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A Midwinter’s Night Picnic + 14 Can’t-Miss Indoor Winter Activities

In January, families are back in their regular routines, and winter is beginning to seem endless. So why not shake up things at your church with a midwinter family picnic that includes 14 can’t miss (indoor) winter activities?


A picnic in the middle of winter? People might think you’re crazy—that is until they take part in the midwinter celebration you’ve planned for them. Delight the families in your church with an evening of food, games, crafts, and friendship—and reach out to the families in your community with a warm invitation to join the fun.

No matter the weather, your budget, or your church’s size, this fun family night is the perfect solution for the midwinter doldrums—and a great way for families with kids of any age to fellowship together.

Preparing for Your Midwinter’s Night Picnic

Get the Word Out

Publicize your winter picnic for four weeks before it takes place. To reach the widest audience, use a variety of publicity methods. Encourage everyone to wear dark, comfortable clothing that they won’t mind getting messy.

Wide-Open Spaces

For this family event, you’ll need a large, open activity area to accommodate all the activities. Remove any furniture such as tables and chairs prior to the event. Also, divide the room into quadrants using masking tape. Label each quadrant with one of the following team names: Big, Bad Blues; Grungy Greens; Yahoo Yellows; and Rip-Roaring Reds.

As each family enters, assign them to a team quadrant. A simple way to do this is to cut up an equal number of blue, green, yellow, and red construction paper squares. Give each family a square, switching colors with each arriving family. Keep family members together. Teams don’t have to be exact in number, but they should be approximately the same size.

Grub Before Games

The family night begins with a real picnic, so invite each family to bring their own blanket and picnic dinner. Also, have families bring a dessert or snack to share with the entire group later in the evening. You’ll need to supply drinks, paper plates, napkins, and plasticware.

When the families arrive, they’ll spread their blankets on the floor for their picnic. Allow 45 minutes for families to meet, greet, and eat. Once the food and blankets have been cleaned up, have families go to their color-coded team quadrant so the games can begin.

Game Time

You’ll need several volunteer referees with whistles to start and end many of these games.

Also, consider creating a hashtag (or purchasing several disposable cameras to place around the room for families) to capture snapshots of the action throughout the evening. Later, compile the photos or develop the film and create a fun photo montage of the night’s festivities to display at your church.

Start the evening of games with a prayer and devotion, then it’s on to the games.

Winter Activity #1: Let It Snow

Age Level: 3 to adult

Activity Time: Five minutes

Materials:

  • Four bags of cotton balls,
  • a referee,
  • and access to the song “Let It Snow

This giggle-inducing snowball fight is perfect for families with young children. Spread a bag of cotton balls in each quadrant.

Say: We’re going to have a snowball fight! When the referee blows the whistle, start pelting the other teams with your “snowballs.” But you must stay inside your team’s quadrant-no stepping out of bounds. The object is to get as many snowballs out of your team’s quadrant and into the other teams’ quadrants as possible. When the whistle blows at the end of the song, everyone freezes. Then each team will count the snowballs in its quadrant.

When the referee blows the whistle, play the song “Let It Snow,” As the song ends, have the referee blow the whistle again and shout, “Freeze!”

Instruct each team to count the snowballs in its quadrant.

Winter Activity #2: Shoveling Snow

Age Level: 3 to adult

Activity Time: Five minutes

Materials:

  • Paper cups

Follow the snowball fight with this fun clean-up game. You’ll need a paper cup “dustpan” for each adult in each quadrant. Have adults team up with one or two children in their quadrants and “shovel snow.” Snow-shoveling teams each hold hands or lock elbows as they work together to collect snow in their paper cup dustpans. Collect the paper cups when the teams are done shoveling.

Winter Activity #3: Big Snow

Age Level: 10 to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials:

  • Socks,
  • baby powder,
  • a plastic trash bag,
  • and referees

For families with older children, try this version of the snowball fight. Three weeks before the winter picnic, place a “spare sock” collection box in your church. Ask families to donate clean socks that are mateless or have holes. Once all the socks are collected, roll each sock into a ball. You might want to recruit help for this task.

Just before the winter picnic, coat the socks with baby powder. An easy way to do this is to put several socks at a time in a plastic trash bag and sprinkle the powder over them. Then tightly hold the bag shut and shake it to thoroughly coat the socks. For the game, have kids and adults form pairs or trios and hold hands or link elbows. Give each team two sock snowballs.

Say: On “go,” your job is to knock out other teams by hitting them with your powder-covered snowballs. If your team member gets hit, your entire team must sit down. You’ll know if you’ve been hit because the snowballs will leave a mark on you. Choose carefully before you throw since you only have two snowballs. You can also use snowballs you find on the floor. Good luck!

