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Bet Ready for Winter

Prime Time With Kids

November 4, 2014
By Donna Erickson - Contributing Writer , OVParent

"DEAR ELF, I HOPE YOU HAVE A NICE WINTER" is the greeting written with a blue crayon in big cap letters and tucked into the makeshift mailbag tacked to the side of the padlocked door at the base of a gnarly ash tree.

For more than 20 years in Minneapolis, young friends of the endearing Lake Harriet tree elf have crouched down by the little wooden door, nimbly unlatched it and left handwritten letters and drawings inside a hollow, carved space of the tree. Returning two or three days later to the path around the city lake, they come to the "elf house" to find a response on a small piece of paper, just to them. Seasons change, and now eager children have to wait until next springtime to open the miniature, magical door again. "I have moved home to my castle," reads the engraved 1-inch sign above the threshold. Even elves close up their summer homes for the winter.

Maybe your family already has been scurrying around like busy elves getting ready for the impending arrival of winter - washing windows, raking leaves and storing baseball bats and mitts.

Article Photos

Here are more weekend activities you can do together to shift gears into cooler weather and the holidays.

- Make a "be prepared" kit filled with supplies to have on hand if lights go out during a winter storm. Cover a shoebox with paper, and decorate it with safety symbols, using markers and stickers. Fill it with a flashlight, candles and matches, battery-operated clock and radio, and entertainment such as cards or small board games.

- Update your family's wallet photos by replacing old pictures with new school and informal photos. Send copies to proud grandparents, aunts and uncles. It's a good time to take holiday card photos, too.

- Sort through closets and drawers. Put on some music, and have your kids stage an impromptu outerwear "fashion show" to find out which sweaters, jackets and boots still fit and which don't. Donate useable, clean clothing and drop it off together.

- Discuss ways you can volunteer and participate at your child's school. Many children thrive in school when parents get involved in their education.

- Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."



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