How we winter

This game of living — for months on end in an ice box — is just getting going, folks. Check out these parent-penned survival strategies for fixing cabin fever and embracing your own personal polar vortex. 

Yancy kids

Brooklyn Park 

Meghan Joy Yancy (above with daughter Makkedah)


Mom to: Makkedah, 9; Samaria, 8; Nehemiah, 6; Shiloh, 4; Zion, 2; and Arrow, 7 months 

We winter by: Going on intense sledding adventures and then cozying up by the fire with hot cocoa and a game night. 

Soundtrack: United Pursuit and The Greatest Showman 

Comfort food: Chili. Load it with cheese and sour cream and an awesome bowl to wrap my hands around. 

Netflix pickMighty Ducks. My husband watches The Family Man every winter and is reminded of the gift of family.

Winter wear: Love Your Melon beanies! So comfy, so cute and proceeds go to a great cause.

Lifesavers: Young Living Thieves Hard Lozenges. I keep these in my purse for whenever a tickle in my throat comes. My kids love them, too, and they’re good for us. Oola organic tea is my go-to for fantastic flavors that pair perfectly with my essential oils. 

Oola tea

Tips: Kids always lose mittens, so we try to get mittens with a string attached (or attach them with a string ourselves) and loop it through the kids’ coats. Also, babies shouldn’t hinder us from fully enjoying winter. I try to keep extra blankets on hand to swoop one over my babe to stay warm.

Favorite outdoor spot: Central Park in Maple Grove has such a fun ice rink. And our backyard. 

Favorite indoor spot: Playground Plaza in Maple Grove. It’s like a gym in that you swipe a card to gain entry (because it’s unstaffed). You can pay for single passes or do a monthly membership. Genius!

Attitude on winter: I’m a positive person, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that winter sucks. And I can just be honest about that. I hermit most of the winter — and that’s hard as someone who loves socializing. The truth is, I want to be a snowbird at age 31, and I’m OK with that.

Breiehagen daughter skiing


Per Breiehagen


Dad to: Anja, 14, pictured as a toddler

We winter by: Enjoying getting outside and wearing the right clothes and gear to last for hours of playing, skiing or exploring. Early on, we realized Anja enjoyed having the camera document her exploits, and that’s how our book series, The Wish Books, started. Random House just published book No. 6, The Polar Bear Wish, which is a dogsled adventure (photographed in Ely), a winter activity we highly recommend. 

Soundtrack: My daughter’s playlist, including Taylor Swift, Etta James and Justin Bieber 

Comfort food: Turkey spaghetti with grated Manchego

Netflix pickThe Chronicles of Narnia

Winter wear: A neck gaiter — cold faces are no fun for anyone, especially little ones. Good mittens and layers top and bottom, including a wind block.

Lifesavers: Toe and hand warmers (inset) — they last for hours.

Tips: If you get cold, run or ski around as hard as you can for a while, the blood will start pumping and you’ll warm up in a hurry. For cold fingers, make a fist inside your glove and squeeze and rub your fingers together until they’re warm. I’ve used these techniques when photographing frigid places like Greenland and Antarctica, and they’ve saved my fingers.

Favorite outdoor spot: Minnehaha Creek and the city lakes, where we have great skiing and skating when the ice is safe. Minneapolis has as close to a wilderness feel as you can get in a city.

Favorite indoor spot: The sauna 

Attitude on winter: I grew up in Norway and winters were long — late October until late April — so we really didn’t have a choice but to enjoy the deck we were dealt. It’s more about picking which fun activity to do, versus dreading going outside. The old Norwegian saying — “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” — is the key to enjoying winter. When Anja learned to walk, she got her first cross-country skis (see above). Make it fun to be outside — bring hot chocolate and snacks to keep the morale up and the energy flowing. 



Sarah Jackson

EDITOR, Minnesota Parent

Mom to: Sam, 10

We winter by: Puttering in the snow in the backyard with no mission at all, hitting local ski hills (a different one every time so we don’t get bored) and baking, playing board games (Chickapig and Clack are two of our new faves), snuggling up with books and doing jigsaw puzzles! 

