From our 21st-century vantage point, it is hard for many of us even to envision a life without electronic entertainment, especially during winter. But there really was fun to be had before the advent of handheld devices and before state-of-the-art televisions.
There were plenty of ways for people to amuse themselves year-round in days gone by. Children and adults alike had fun both indoors and out—and the best part is, most of the things enjoyed by people in the past can still be done in modern times. Following are some examples of old-time winter fun that we can still do today.
Outdoor Sports and Recreation
1. Snowshoeing. The basics are easy. They amount to strapping snowshoes onto one’s winter boots and walking across the snow. Of course, it is advised to use the model that works best for your ability and conditions, and practice the technique of walking with an enormous footprint before venturing too far. Some people strike off across the lawn, and others use trails groomed specifically for snowshoeing. Many folks use poles for added balance, but they are not necessary. Snowshoes can be found for every terrain, skill level and body size.
2. Cross-country skiing. This is relatively simple, as well, and can be done in a wide variety of settings, from the backyard or neighborhood park to commercial trails. Skis, bindings, boots and poles can usually be purchased as a package, and while the up-front price can feel daunting, they last for years and will provide many hours of free or inexpensive entertainment for the whole family.
3. Downhill skiing. This activity kicks it up a notch in terms of cost and skill required, but remains a beloved winter sport for many. This type of skiing takes place on a groomed ski hill or mountain, with a motorized lift to the top. It requires a different set of equipment than that of cross-country skiing and uses different skills to master.
4. Ice skating. Skating on farm ponds and city rinks is a quintessential classic winter activity. Gliding across the ice on simple skates can be fun, romantic, exhilarating, challenging or athletic—or a combination of any or all of those things.
5. Birdwatching. Many birds remain in northern habitats all year long—or migrate into the area specifically for colder seasons—and winter is a great time to seek out favorites and observe their behavior. With less birdsong and chatter to compete with them, it is easier to make out the calls of some species during winter. Sightings of snowy owls and bright-colored cardinals can thrill the hearts of even those with little enthusiasm for birds in general.
Inside the House
6. Games. Cards, board games, checkers, kids’ games, dice, pick-up sticks, party, trivia, role-playing or words—whatever kind of game is appealing, winter is the ideal time to strike up a game. From Scrabble to Hungry Hungry Hippo, games are great for families at home, inviting relatives and neighbors over for a friendly competition, or for a community social event.
7. Puzzles. Puzzles run the gamut, from jigsaw puzzles to word puzzles and searches, to Rubik’s cubes and everything in between, for all ages and interests and budgets and skill levels.
8. Reading. Winter is an excellent time for reading. Whether one prefers romance novels, non-fiction, memoirs, adventure, how-tos, classics or other genres—they are all attained by simply opening a book or magazine, downloading an e-book, or listening to an audiobook selection. And when a household’s reading capacity exceeds the budget, library services are available in person or by mail just about everywhere.
9. Corresponding. This one sounds a little like the texting and social media that consumes so many lives nowadays, but it can be more old-fashioned than that if one wants it to be. Letters or cards to loved ones, pen pals, and personal journals are all ways to correspond.
10. Crafting. The sky is the limit when it comes to modern-day crafts, with an amazing abundance of ideas, tutorials and materials available at the touch of a screen and at stores everywhere. Upcycling, painting, gluing, crocheting, needlework, sewing, wood-carving, knitting, wreath-making, weaving—the list of worthy craft projects is endless.
11. Culinary arts. Winter is a wonderful time to bring out tried-and-true favorites, try one’s hand at Hollandaise sauce or crème brulee or homemade confections, or just make and enjoy simple fare like sandwiches and hot cinnamon cider with the kids.
Away From Home
12. Visiting. Winter is a slower season for many, particularly those who practice homesteading and living close to the land, and a great time to catch up on socializing.
13. Roller skating, bowling, lap swimming, dancing of all kinds … and whatever other indoor sporting activity is available in the area—all wonderful options.
14. Movies, plays, concerts and shows. These kinds of attractions were often more special events than run-of-the-mill entertainment in old times. Lives today can include so many of these that they’ve become ho-hum. If that is the case, it might be worth mixing in more of the other old-time activities and limiting commercial attractions, thereby making the ones remaining more distinctive.
It is not necessary to throw out 21st century technology in order to enjoy some of yesteryear’s recreational practices, but it can be a rewarding endeavor to set aside gadgets and devices long enough to try some old-fashioned ways to have fun.
What would you add to our list? What are your favorite winter activities? Share your tips in the section below: