Winter is a time when kids are too often cooped up indoors. And with today’s youth already spending record amounts of time on their devices, parents and teachers are always looking for ways to get kids outside and moving. Plus, there are some unique health benefits to getting outside during the winter months.
Fortunately, we’ve got some great outdoor adventures for those cold, snowy months PLUS tips to make sure your family is prepared for the cold, wet weather!
We already know that time outside is beneficial to our health, but did you know that getting outside during the winter months offers specials perks? For starters, many people are deficient in vitamin D during winter. That’s because our primary source of vitamin D is the sun, and with shorter days and less time outside, we just don’t get enough. Getting outside can keep those levels up, helping to boost your mood and strengthen your immune system.
And speaking of the immune system, getting time outside in the fresh air can actually help you avoid those nasty winter bugs that seem nearly unavoidable.
You see, while many people think it’s the cold weather that causes an increase in cold and flu, it may actually be all the time inside that’s making us sick. In the winter, we tend to stay indoors with warm temperatures and poor air circulation. This is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Getting outside and breathing in fresh air can help your body resist the sniffles and keep the air in your home fresh and clean.
Outdoor winter activities also encourage creativity. Staying inside all day can stifle creativity and imagination in our kids. Fortunately, taking time to explore the winter landscape creates an environment where imagination can thrive. It can also help improve focus, which is a great way to beat cabin fever and keep your kids (and you!) from going stir-crazy.
Winter activities also help us use different muscle groups than we’re used to. Whether you’re skiing, shoveling the drive, or simply trudging through the snow, you’ll work major muscle groups you never knew you had. Just like creativity, people tend to get less exercise in the winter. You can give your metabolism a boost and keep your body strong and healthy by taking time to get outside this winter.
We know: we promised a list of fun outdoor activities for winter and we promise they’re coming. But if you aren’t prepared for the cold, wet environment that wintertime brings, you’ll end up missing out on all the fun stuff. It’s important to ensure that you and your family stay dry and warm while you’re out exploring.
How to Dress for Cold Weather
Layers, layers, layers! We’ve talked a bit about utilizing layers for camping and backcountry adventures but bundling up is especially important in the winter. In addition to staying warm, it’s important to stay dry. That means dealing with moisture both inside and out. Moisture inside your clothing quickly conducts body heat away from you, so you’ll want to make sure your base layer helps moisture get out where it can evaporate instead of trapping it against your body.
- Start with a layer of synthetic underwear that dries quickly. Thin socks and long underwear are key.
- Then, add a layer of insulation. This means thick socks, synthetic pants, and a warm shirt.
- Next, you’ll want a layer of fleece, which is ideal for keeping body heat in. Vests are great because they don’t restrict mobility, but still keep your core nice and warm.
- Finally, you can add your outer layer. This is the gear you normally think of when bundling up for the cold. Waterproof boots, coat, and pants are essential.
- Add accessories like a hat, scarf, and gloves and you’ll be all set.
And don’t forget sun protection! Even though it will be cold and often cloudy, those UV rays can still do some damage, and the dry air makes it easy to get chapped lips. Sunscreen, UV lip balm, and polarized sunglasses are just as important in the winter as they are in the summer.
Now that you know why you should get outside and how to prepare for the cold weather, it’s time to figure out what to do.
As promised, here are 9 outdoor winter activities to keep your kids happy and healthy.
#1: Sledding or Skiing
Whether you head to a nearby mountain or a fun neighborhood hill, you and your family will have a blast speeding through the snow. Skiing (or snowboarding) is also a fun new sport to teach the kids that will help them with coordination and work out some new muscle groups. For those with younger kids or looking to stay on a budget, there’s endless fun to be had simply sledding or tubing down a sweet hill. Not only will your kids love it, they’ll be totally exhausted when you get home!
#2: Ice Skating
This is another fun activity that’s great for all ages and skill levels. While you can usually find an indoor rink year-round, there’s something unique about skating in the outdoors in the winter. Remember that safety is important, and you’ll need to make sure you learn some of the basics like how to stop and fall safely. If you live in an area with frozen lakes or ponds, remember that the ice is never completely safe. Be sure to take the right steps to determine if the ice is safe.
#3: Camping (really!)
You may think of camping as a warm weather activity. After all, you’ll be out in the elements, and it can be tricky to stay warm and dry during an overnight trip. But winter camping can be extremely rewarding, and you’ll often have more solitude as you explore your surroundings. Beyond all of the typical essentials, be sure to bring waterproof layers, a sleeping bag rated for cold weather, polarized glasses (optional but they’re a game-changer!), and the proper tent. Be sure to bring waterproof boots if there’s snow and call the local ranger station to see what else you may need for the conditions. Avoid icy areas until your group is trained in mountaineering practices. Check the weather before you go and be sure that you’ll have enough fuel for cooking and campfires while you’re out. You can check out some awesome camping hacks here.
#4: Build a Snow Fort
For free, easy fun that can be found in your own backyard, look no further than the trusty snow fort. Kids love building forts out of anything and everything, and the snow creates a winter wonderland ripe for construction. You can use a plastic container to make snow bricks, or if you only have a few inches, use tarps and plywood to make a den that you can decorate. Make sure an adult is around to supervise. If the fort isn’t sturdy, you may end up digging your kids out of a snow pile, which is significantly less fun than a fort.
#5: Build a Bird Feeder
While many birds migrate south for the winter, there are plenty of beautiful birds that stick around. Finches, sparrows, woodpeckers, and cardinals are just a few of the birds you can find during the snowy season. And since food is harder to come by in the winter, a bird feeder is sure to attract lots of different birds for you and your kids to watch and learn about. Plus, building the feeder is a great way to keep your family busy inside before heading out. Go here for some easy DIY bird feeder ideas.
#6: Snow Painting
This is a fun and easy activity that’s especially great for younger kids. You already have a giant blank canvas, so all you’ll need is some paint (we recommend non-toxic tempera powder paint) and brushes. For something even easier, grab a few squirt bottles and some food coloring. Your kids will have a blast creating their own little masterpieces in the snow. The best part? No cleanup!
#7: Build a Winter Bonfire
You can still build a bonfire in the winter, even when there’s snow on the ground. Simply make sure you have some dry fuel to burn, and follow general campfire safety principles. If there’s deep snow, all you have to do is dig out a hole. Your family will be nice and warm as you roast marshmallows and tell stories, and the way the light dances off the snow at night is a special experience.
#8: Take Advantage of Winter Discounts
Winter is the slow season for many parks. Fortunately for you, that often means discounted admission. You can check with your local zoo, aquarium, or other destination to find out what deals are near you. This winter, avoid the crowds and have fun on a budget!
#9: Nature Hike
Though hiking is often considered a summer activity, there’s tons to see during the colder months. The plants and animals you’ll see are much different this time of year, and children will benefit from seeing a different side of our ecosystem. You can look for animal tracks or even create a fun scavenger hunt for the kids. Most parks and trails will be pretty empty, so you’ll get to see unique winter scenes that many miss out on. Refer to Winter Activity #3 for footwear tips!
No matter what you decide, you and your family will benefit from time outside this winter. Whether you’re looking for exercise, adventure, or just a way for the kids to burn off some energy, you’ll find everything you need in the great outdoors. So put on those layers and have an adventure!