Have one referee blow the whistle. You’ll need several referees to monitor the snowball fight. Teams try to hit each other with the powder-covered snowballs. Play until there’s only one team left standing.

Winter Activity #4: Feed the Seals

Age Level: Toddler and adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials:

  • Goldfish crackers, and
  • small Dixie paper cups

This is a game that’ll delight the very youngest at your picnic. Kids age 3 and under especially enjoy “feeding the seals.” Form trios with one child and two adults.

Have one adult in each trio pose as the seal. These good-humored people need to be on their knees, and they’ll flap their hands up and down in front of them while barking like a seal whenever they’re fed. Have all the seals line up 25 feet from the other adult in their trio. Give the other adul—not the seal— a small cup of Goldfish crackers.

The child’s job is to run back and forth between the two adults, taking one Goldfish cracker at a time to feed the seal until the cup is empty.

Winter Activity #5: Nesting Penguins

Age Level: 3 to 6 and adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials:

  • Two red, two yellow, two green, and two blue poster board circles;
  • eight inflated balloons;
  • 96 plastic eggs;
  • and a referee

Here’s another game especially for young children. You’ll need two volunteer “penguins” from each quadrant. Give each penguin a “nest” —a poster board circle that represents his or her team’s color— and 12 plastic eggs. Give each penguin an inflated balloon.

Have each penguin place its nest in the center of the quadrant, and place all 12 eggs on top of the nest. Penguins must then stand 10 feet away from their nests and place the inflated balloons between their knees. On “go,” the penguins waddle toward their nests.

As the penguins waddle toward their nests, the kids’ job is to steal eggs from the other teams’ nests and put the eggs in their team’s nest. Kids can steal eggs over and over, but they can only take one at a time.

When the penguins finally waddle to the nest, they can help protect the eggs—but only by using their feet.

After eight minutes, have the referee blow the whistle. The team with the most eggs in its nest wins.

Winter Activity #6: Dog Sledding

Age Level: 3 to 5 and adult

Activity Time: 15 minutes

Materials:

  • Four large plastic tote tubs,
  • a drill,
  • four 10-foot pieces of nylon rope,
  • orange cones, and
  • a referee

Before the event, drill two holes in the front of each plastic tote tub. Loop a piece of nylon rope through the holes, and tie the ends of the rope together to create a sled and harness. Create a racetrack by placing orange cones around your area.

Encourage adults to be careful with this activity. Match an adult with each child age 3 to 5. Have these partners form two lines at the starting line.

Have kids sit inside the tub and hold on. Their adult partners will step inside the nylon rope harness as the “sled dogs.” On “go,” two teams make a trip around the racetrack. Have the next teams loaded into their tubs and ready to go once the first two teams have made it to the finish line.

Continue this rotation until every child has had a chance to ride. Some adults may need to run more than once.

Winter Activity #7: Ice Hockey

Age Level: 10 to adult
Activity Time: 15 minutes
Materials:

  • 20 balloons,
  • four Hula Hoop plastic hoops,
  • four large garbage bags,
  • masking tape, and
  • four brooms

Parents and older kids love to play this version of ice hockey.

Have each team inflate and tie off five balloons. Then have teams place their balloons in the center of the activity area where all four quadrants meet.

Teams will each create a goal by taping a large garbage bag around a Hula Hoop plastic hoop to form a makeshift net. Have each team select a goal holder to hold the Hula Hoop net at one end of the quadrant’s “court.” The goal holders must remain stationary throughout the game.

Then each team must choose a “sweeper”—someone who tries to prevent any balloons from entering the Hula Hoop net. Each sweeper gets a broom.

Next, have each team’s members form pairs and hold hands with their partners. On “go,” partners can use any part of their bodies except their hands to try to get the balloons into the three other teams’ Hula Hoop nets. Play until all the balloons have been deposited in the nets.

Winter Activity #8: Ice Fishing

Age Level: 3 to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials:

  • Plastic ice cube trays,
  • water,
  • 200 large paper clips,
  • 12-inch wooden kebab skewers,
  • four 4-foot wooden dowels,
  • four strong magnets,
  • hot glue gun,
  • hot glue sticks, and
  • one plastic swimming pool

Before the winter picnic, freeze 200 “ice fish”—ice cubes with a paper clip sticking out—using these instructions:

Fill the ice cube trays with water. Insert a 12-inch wooden kebab skewer through the center of several paper clips for one side of the tray. Place a paper clip in each cube and rest the kebab skewers on top of the tray. Repeat for the other side of the tray and then freeze the cubes.

Make fishing rods by attaching a strong magnet with hot glue to the end of each 4-foot wooden dowel rod.

Just before this game begins, place all the ice fish in the swimming pool facing up. Place the swimming pool in the center of the four quadrants.

