pull out the spice rack and to let the family loose.

Allow everyone the freedom to make special, homemade seasoning packets for cooking, which they can later use for a select family meal. This is a great way for kids to learn what herbs and spices smell like. It's also a great way to sift through older spices that may be expired.

Stage an Episode of Freezer-Dive Chopped

Do a freezer dive and select a few random items for a "surprise" dinner à la Chopped. Get the whole family involved in the brainstorm. What can you do with three or four random food items from the freezer?

Making dinner into a game is a great way to pass a chilly January afternoon. It's also a great way to get through some of those long-forgotten freezer items that may have been languishing in no man's land.

Make Edible Play-Doh

Most people know about the traditional Play-Doh at-home recipe, which calls for cream of tartar, flour, water, and salt. But did you know that you can make a far more delicious version, too?

Entice kids with this sweeter version: 12 large marshmallows and two teaspoons of coconut oil, combined in a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwaved on high until the marshmallows puff (30 seconds). Add food coloring and mix to combine. Then add eight tablespoons of cornstarch and stir until a thick dough forms.

Remove the dough and place it on the counter and knead carefully by hand. Add more cornstarch, a teaspoon at a time, if needed, until the dough is no longer sticky. You can store this dough in an airtight container until it's ready to use, and you can eat it right off of your fingers when you're finished playing with it.

Learn to Make Smoothies

Teach kids (and stubborn adults) the magic of smoothie-making with a flavor combining activity that will give them agency over what they drink and eat. This is a fun way to spend an afternoon, sift through frozen fruits and vegetables, and show kids that veggies can taste just fine when mixed in with far sweeter fruits like blueberries and bananas.

You can even set up an entire smoothie bar, where kids can choose their own ingredients. This is a particularly great way to whittle down the last of whatever you have hanging out at the back of the fridge.

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