We all know friendships are important for our kids, but sustaining those relationships during the cold winter months can be a challenge. In this article, Kristin Demery encourages us that though winter can be long, it doesn’t have to be lonely. Be inspired as she shares 12 fun and easy winter friendship bucket list ideas to help your kids strengthen their friendships. You may even find one or two ideas you want to implement yourself!
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Hi, I’m home!” I called out as I stepped from the garage into the mudroom, pausing to unzip my coat and slip off my boots.
“Hi, Mom! We’re baking!” my daughter responded.
My heart sank a little. And as I padded into the kitchen and caught sight of the bowls spread across the countertops and dishes overflowing the sink, the knife stuck in a sticky frosting jar, and the spray of sprinkles scattered on the floor, my heart sank even more.
But as I looked up and caught sight of my daughter and her friend, faces beaming as they chatted animatedly and carefully frosted yet another cupcake, I couldn’t help but smile. And I didn’t say a word about the mess until the end, when we all cleaned it together.
Though I loved seeing my child and her friend spend time together, I’m reminded of all the other times when friendship hasn’t come so easily. Like when a group of friends flatly told her she was “out of the group.” Or the time that a so-called friend said she was ugly behind her back. Or all of the other small hurts that have piled up over time; little stones that have threatened to build a wall around this precious child’s heart.
MADE FOR COMMUNITY
Friendships can be challenging, and most of us aren’t immune from loneliness—including children. Though 58 percent of Americans reported feeling lonely in 2021 and 21 percent said they had no friends, Gen Z (those born 1997-2012) were the loneliest group. 65 percent reported always or sometimes feeling lonely, and that number is even higher—topping in at 73 percent—for those who use social media heavily.
We weren’t meant to live our lives in isolation; we were made for community. Experts have told us that loneliness is more harmful to our long-term health than not exercising. Combined with isolation, it has effects on our health that are similar to being obese, an alcoholic, or smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Loneliness is toxic.
But as the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, it can be tempting to stay home. And as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, making an effort to be intentional in friendships can become an even greater challenge.
Yet friendship—no matter the season—is vital.
Each week, as my husband and I chat in our family meeting about upcoming events, the budget, and our meals for the week, we also talk about friendships. We have an ongoing list of those we’d like to plan to see soon, and we invite our children to do the same.
In the summer, we often do “Friend Friday.” Though our rhythms are different in the winter, there are still plenty of opportunities to consistently and intentionally invite our friends into our lives.
With that in mind, I’ve created a Winter Friendship Bucket List to get your family started. Although the ideas are technically for kids, I plan to implement some in my friendships, too.
Some may be more suited for colder climates, but many can be adapted no matter where you live. (Or, maybe you could band together with a few families and rent a snow machine for a day to get the full winter effect?)
WINTER FRIENDSHIP BUCKET LIST
1. Enjoy the great outdoors. Go sledding, wander through the woods on a nature walk, build a snowman, make a snow angel, build an igloo, or have a snowball fight (if you have a larger group, turn it into a tournament). Warm up by a bonfire and enjoy s’mores, too.
2. Get crafty. Make paper snowflakes, homemade snow globes, winter-themed slime, popcorn garlands, or a bird feeder (see easy DIY below). Pick up canvases and paint from a craft store and paint a winter landscape (YouTube has tons of great tutorials). Or, look at Pinterest for fun ideas that you could use to make homemade Christmas gifts.
3. Be adventurous. Go ice skating, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. Visit a local ski hill and try skiing, snowboarding, or tubing. Or, ask an adult friend or family member to take you ice fishing.
4. Walk the aisles at a store together. Spend time smelling candles and choose a scent that you both like. Bring home one for you and your friend. Any time it’s lit at your respective houses, it will remind you of your friend. Or buy cute matching (and warm!) socks.
5. Enjoy the holidays. Learn how to bake one of your friend’s favorite Christmas cookie recipes. Put up a Christmas tree, sing holiday songs (karaoke style, or maybe turn it into a dance-off), or ask a parent if you can grab a hot cup of cider and tour the local holiday lights (many communities map out the highlights).
6. Have a cozy movie marathon. Throw on pajamas and choose a theme for the day, like Hallmark movies, wintry movies (Frozen, Cool Runnings, Ice Age, The Chronicles of Narnia), or a favorite TV series.
7. Go stargazing. In the northern hemisphere, certain constellations are only visible during the winter months, so it’s prime time to see them. Our local library has telescopes available to check out for a few weeks.
8. Enjoy a little friendly competition. Try out different flavor combinations to decide which hot cocoa tastes the best. Decorate gingerbread houses to see who can be the most creative. Challenge your friend to a round of your favorite board games. Have other friends or family members serve as judges in a snowman-building competition.
9. Relax with an at-home spa day. Colder temperatures can be hard on the skin. Apply face masks, soak your feet in a warm tub with bath salts, or paint your nails. You can even make your own sugar scrub (these also make great gifts!).
10. Find an unusual reason to celebrate. Did you know that February 9 is National Pizza Day? Or that National Chocolate Cake Day is January 27? How about National Bacon Day (December 30)? Celebrate the day by indulging in whatever the sweet or salty treat happens to be.
11. Do something fun outside of the house. Paint pottery together at a local studio, attend a winter festival, or volunteer at “Feed My Starving Children” or in the nursery at church.
12. Don’t forget: the more, the merrier. Plan a Secret Santa gift exchange with a larger group of friends at school (slip little notes in each other’s lockers or bags during the week, with a very small gift exchange at the end of the week).
Winter can be long, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. With your family, make a plan to intentionally prioritize friendship over the next few months. Make it a goal to pursue friendship—whether it’s once a week, twice a month, or something else—and implement an idea, either your own or one from the list. As you encourage your kids to have fun with their friends and even make new ones, may you all find joy in the relationship opportunities this season has to offer.
(Source for statistics: https://socialself.com/loneliness-statistics/#2)
Winter bird feeder craft idea
Birds can have more difficulty finding food during the chilly winter months. Pinecones are an easy way to make a natural bird feeder.
- Pinecones (it’s best to collect them before the snow falls)
- Smooth Peanut Butter
- Craft Wire
- Birdseed, especially those heavy in nutrient-rich nuts and seeds
- Attach craft wire close to the top of the pinecone to make them easy to hang.
- Slather the pinecone in smooth peanut butter.
- After spreading a few handfuls of nuts and seeds on wax paper, roll the pinecone in the seeds to coat well.
- Make sure to hang the pinecone somewhere in the tree so the birds can easily land on a branch nearby to eat off the pinecone.
15 SIMPLE WAYS TO ADD JOY TO YOUR DAY IN LESS THAN AN HOUR
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