Bring the Outdoors Inside. An Invitation to Play.

Winter break is coming soon, and those rambunctious kiddos will need lots of activities to keep their brains and hands busy, when the weather is nasty and you just can’t get out. We have some great suggestions to bring the outdoors inside.

Consider this an outdoor inspired invitation to play.

Bring the Outside in on Bad Weather Days

Frightful weather? A big indoor to-do list to prep for the holiday? Way too far below zero? A cough or cold limiting your outdoor adventure time?

Don’t fret! Natural playdough, ice, and snow play are all on the menu.

Hopefully you’ll find some fresh inspiration that will make the time spent indoors a little more fun for all.

Bring the Outside in on Bad Weather Days

Bring the Outdoors Inside with Snow Play

Humans are hard-wired to explore their environment with all 5 senses. However, during winter this can get a bit tricky.

As we all know, kids are famous for their aversion to mittens, and will often disregard bright red, stinging fingers so they can explore snow and ice with bare hands!

A great way to satisfy this desire is to bring the outdoors inside.

Snow Play

So, get ready to grab a big pan (or two) of freshly fallen snow and bring it inside for open-ended exploration and imaginative play.

First, raid your nature bin, or send the kids on a nature treasure adventure hike for pine branches, twigs, pinecones and stones.

Gather some spoons, scoops, and water-resistant toys beforehand and set up a drop cloth (an old tablecloth, or beach towels work great!). Give each child a dry towel for their lap to wipe off & warm up wet fingers.

Indoor snow play isn’t just for the little ones. Big kids, too, love to play with a big pan of snow or ice in the warmth of the cozy house where they can experiment and explore without fear of frostbite!

When they tire of imaginative play, a pipette, a bowl of warm water with a splash of food coloring is a great way to extend the play potential.

We’ve gotten years of play out of our Safari Friends animals. They are perfect for wet, messy play. They clean up beautifully, and are extremely sturdy. If you don’t have them already, this may be a great time to add them to your Wish List!

Snow Play

Bring the Outdoors Inside with Natural Playdough

Save those bits of nature treasure, let them dry and set them aside for another day of bringing the outdoors inside invitation to play….with homemade Playdough! ((Don’t have time to make it from scratch? Thats okay! You can find some here.))

A batch of no-cook homemade play dough takes about 10 minutes to create, and will give your kids hours and hours of entertainment and indoor play. No food coloring? No worries – plain white is beautiful and highlights the nature tid-bits better than colored dough will.

Oodles of recipes exist for playdough. Gluten Free, Salt Free, no-cook, stovetop slow cook. I’ve tried quite a few, but in the end, I just go with the one that uses what I have on hand. Find our full recipe here.

I prefer to use Coconut Oil and much less salt that most playdough calls for. I keep it in the fridge, and only store it for a month before I toss it.

Without the salt it doesn’t last as long, but it’s not as drying, and all that lovely coconut oil makes for soft, moisturized hands!

Coconut allergy? Try olive oil. Heading to the store for ingredients? Glycerin is that super special ingredient that makes for shiny playdough….but, I rarely have it on hand.

If you want to skip the artificial dyes, and don’t want to run to the store for readymade dyes, check your spice cabinet.

Turmeric, cocoa powder, and cinnamon all make beautiful natural colored playdough. My kids enjoy the cocoa powder dough. It smells amazing, and looks like dirt, which is perfect for making worms and using as a forest floor when they are making a woodland scene!

Handy Random Tip: If you have a fat stick that is free of bark, it makes a great rolling pin for flattening the dough.

For a super special sensory addition, I like to use just a few drops of essential oils (for older kids who no longer taste-test the play dough!). Lavender and Balsam Fir are the two that my kids chose for this double batch. The smell is delightful!

Get our favorite sensory play dough recipe here.

Bring the Outdoors Inside with Ice Play

Slipping and sliding and gliding on the ice is one of life’s great joys. And, the feel of cold ice under our fingers is irresistible! Let’s bring the ice inside for this indoor ice exploration playtime.

Bring the Outside in on Bad Weather Days
Or, in the case of Team Member Kristens’ kiddo….the feel of ice under the bare toes is irresistible !

First, you’ll need at least 12 hours to prep for this next indoor play invitation.

Fill a freezer proof dish about an inch full of water. I used a blue glass Pyrex baking dish. It’s a good size for a singe child, or two playing together. Any more, and you’ll want a bigger container.

Adding food coloring is pretty fun, but it can stain as it melts, so wear play-clothing, or save the food coloring for the older kids.

Ice Play

Playmobile figures and arctic animals are great for ice play. They clean up well, even if they have a little coloring on them from the melting ice. As the ice melts, the kids will find new ways to play. Such a great way to spend the day.

Ice Play

More Ways to Bring the Outdoors In

There are so ways to bring the outdoors inside, however, we’ve explored only a few. Need more ideas?

  • Gather nature bits, make baking soda clay and put together some homemade holiday ornaments.
  • Use pinecones, leaves and pine branches to paint & print on thick brown paper for homemade nature-themed wrapping paper.
  • Catch a bowlful of freshly fallen snow and make snow ice cream.

Or, sometimes the best way to bring the outdoors inside, is to get lost in a book together. Need some reading material inspiration? See Rita’s post for a great list of Outdoor-Themed books for all ages. Or this post full of Nature-Based book series suggestions!

A few more Snow Books we love!

© 2019, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.


  • Valerie is a homeschooling mama of two dirt lovin’ kids, ages 6 & 9. She loves spending time with her family outdoors & is a self-proclaimed bibliophile. Valerie and her family can be found mountain biking, canyoneering & scooping sand in Utah; skiing and building snow forts in Colorado; hiking & hugging cactus in Arizona; and hunting for singletrack, tadpoles & breweries in Oregon.

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