Arboretum News

Kids Activity: Winter Building Challenge

Create a snow fort or wall using a plastic container and snow.

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Discover what type of snow makes the best building material. Photo by Reba Luiken.

By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

Do you want to build a snowman? What about a snow fort? If you have lived in Minnesota for many years, you probably know that snow comes in many different varieties. Sometimes it is light and fluffy. Other times it is heavy and wet. Once it’s been on the ground for a few days, the consistency can change completely depending on the weather. Some of these types of snow are much better for building than others, as your youngest engineers will learn if they try this winter building challenge on multiple days!

Use plastic containers to form blocks for your wall or fort. Photo by Reba Luiken.

– Snow
– Containers for packing snow (buckets, kitchen containers, etc.)
– Natural materials

Some natural material adds extra interest to your structure. Photo by Reba Luiken.


1. Collect containers and head outside. Smaller containers worked better for snow that is not very wet. 

2. Choose a spot for your wall or tower (or whatever you decide to build).

3. Fill your container with snow.  Use your hand (with a mitten on!) to pack down the snow. Keep adding snow and packing it down until the container is completely full. 

4. Carefully turn your container over and set it upside down on the ground.  Squeeze gently to release the snow brick.

5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 as you build your tower.

6. Once your snow sculpture is complete, collect natural materials to decorate it. I used crabapples, cattails, and other dried seed heads on mine.

– If you have multiple engineers, add in a challenge, like seeing who can work the fastest or build the tallest structure.
– Better, yet, collaborate on a fort you can build and enjoy together!
– Use your structure as the backdrop for your own outdoor theater production. 

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