The question of whether to let your kids eat snow – white, fluffy, clean snow -- is one of those parenting issues that doesn’t seem like a real issue, and yet there’s plenty of scary advice out there about it. Even if I tried to stop my children from eating snow, I couldn’t. Every sledding wipeout or snowball in the face gives them a mouthful of it. And when they’re worn out and thirsty from running around or climbing a sledding hill, of course they are going to take a taste. Just like anytime you are faced with a “bad mommy/good mommy” list of should’s and shouldn’t’s, you gotta take it all with a dose of common sense.
So here are the reasons I found for not eating snow, and why I’m going to ignore them.
1.) Freshly fallen, clean snow is basically distilled water. Drinking a lot of distilled water can be dangerous. Okay, so we won’t live off of snow, or eat it until our electrolytes are off kilter. Check. Next please.
2.) Snow can carry bacteria. Studies show this to be true, and that bacteria can actually help create snow – cool. After years of braving public restrooms with toddlers or preschoolers who touch EVERYTHING, I’m kinda over my germ phobia. If I learned about snow in my area specifically being dangerous, I’d take pause. But our culture’s over-concern with germs is causing enough problems -- antibiotic-resistant bacteria and – it is strongly suspected – possibly the rise in allergic disease. I’m not worried about germs in snow.
3.) Snow can contain pollutants. This isn’t great news, but also not surprising. The snow is formed in air that we breathe, and falls on ground where we play. We accept a certain level of pollutants and potentially dangerous substances in our environment. Even our drinking water may contain pesticides and industrial chemicals at levels considered “safe.” I wish they weren’t there. But the point is, I’m not seeing snow as being any worse than what we live with every day.
4.) Snow can be contaminated with salt and chemicals for treating ice, or other nasty things from the road or ground where it has fallen. We already know the rule about not eating yellow snow, and really what that means is look at the snow before you put it in your mouth. What I do tell my kids: Don’t eat snow near the road or driveway, and only eat the snow that is clean and untouched.
So why eat snow? It's a way to taste and smell nature at a time of year when there aren't many other ways to do it. If this post hasn’t frightened you off from trying snow, here are some fun snow eating activities my family loved. All start with big bowls of freshly fallen white stuff:
Snow Sundaes Vanilla, sugar and milk for the icecream, then whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, cherries, etc.
Maple Sugar Snow Pour on the pure maple syrup.
Molasses Candy This idea was inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In "Little House in the Big Woods," she describes making Christmas candy by boiling molasses and then pouring the thick syrup onto snow to harden. Someone who knows how to get syrup to the right temperature to make candy could do this with ease. I didn't get it hot enough, as shown in the picture. In the next try, I burned it. Still fun, though!