Matt Johnson and his sons (from left) Ethan, Owen and Pierson go sledding at Lake Springfield Park after a January snow. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

We accidentally sent the wrong link in our newsletter this morning to a small batch of readers! If you’re looking for the story: Springfield blanketed with snow overnight, click here.

The ground is white and you know what that means: it’s time for flakey fun in the Ozarks.

Whether it’s deep or just a dusting, snowfall in Southwest Missouri presents rare ways to play outdoors no matter how old you are. Try one of these five ideas!

Leave a snowman surprise

A tiny snowman sits on a rock wall
This cute little snowman was discovered on top of the fountain in the hosta garden at Springfield Botanical Gardens. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

Build a silly snowman, snowwoman, snow creature — whatever you can imagine — but with a twist. Do it in a public space — like a city park or along an Ozarks Greenways trail — to inspire a smile when it’s discovered by others. Use natural elements like sticks, berries and stones for faces and details so your creation won’t leave trash when it eventually melts. Of course, if roads aren’t safe, build a front-yard snowman to greet your neighbors. And if the snow is too powdery to pack, use a stick to draw a face or figure, like you would in the sand.

Go sledding

Pierson Johnson runs ahead of his brother, Owen, while sledding at Lake Springfield Park after a January snow. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Find a slope in your neighborhood or take your sleds to a hill around Springfield. Popular sledding spots include hilly areas around Wanda Gray Elementary, Carver Middle School, Doling Park, Jordan Valley Park, Lake Springfield Park and near the soccer fields at Pat Jones YMCA.

A few tips:

  • Use your judgment about whether a hill looks too steep or has too many trees
  • Avoid hills that end at water or a road
  • Don’t show up at a school when classes are being held

Take a nature snow hike

A wooden sign reading "Trail" sit in a snowy field
The Gibson Mill Trail at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is a level wooded path that’s pretty to hike after a snow. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

There’s nothing quite like the beauty and sense of hush you’ll find while hiking or walking in a natural area after (or even during) a snowfall. It’s a good time to look for animal tracks, or take your camera out for some snow pics (read our winter photography guide here).

Dress warmly, wear traction boots and avoid icy conditions or slippery slopes. There are plenty of level trails around Springfield.

Try one of these local outdoor areas (Click to expand story)

Make snow art

Ice marbles. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Get creative in your own yard by making artful outdoor sculptures and decor using snow and freezing temps. Try one of these family-friendly ideas:

Build a Swedish Snow Lantern — Here’s how: Pack enough snowballs to build a hollow cone, starting with snowballs forming the base and layering to build up walls, narrower and narrower. (Make a large one, as illustrated in this video, or several smaller ones).  Leave an opening at the top to place a battery-operated candle or lantern inside — or more than one — for an evening glow.

Make Multicolor Ice Marbles — Fill balloons with water and food coloring to leave out overnight when you know the temperature will drop below freezing (or use your freezer). Peel or cut away the balloon and decorate your snow-covered lawn with colorful frozen orbs. Two tips for filling balloons: Drop food coloring into the balloon, then stretch over a faucet mouth to fill. Or mix color and water first in a disposable water bottle and stretch the balloon over the bottle’s mouth. Squeeze the bottle to force water into the balloon. Remove and tie shut. Another idea with food coloring is to make a Snow Volcano.

Decorate Trees with Ice Ornaments — Tromp through the snow to gather natural items around your yard — or on your snow hike — like evergreen stems, berries, dried grasses and seeds. Place several items into muffin tins or shallow bowls, then fill with water. Add a loop of ribbon or string and leave outdoors to freeze (or use your freezer). Once frozen, pop them out to hang on bare tree branches. (We found this idea here for more detailed info.)

Feed the birds

Bird seed ice ring. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

If it’s too cold to go outside for more than a few minutes, help the birds through winter by making a birdseed feeder to hang on a tree in your yard. There are many recipes and ideas online. Here’s one idea shared by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Bird Seed Ice Ring How-to — Fill a bundt can pan halfway with birdseed (and/or fresh or dried fruit). Add six or more sticks (from your yard or try popsicle sticks) arranged around the circle like sun rays. These are for birds to perch upon. Take the pan and a pitcher of water to a shady spot in your yard when temperatures will dip below freezing. Pour water into the pan (not quite full) and leave it overnight. (You can also use your freezer.) After the ring freezes, bring it inside, remove ice from the pan and tie rope or string through the hole. Hang it on a tree you can see from your window. For more detailed instructions, visit MDC here.

Sony Hocklander

Sony Hocklander is a freelance journalist, video storyteller and photographer who produces creative content through her small solo business, Sony Hocklander Creative LLC. When she’s not telling community stories, she loves wandering the Ozarks outdoors with a camera in hand. You can follow her on Twitter @SonyHocklander and on Instagram @shocklander or email her at: sonyhocklander@gmail.com More by Sony Hocklander