The words “Snow Day” written in bright colors on a chalkboard.

Snow-Day Magic and Unexpected Creativity

The magic of snow days is one of my fondest memories of childhood. The Minnesota winters of my youth provided many snow-related cancellations and resulting free time. For me, snow-day creativity usually manifested itself in building snow forts outside or doing craft projects inside. As an adult, I have often wished to return to those moments of unplanned creative play. Recent events have made me realize that I still can.  

Winter storms have ravaged much of the country recently and they indeed forced my little family into several days of snowy seclusion. We stocked up on food and other necessities ahead of the storm, but once the snow fell, I began to have flashbacks of those unfettered moments of weather-induced creativity of my childhood. I realized that with a little effort, those moments can be recreated in adulthood, with or without the snow.

Snow Not Required

My childhood memories of snowstorms and my recent experience of weather-related confinement caused me to reflect on the ingredients of snow-day magic and its accompanying sparks of creativity.

It is perhaps important to highlight that snow is not one of the necessary elements for this phenomenon. The essential factor is having spontaneous free time. I associate the magic and the creativity of those unexpected occasions with snowstorms because of my wintery childhood, but snow is only one possible cause of such opportunities.

A photo of a footbridge over a small creek.

For adults, the causes of spontaneous free time are numerous and often challenging; inclement weather, sudden changes in plans, physical illness, mental health issues, bereavement, furloughs, and unemployment could all be sources. Whether the causes are minor inconveniences or major life events, having an unexpected stretch of open time is a key ingredient to the type of creativity I describe here.

Some of the more serious causes of sudden free time, a personal or familial health crisis, for example, would certainly result in negative emotions. Some of the most intriguing manifestations of creativity, however, have arisen from frustration, anger, or even grief. Harnessing the creativity of such moments might even be a therapeutic way of dealing with those emotions.

The Ingredients

I have already touched on the first essential quality of snow-day creativity: open time that is spontaneous or unexpected in nature. Rather than squandering this precious time with tasks from our to-do lists, we ought to seize the opportunity in service of imagination.  

Children, who are naturally in touch with their creativity, seldom have trouble selecting imaginative projects. Deciding on a creative endeavor as an adult may require more forethought. Now, prior to the arrival of the next “snow day,” is the perfect time to ask, “what creative project would be most fulfilling to me if I suddenly had unexpected free time?”

A hand painting a rainbow on a window looking out on a snowy exterior.

We have determined that unexpected free time and a creative project are two necessary ingredients for snow-day imagination. I argue that there is one more magical element.

The Magic of Play

I have written previously on the nature of play and its connection to creativity. For me, the most striking revelation from the research on the topic has to do with the attitude required for play. Research indicates that for an activity to be considered play, the disposition of the people involved must be “activated and alert, but not stressed.”

Almost any activity can be a conduit for creativity, including our jobs, our parenting, or our housework. Those more “serious” activities, however, may involve expectations and result in stress. In order to consider a creative endeavor play, the activity should be free from pressure, while still requiring alertness.

The word “Play” spelled out in colorful blocks on a background of crafting supplies.

It is becoming clear that there is a recipe for snow-day magic, despite its seemingly ephemeral quality. The simple, three-part formula consists of unexpected free time, a creative project, and an attitude of play.

A Snow-Day Kit

Even though snow days (literal or figurative) are spontaneous by nature, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be prepared when the opportunity presents itself. What is a creative project we can have on hand for such occasions? Remembering that the activity should not be stress inducing or even “productive” in the traditional sense, we should endeavor to pick something fun and playful.

The contents of our individual snow-day kits will be unique. For one person it could contain cake-decorating supplies, while another person might choose to include woodcarving materials. Drawing paper, colored pencils, or modeling clay are relatively low-cost, low-pressure options. One of my nieces recently taught me how construct little figurines out of colored felting wool, and those materials are what I have put into my snow-day kit.

Two small felted animals with posed with felting wool and needles.

Whatever you choose to have in your kit, I hope that when you are faced with a snow day, you won’t squander your time entirely on your to-do list. Get done what you absolutely need to, and then spend some time reconnecting with the wonder of childhood through magical, curative, playful snow-day creativity.

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