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Great games for snow days

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Snow days rule.

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Actually, let's revise that: Snow days rule for kids. An unexpected day off school, a yard full of snow to play in, all your friends doing the exact same thing -- what's not to love? That's got to be enough to keep you entertained for, oh, at least a half-hour.

But then what? Never fear, parents: once the novelty's worn off and the sledding and snowball fights have lost their appeal, here are some fresh suggestions to keep the kids busy for the rest of the day.

Freeze bubbles

Wintery weather is good for more than just freezing fingers, toes, and other sensitive extremities: it'll freeze soap bubbles, too.

[Related: 5 of the Healthiest Winter Foods]

Grab any old bottle of bubble solution, a couple of wands, and head outside. You'll need it to be pretty cold -- not arctic, but definitely well below freezing. Chilling the solution in the fridge beforehand will also help. Try blowing bubbles as usual; if it's cold enough, they'll freeze in mid-air and harmlessly shatter as they hit the ground. If they don't freeze immediately, you'll need to catch one on a convenient surface and wait for the cold to work its magic.

The snow zoo

Making snowmen is a time-honored tradition, but they're kind of boring. How about seeing what other snowbeasts you can come up with? Snow caterpillars are a great starting point -- and some kids will love just seeing how long they can make them stretch -- but with a little imagination there's no end of other options. Just expect your best broom to be picked clean of bristles (they make the best whiskers) and your fridge to be cleaned out of anything even remotely resembling a nose.

Snow-where?

This one takes a little planning, but it's good to do while the kids are sleeping in and the snow is still falling. Fill an old cooler with treats -- food, drinks, small outside toys, craft items -- sneak out, and hide it somewhere in the yard. Cover it in snow, and make sure to hide your tracks, too. The cooler will keep the stash dry, the insulation will keep it from freezing, and hunting down the box will hopefully keep the kids out of mischief for most of the morning.

Catch a falling snowflake

Stand out in the middle of a good, strong snowstorm, and you'll find it hard to believe each of those little white dots is really unique. Arm the kids with some black construction paper and a magnifying glass, and they'll be able to investigate the truth -- or otherwise -- of that statement for themselves. (Long story short, no, they're not really unique, but they exist in so many complicated variations they might as well be.)

A little time spent staring at the complex sixfold symmetry of a snowflake will amuse a child of any age; older ones can easily progress to sketching their favorite patterns or learning about the science behind their formation.

Winter's a beach

You've probably put away the summertime toys: shovels, buckets, volleyballs, and so on. But a snow day's a great excuse to pull 'em out again. When it comes down to it, snow and sand aren't as different as they might seem -- one's just colder. And wetter. And less fun to drive on. And...well, you get the point. Regardless, you'll find a lot of your favorite beach pastimes translate remarkably well to a snowy back yard, though when you sit back to watch the kids have fun, we suggest doing so with a steaming mug of hot cocoa rather than a Mai Tai.

If all else fails, pull out the board games

No matter how many creative snow games you can produce, at some point the kids are going to get cold, wet, tired, or just fed up. When they do -- and when they've left their soggy winter clothes and muddy boots somewhere appropriate -- greet them with a warm house, a steaming bowl of soup, and a board game or two. No doubt you've already got your favorites (perhaps something you haven't had time to play for a while?) but if you're in need of something fresh, here are some suggestions.

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