Fun Winter Outdoor Activities for Families — To Beat Cabin Fever
Cure your kids' winter blues with these easy ideas for outdoor fun
Kimberly Burger Capozzi
If you live in "snow country," the first flakes of the season bring everyone out to play. But as winter wears on and snow becomes just something to shake from your boots, it gets easier and easier to stay inside.
But as long as your kids bundle up, fresh air will do them a world of good. Here are some ways to keep outdoor winter play fresh and fun.
Scenario #1: The snow has been around for weeks and the kids are tired of sledding.
Build a miniature luge track. Have the kids use metal spoons to carve parallel tracks in the snow. (Snow that has been piled up and frozen hard is best.) They can race the spoons, rubber balls, acorns, or anything else handy. Kids will have fun trying to create the fastest course!
Make mini-snowmen out of snowballs. Younger children find making these little people easier than building the standard life-sized snowman. And older kids can spend more time on the details instead of building huge snow creatures. Get the neighborhood involved and create a whole city of mini-snowpeople!
Think beyond snowmen. Expand snow-building to include such things as cars, animals, or favorite sports team logos. Use water with food coloring to “paint” creations.
Go snowshoeing. Snowshoeing doesn’t require fancy gear when you make your own out of cardboard cutouts, shoe boxes, folded newspapers, or tree branches. Attach to boots with string, rubber bands, or bungee cords and try a trek around your favorite green space.
Scenario #2: It snowed, but not enough for sledding or building.
Look for tracks. A light snowfall can reveal what animals are around looking for food. Search for tracks and try to follow them.
Go to the playground. You probably haven’t been there in a while, and kids may enjoy seeing their summer play place sprinkled with snow. Take pictures, so you can compare when spring arrives. Bring along a thermos of cider or hot chocolate to cheer everyone up when you return to the car or the house.
Zoom in on nature. Bring a magnifying glass outside to take a close-up look at the frozen foliage. Or, if you have a microscope, take some items inside (quickly, before they melt!) to investigate further.
Scenario #3: It’s a chilly, gray day with not a snowflake in sight.
Go for the gold: Invite friends and family to your own Wacky Winter Olympics, held in your yard or neighborhood park.
Dog Sled Race: Competitors pull snow sleds loaded with toys, sticks, or rocks across the grass.
Polar Bear Swim: Give each child a tote bag of swim goggles, towel, an old adult swimsuit or oversized flippers. See how fast they can pull on the swim gear over their outdoor clothes, throw the towel around their neck, take a pretend "swim," then remove items and return to bag.
Award each participant with an “outdoorsy” Olympic medal—tie a pine cone to a string!
Make ice sculptures: Fill a clear plastic container with a few inches of water. Add food coloring and stones and sticks for decoration. Set outside for several hours or overnight to freeze. Add another layer of water and nature “stuff” dyed a different color and allow to freeze. Repeat to create multiple layers.
Take the earth’s temperature: You’ll need to make sure the ground isn’t frozen for this one. Buy a soil thermometer at a garden supply store and take it with you on a walk around the yard or park. Have your kids stick it in the ground in various locations to compare ground temperatures. Is the ground warmer or cooler than the air? Does the temperature change in different locations?
Kimberly Burger Capozzi is a mom and freelance writer based outside Pittsburgh, PA. She has written about parenting issues, wind power and military spending programs, and chronicles her family’s efforts to cook wholesome meals at www.chefzi.blogspot.com.
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