Build your own winter wonderland

Dazzle and delight the kids by creating an amazing winter carnival in your own backyard.

John, Meghan, Julie and Jackson Findlay.

Snow sculptures, ice castles and slippery winter sports are all hallmarks of a great Canadian winter celebration.

Serve them up with a side of toasted marshmallows and frothy hot chocolate, and you have all the makings of a fun-filled winter carnival in your own backyard.

Gather the supplies

The supply list is simple and most can be found in your own garage. Drag out all the snow toys and some summer ones, too.

You will need buckets and shovels, sleds, Crazy Carpets, Frisbees, hula hoops and an assortment of balls.

Bring out some bubbles and supplies to make a snowman – buttons, a carrot and a scarf will do. Pick up a few little prizes for games. Kids love to get stickers and small toys.

Set it up

Get everyone involved in the planning and setup. It’s half the fun!

Kids can decorate using spray bottles filled with coloured water to paint the snow. Have them build a giant castle or great wall at the entrance, using sand buckets, loaf pans, and cut up empty milk cartons to create the blocks. Freeze blocks of coloured water overnight to make them extra festive.

In the backyard, sketch out and build up a snow maze.

Game on!

From golf to Broomball and Tic-Tac-Toe, everything is so much more fun in the snow.

Tic-Tac-Toe: sticks for X and pine cones for O. Draw the grid, and away you go.

Pin the Smile on the Snowman: blindfold each child and let him try to get the mouth, eyes, and buttons in place to make a snowman face.

Have a snowball-throwing contest: make a target by creating a bright circle in the snow with coloured water in a squirt bottle.

Using baking pans, freeze rocks, filled with sparkles, toys or gems. Kids will love to chip away at these frozen bricks to dig out the treasure.

Make an obstacle course or build a golf course by burying tin cans in the snow. It’s fun to create a backyard curling rink spraying colourful rings and using same size jugs of frozen water for the rocks.

Offer the smaller kids some free-play options. Have them make snow angels, blow bubbles, make snowmen or simply paint the snow with spray bottles.

A winter treasure hunt is always fun. Make the clues easy, so kids of all ages can take part.

Carnival food

When it comes to carnival food, just about anything on a stick will do. Keep in mind that the kids will be wearing mittens.  Julie Findlay is Mom in the Know, a spokesperson for all things related to raising a family and living a happy, healthy and balanced life. A wife and mother of two, Julie has turned her teaching career into a lifelong passion of sharing with others through traditional and online media.

Make-Ahead Homemade

Hot Cocoa Mix

• 3 1/2 cups (875 mL) sugar

• 2 1/4 cups (550 mL) cocoa

• 1 tablespoon (15 mL) table salt

• Whole milk for serving

1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, and salt, and whisk to combine well. Store the mixture in an airtight container.

2. For a large batch of cocoa, warm the milk in a saucepan set over medium-low heat, taking care not to let the milk boil; as it warms, stir in 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of mix for each cup of milk.

(Or head inside for a warm bowl of Nippy Apple Cheddar Soup)

Nippy Apple Cheddar Soup

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

• 2 tbsp. (30 mL) butter

• 4 Ontario apples, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups/1 L)

• 2 carrots, chopped 1 onion

• 2 chopped garlic cloves, minced

• 1 tsp. (5 mL) finely minced ginger

• 1 tsp. (5 mL) each of curry and dry mustard powder

• 2 cups (500 mL) each of chicken broth and apple cider

• Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

• 1 cup (250 mL) grated old cheddar

1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, curry and mustard powder. Sauté 5 to 7 minutes until onion begins to soften.

2. Add broth and apple cider, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are very tender.

3. Using a food processor or blender, purée until smooth.

Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1/4 cup (50 mL) cheddar cheese.