10 Family-Friendly Things You Can Do at Home This Winter (That Don’t Involve a Screen)

10 Family-Friendly Things You Can Do at Home This Winter (That Don’t Involve a Screen)

Presented by Genesis
Stave off pandemic fatigue and the winter blues with screen-free activities that involve the whole family.

With COVID-19 cases surging again, prompting new waves of mask mandates, curfews, and stay-at-home orders, the country is preparing to hunker down for winter. With this second wave, we’re battling the triple threat of cabin fever, pandemic fatigue, and screen fatigue—the latter a result of months spent on Netflix, Zoom, and FaceTime.

In this crucial moment, we’ve rounded up a list of activities the whole family can enjoy that don’t involve plunking down in front of a computer or television screen (although movie nights, of course, are always an option).

1. Learn a New Recipe (or Pass Down Old Ones)

Get the whole family involved in the kitchen, whether it be teaching young ones a tried-and-true recipe or exploring a new dish together.

There has never been a better time to work your way through your cookbook collection, and there’s no shortage of easy, healthful recipes to be found online. We love The New York TimesWhat to Eat section as well as Danish chef Frederik Bille Brahe’s Instagram feed of home-cooked meals, which resulted in the now-sold-out All the Stuff We Cooked. (Check out his crowd-pleasing Japanese soufflé pancakes and white bean cacio e pepe.)

If you have younger children who are kitchen-curious, we recommend Kidstir, a monthly subscription box with recipe ideas to "teach kids about good food and cooking while underscoring the importance of quality time and family."  

2. Take a Nature Walk

Jaunts through nature are a great way to exercise, relieve stress, and get some vitamin D. 

It’s been proven time and again that being outdoors can lift your mood, sharpen your focus, and boost your energy levels. So, if the weather is even halfway decent, be sure to bundle up, don your masks, and explore the nature available to you—whether it be your own neighborhood or a nearby trail. A little fresh air and vitamin D (which helps the immune system) can go a long way. Many children who are learning remotely at the moment are missing out on all the daily activity of a typical school day, so it’s important to get everyone moving as much as possible.   

3. Plan a Scavenger Hunt

Send the kids on an adventurous scavenger hunt that engages their creativity and critical thinking skills. 

A scavenger hunt can happen indoors or outdoors and is a great way to have the family explore their surroundings in a new way. You can make it as ambitious as you wish; we like to start by selecting hiding spots throughout the house and then penning rhyming clues to lead kids from location to location. Make sure to have a reward or treat at your final spot—this writer forgot, and I didn’t hear the end of it.

4. Shake Up Your Exercise Routine 

To access a secret play area in the 2 Bar House by Feldman Architecture, children clamber up climbing holds purchased from a local sporting goods store.

With many schools closed, it’s safe to assume that your children aren’t as active as they usually are. Get creative with at-home physical education: If it’s not too cold outside, try a lawn game like cornhole, horseshoe, or Kan Jam. Inside, a ping pong table or Dance Church session will get the whole family moving. If you have space, you might even consider setting up an obstacle course that your kids can tackle again and again—adults can join in, too, for a kids–versus–grown-ups challenge.

5. Deck the Halls

This simple, chic holiday accent makes for an easy DIY project. Gather your favorite greenery and a sturdy twig, and bind them together with a copper band or a ribbon for a metallic accent.

Even if you are not the type to decorate for the holidays—I am not—we could all benefit from some extra cheer this season. This can double as a craft project if you go the DIY route with handmade snowflakes, paper garlands, and beaded cranberries. On your next walk through the neighborhood, collect branches and other greenery to bind into artful arrangements to hang around the house. You can also bust out the glitter and construction paper to make your own greeting cards this year.       

6. Find a Pen Pal

Finding an international pen pal for your child at this moment can help them feel like part of a larger community.

Do you have friends with children that live in another state or country? Recruit them to become your kids’ pen pals. For younger ones, this will be a wonderful introduction to the art of letter writing; for the older set, this can easily become a life-changing exchange that results in lasting friendship. It’s a fun way to feel connected during a period of isolation.

7. Build a Pillow Fort

Keep the kids occupied by creating the blanket fort of their (and your) dreams. If you need inspiration, check out the plans for a soundproof blanket fort developed by the K-12 Education Team at Perkins & Will.

Team up with your kids to build the ultimate pillow or blanket fort (if you need ideas, check out the above plans for a soundproof blanket fort from the K-12 Education Team at Perkins & Will). Blankets, pillows, and child-size chairs pushed up against a sofa can make excellent building materials; at the end, you’ll have a snug spot to use as a reading nook.

8. Take Up Arts and Crafts

Perfect for beginners to tackle, these felted penguin ornaments by Penfelt Studio wear acorn caps.

Whether it be candle making, knitting, or felting—we love these felting kits from PenFelt Studio—a quick trip to the craft store can inspire new hobbies for the whole family. As an added bonus, the fruits of your labor can become handmade gifts to send to friends and family.

9. Start a Science Project

Instructions for this saltwater pentacell—comprising aluminum foil, copper wire, and saltwater—can be found online.

Your children’s school may not be able to host a STEM event this year, but there’s always room to experiment at home. Involve the kids in a science project—extra credit if you can create something out of recycled materials found around the house. San Francisco’s Exploratorium is a great resource if you’re struggling to find ideas, as is Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s list of at-home activities

10. Consider Adopting a Pet

With so much time spent at home, more and more folks are fostering and adopting animals.

It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has seen pet adoption numbers soar as individuals and families turn to furry companions for comfort. While welcoming a living creature into your home is a responsibility not to be taken lightly, if the circumstances are right, it might be a smart choice. I can’t express how much joy our bunny adoption has brought us—seriously, there’s nothing quite like little bunny eyes to keep you from staring at a screen. 

Related Reading: Here Are 40 Things You Can Do if You’re "Social Distancing" at Home


Last Updated


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.