Family Fun When the Days Get Shorter
By Elizabeth Allen

The Night Time is the Right Time!
More Fun New Ways to Play in the Dark

The sun sets so early this time of year! If you work, your family probably has quality time only when it’s dark. Besides the well-publicized “family game night,” what else can you do together during the shorter days of winter?

With the help of some family fun experts, we’ve compiled a list of activities that the whole family can enjoy:


Play hide-and-seek. But give a twist to this old favorite by turning off the lights and using flashlights to find your way.

Watch the stars. Take advantage of the early night, and head to a suburban or rural neighborhood where you can see the stars. Astronomy magazine has a section on its Web site devoted to star-gazing for kids.

Turn your home into a zoo for a day. In LithgowPalooza! (Fireside, 2004), actor and author John Lithgow says, “Pick an animal to ‘be’ today. … If you are a snake, you might slither and hiss; if you are a squirrel, maybe you’d be hoarding cereal in your cheek pouches.” Throughout the whole day, try moving, communicating and seeing like your animal. You can make a mask or a costume for your animal if you want. This activity can be modified for shorter periods of time. It works well with all ages.

Do an “audience participation” with your family’s favorite film. Dress up as your favorite characters, sing along with the script, even act out key events with your own props. Be prepared to hit the PAUSE button in case someone gets the giggles.

When it’s time for your little ones to go to bed, “make the blanket a magic carpet,” suggests Lisa Lipkin, author of Bringing the Story Home: The Complete Guide to Storytelling for Parents (Norton, 2000). Where in the universe will your son fly on his magic blanket? What will your daughter do there? With storytelling, you can nurture your child’s imagination and the bond between you both.

For more wintertime crafts and activities to do with your kids, check out our Hands-On Crafts and Playing Smart archives.

Elizabeth Allen is editorial administrator at United Parenting Publications.