SoundtrackWinterland by the Okee Dokee Brothers and the Winter Wonderland album by the Minnesota Boychoir. 

Comfort food: Crockpot marinara sauce, crockpot split pea soup, crockpot short ribs. 

Netflix pickThe Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child

Winter wear: Hestra Moon Mitts. These are expensive (about $80 a pair), but they’re life-changing — a puffer coat for your hands. I’ve had a pair for two years and counting and they’re still like new, despite heavy wear in all conditions.

Lifesavers: Trader Joe’s Organic Virtuoso Spearmint Lip Balm SPF 15 ($2.49 for a 3-pack)

lip balm

Tips: Save some toys that come out of deep storage only in winter. We inherited an enormous bin of used Playmobil sets. These 3,000 pieces stay stowed until after Christmas and go away in the early spring. It’s a joy to open them. Pure novelty that lasts for days.

Favorite outdoor spot: Winter Carnival in St. Paul (Jan. 24–Feb. 3)

Favorite indoor spot: Urban Air in Coon Rapids and kid-friendly breweries

Attitude on winter: We’re big gardeners, so it’s hard to convince us spring isn’t “the most wonderful time of the year.” But then we have so much fun with the snow (BRING IT ON), plus Christmas decorating and getting our hygge on, we fall in love with winter all over again. What we really can’t stand is March/April, when spring seems so close, but yet so far. 

Hoss kids


Monica Hoss 


Mom to: Luca, 5; and Lila, 3

We winter by: Planning activities that help us get fresh air and burn energy!

SoundtrackLove by Michael Buble

Comfort food: Beef ragu that’s been cooking all day in the oven. Served with fresh pasta, ricotta cheese and a bottle of red wine. 

Netflix pick: I’m obsessed with The Great British Baking Show. It’s binge-worthy. 

Winter wear: A big blanket scarf my sister gifted me from Primp Boutique. It doubles as a blanket when I’m inside. 

Lifesavers: Beautycounter’s lip conditioner in peppermint (below), soft fleece blankets and bath bombs. When all else fails, give the kids a fun warm bath!


Favorite outdoor spot: Afton Alps. Kids 3 and younger ski free!

Favorite indoor spot: Sky Zone or open gym at Perpetual Motion Gymnastics 

Winter-survival mindset: Even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for 20 years, I still haven’t fully embraced winter! Now that I have kids I know fresh air and activity are key during the long winter months. I’m making more of an effort to be outside as much as possible.

Ries family

Inver Grove Heights 

Christina Ries

WRITER, Minnesota Parent

Mom to: Maria, 5; Jane, 3; Archie, 1; and No. 4 due in January 

We winter by: Bundling up and playing pond hockey with neighbors (or watching from the fire pit). It keeps us social during the darkest, coldest months. 

Winter soundtrackNorthern Sky by Nick Drake (Remember the final scene of Serendipity?) 

Comfort food: Homemade bread from our Zojirushi breadmaker (makes the house smell so good) and anything that comes out of our Uuni pizza oven. Neapolitan-style pizza cooked in 60 seconds! We store it in the garage so neighbors can pop in for a bite after hockey. 

Netflix pickPlanet Earth. Cue the penguins! 

Winter wear: Insulated, slip-in Bogs boots are a lifesaver for this pregnant mama (and any preschooler trying to be self-sufficient).

Lifesavers: Yaktrax keep you mobile (and vertical) on ice. They strap on over your boots. We also love Darn Tough Vermont wool socks (below).

Darn Tough sock

Tips: A short trip outside is better than none! There are also days when the kids chase each other around the kitchen island to burn energy, and that works too.

Favorite outdoor spot: Meandering around our cul-de-sac 

Favorite indoor spot: Lookout Ridge Indoor Playground in Woodbury

Winter attitude: I still get excited when it snows. Now the challenge is to be patient with toddlers and all the winter gear. I take pride in raising Minnesotans. Kids naturally love the winter, and I’d hate to hinder that.