Entertaining and educational ways to make the most of Family Day this year

Family Day (Feb 18th) is fast approaching for most Canadians. The family-themed day off in February is observed in New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. If you’re living in one of these provinces, the kids will be home from school – and many workplaces will be closed.

We’ve got some fun and educational ideas for things to do with the little ones that can keep them busy and create lasting memories – without costing you an arm and a leg.  

Indoor activities  

You never know how agreeable the weather might be in February. In case of painfully cold or blizzard-like conditions, you might want to spend the day indoors. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to mean plunking the kids down in front of a screen to while away the hours.

If you can’t get outside, or prefer to stay indoors, here are some entertaining and creative ways to spend the day.

Build a pillow fort

You remember doing this as a kid, right? You use chairs and blankets, pillows and couch cushions to create an impregnable fortress. The great thing about this activity is that it encourages children’s imaginations as they design, build, and name their fortress. It’s also good for hand/eye coordination, balance, and learning the basic principles of engineering as elements must be carefully placed to hold each other up.

Make your own play dough

Sure, you could buy play dough, but why spend the money when you can easily make your own. Plus, the act of creating the dough with your kids can be just as rewarding as actually playing with the finished product.

Here’s how to do it. Mix together one cup of flour with ¼ cup of salt in a bowl. In a separate container, mix a few drops of food colouring with a ½ cup of warm water. Next, slowly pour the water into the flour mixture, stirring as you pour. Stir until all of the water is mixed in, then knead the dough with your hands until the flour is completely absorbed. If the play dough is too sticky to work with, just add a bit more flour until it is the perfect consistency for modelling. This is the very basic recipe, and it does dry a little faster than store-bought play dough. However, you can make it last longer by adding two tablespoons of lemon juice (or cream of tartar) and one tablespoon of vegetable oil to the mix.

The follow-the-clues treasure hunt

This was a favourite activity of my son’s. It is a great game to play with kids who are just learning how to read. Here’s how it’s played. You hand the little one a simply written note explaining that a treasure (a toy or a treat) has been hidden somewhere in the house. The note then explains where to find the first clue. At that location, there is another note explaining where to find the next clue, and so on.

Kids love this game, because it is a mini adventure, and there is a reward at the end – the toy or treat they have been pursuing. It also gets them to practice their reading and cognitive skills as they decipher each note and find the next one.

You can make the wording and complexity of the clues as easy or as challenging as you like to suit the abilities of your child.   

Outdoors activities to enjoy

If the weather cooperates, get outside this Family Day. Playing outdoors in the snow can make for great family memories.

Make a snow fort

Similar to the indoor pillow fort, building a hideout in the snow can be an imaginative and educational activity that is fun for all ages. To make a functioning fort, you need to learn how to pack snow, build walls, and dig tunnels.

It’s also a good opportunity to talk about snow safety and the potential dangers of collapsed snow ceilings. Also, never build a snow fort in a pile that is too close to the road where it could run the risk of being hit by a plow.

Painting snow

If you have the right type of packing snow, you can build a snow man or a whole snow family. A twist on the classic snow people decorated with scarves and carrots is to actually paint details on your wintery creations. You can do this with a simple mixture of food colouring and water. You can use a spray bottle to cover the snowman’s body in colour or a brush for finer details.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a lawn full of packing snow on Family Day, your kids can still paint the snow. The whole white surface can be a canvas for their creativity. Give them some spray bottles of different coloured water and let them paint pictures or write messages in the snow.     

You can also use the three primary colours to demonstrate for your kids how all the other colours are created by blending.

Other activities outside of the home

Of course, there are plenty of other classic Canadian winter activities to enjoy with the family. Consider ice skating at a local rink, tobogganing on a nearby hill, or having an epic snowball fight. (All of these are best followed by a cozy mug of hot chocolate!)

While local libraries are closed on Family Day, many museums stay open. For a small fee or a donation, you can take the opportunity to share a little bit of art, science, or history with your little ones. Many museums have free or discounted rates for young children as well as activities or exhibits targeting various age groups.

Introduce budgeting skills

A fun game that can introduce kids to the idea of budgeting and making money choices is to give them a small amount of money to spend at a dollar store and let them select their own craft or toy. For only three or four dollars, you can afford just about any item at a dollar store – or several of the least expensive things. But you can only spend it once.

Young children are thrilled by the freedom of so much choice as they weight the pros and cons of a building blocks set versus two action figures or a movie-themed nightlight. You can also have them pay for their choices at checkout to learn about financial transactions and getting change.

All of these activities are fun ways to spend the day together as a family, without spending a lot of money.

Consider the amount it would have cost to take the whole family to a show or a movie or some other expensive outing! Family Day is an ideal opportunity to spend time with the kids and create some lasting memories.

Peter Harris

Peter Harris is a marketing, branding, and careers expert. He began his career as a travel writer and advertising copy writer, and went on to build the original Canadian content for Monster.ca, serve as the editor-in-chief of Workopolis, and deliver the country its daily news and features as the homepage editor of Yahoo! Canada. He writes and speaks frequently on career, workplace, education, and technology issues as well as on trends and changes in the Canadian job market. He is the co-founder of Yackler, a content marketing start-up, and the father of a challenging, funny, elementary school-aged son.

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