Have all four teams line up inside their respective quadrants, facing the swimming pool. Give the first person in line the fishing rod.

On “go,” the fishing begins. Team members fish until they’re able to catch a fish and place it in their quadrant. Play until all fish are caught.

Be sure to test the magnetized fishing rods prior to the activity to make sure your magnets are strong enough to lift the ice cubes.

Winter Activity #9: Icy Marbles

Age Level: 4 to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials:

  • Plastic swimming pool,
  • plastic sheeting,
  • towels,
  • several hundred marbles,
  • one 5-pound bag of ice,
  • a referee,
  • four plastic containers, and
  • cold water

Families can exercise their toe coordination with this chilly game.

Place the pool in the center of the four quadrants on top of the plastic sheeting. Fill it halfway with cold water. Add the ice and marbles. Place towels and a plastic container in each quadrant.

Have all the players from each team line up in their quadrants and remove one shoe and sock. When the referee blows the whistle, each player sticks his or her foot in the water and tries to pick up a marble using only his or her toes. When players are able to grab a marble, they then place it in their team’s plastic container and the next player in line goes.

Winter Activity #10: Ice Village

Age Level: 10 to adult

Activity Time: 20 minutes or longer

Materials:

  • Water,
  • food coloring,
  • various sizes of plastic containers, and
  • an adult supervisor

Older kids will enjoy creating an ice village in this outdoor project. Prior to the event, freeze colored water in the plastic containers.

Have participants work together outside to create an ice village using the colored blocks of ice. Create the village in an area in front of your church where it can be viewed. If your weather is cold, the ice village will last a long time. If you live in a warmer climate, the village will certainly be a topic of interest!

Winter Activity #11: Snowflake Express

Age Level: 5 to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes or longer

Materials:

  • White felt squares,
  • scissors,
  • glitter,
  • sequins,
  • and glue

Kids can make these keepsake snowflakes with just a few materials. Provide white felt squares, scissors, glitter, sequins, and glue. Have kids cut a snowflake out of the felt by first folding it in half, then in half again along the fold. Fold the felt once more into a triangular shape at the point where both previous folds meet. Have kids design their snowflakes by cutting shapes into the folded felt. Then they can decorate their snowflakes with glitter and sequins.

Winter Activity #12: Frosting the Snowman

Age Level: 3 to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials:

  • Four rolls of toilet paper;
  • orange and black felt;
  • safety scissors;
  • tape;
  • a variety of hats, scarves, brooms, purses, and other dress-up items; and
  • a way to play the song “Frosty the Snowman

Kids love to build this snowman—regardless of the availability of the white stuff!

Have each team choose one adult and one child to be the snowmen. Give each quadrant one roll of toilet paper, and place the rest of the items in the center of the room.

Say: Your team gets to work together to build a snow-person and snow-child using the items in the box and the toilet paper I’ve given you. You have 10 minutes to create your wonderful snowpeople. You must be finished in the time I give you, and you have to give your snowpeople names so you can introduce them to us all. Good luck!

Play “Frosty the Snowman” as teams work. Once time is up, have each team introduce its snowpeople to everyone.

Winter Activity #13: Family ‘Fitti

Age Level: toddler to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes or longer

Materials:

  • Two large sheets of butcher paper,
  • masking tape,
  • tempera paint,
  • sponges,
  • water, and
  • paintbrushes

Prior to the event, tape one sheet of butcher paper to a wall where families, including little ones, can reach. Tape the other sheet of butcher paper to the floor to protect the floor from paint drippings.

Throughout the evening, encourage families to leave their marks on the butcher paper. Whether they simply write their names or draw pictures of the events or each other, this large sheet of family graffiti can be a reminder of the fun at the midwinter picnic.

Winter Activity #14: Red Ants

Age Level: 5 to adult

Activity Time: 10 minutes or longer

Materials:

  • Large marshmallows,
  • stick pretzels,
  • chocolate chips,
  • tube frosting,
  • paper plates,
  • and red cake-decorating spray

What’s a picnic without those pesky red ants?

For each ant, you’ll need three large marshmallows, eight stick pretzels, and two chocolate chips.

Have kids connect two of the marshmallows with a pretzel to create the ant’s body. Use another pretzel to connect the ant’s body to its head. Connect six pretzel “legs” to the body. Attach two stick pretzels to the head pointing up for antennae.

Kids can spray their ants using the red cake-decorating spray. Have kids attach eyes with a dot of tube frosting on the back of each chocolate chip. Apply the eyes below the antennae.

Sue Acton is a preschool and children’s minister in Helena, Alabama.

For more great ideas like this in every issue, subscribe today to Children’s Ministry Magazine!


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A Midwinter’s Night Picnic + 14...

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