The lack of sunshine and warmth outdoors can wreak havoc in an otherwise happy household. There are only so many snowmen one can build, and all that activity means a giant mess by the fireplace and more laundry for mothers everywhere. Camping in front of the TV for Xbox or the gazillionth round of Star Wars Angry Birds on the iPad just feels like we've given up on ever climbing back up the mountain of world-class scholastic and innovative achievement.

Is there anything we can get the kids into that doesn't require pounds of laundry or encouraging them to lounge around on the furniture?

Throw these suggestions at the kids this month as they attempt to keep themselves glued to the couch.

Plan the Spring Garden

Families often don't get that great spring garden planted because they didn't for it.

  • Provide them with big pieces of butcher block paper and give them the task of planning out the spring garden arrangement.
  • Have them map out the whole property and then make lists of what they want to grow.
  • Assign them the job of researching what to plant in what order for your region.
  • Have them look up on the computer what grows best next to what and why. Find where you have the best sun. They might not be able to plant a garden yet, but the map they create and the list of materials and seeds will make for a more organized garden when the time comes. Plus, it gives them a great opportunity to envision and have ownership of the family project. Consult the book, Carrots Love Tomatoes for more help. 

Film Projects

On the list of top mommy peeves is all that begging for technology (like iPads, computers, etc.). Kids know that if they stress the educational opportunities, moms are more likely to agree with the purchase. Of course, then it all winds up for naught as gaming overtakes creativity on the tech purchases that were thoughtfully placed under the tree. Beat the kids at their own game this winter. Challenge them to create rather than recreate.

Simple Animation

Have kids create characters out of clay and sketch out a quick back story behind each. They can write a screenplay and storyboard on a large piece of butcher block paper (there's that paper again). YouTube some old Gumby and Pokey episodes. ("Really, Mom? That was animation?"). Have the kids move their clay figures in their first stop-motion animation project. Film it all with that $400 tablet that's just been playing Angry Birds all this time. Have them load it on YouTube and share with their friends and family. Voila! You have budding film directors. Chances are they won't stop at just one film.

Simple Film

Give those children a fun, wintry lesson about the history of film. Download some Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin films and put on a family film festival. Next check out the cool Silent Film app for the iPhone or iPad. With the app, you can shoot a regular bit of video fun and give it the cool jumpy quality of an old black and white in seconds. They now have a fun film to share with their friends and a reference point that will help at a cocktail party someday.

LEGO Amnesty Project

If you are like most parents, you've sworn off ever buying another of Lego set if your kids don't assemble what they already have. Time to make it a game. Have them assemble all Lego sets in the house. They can create a list of missing pieces (you can order missing parts). Check local thrift stores for lego sets and random pieces. It's a great feeling to see them reassembling that $70 set more than once. Find a place in the house to display them for a while too. A great incentive? No more Lego until they build 10 sets they already have.

Finish Off the Kit Day

This seems to be especially prevalent among girls, but there's always some kit in the toy chest that has only enough materials for one more project. Why not make a game of that on a cold wintry day? Whether it's modeling clay or sand mandala art — bring it all out and finish it. This gives kids the sense of completion and also makes for more space in the toy chest and closet. If your kids enjoy the activity, suggest that you will purchase a new kit of some sort to make something, if all other kits are used up.

Be Your Own Partridge Family

This will work for some more than others, but most households have a guitar, a recorder, or other instruments. Assign each family member to one of them and put on a family jam session. Take turns making up silly lyrics. (Don't get embarrassed; consider how silly Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber's lyrics are and they get paid to write that stuff).

Try out these creative projects to kids occupied, make better use of their technology, and help clean the clutter out of the house — all at the same time.