A recent study found that nearly half of U.S. preschoolers do not have time outside with their parents or caregiver each day. “Outdoor play is essential for children to learn skills and have experiences that may not be possible indoors,” says Pooja Tandon, MD, MPH, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Outdoor time provides opportunities for physical activity and motor development, as well as improved Vitamin D levels and probably better behavior and mental health. Plus, the social interactions and sensory experiences children have outdoors may not really be feasible when playing indoors.”
While it does take a little more prep work to get outside during the winter months, as many Northern Europeans say, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Heading outdoors during the cool season will lessen exposure to nasty germs that are festering in many indoor locations. Plus, the gross motor opportunities outside are exponential and engaging in physical activity will help promote better sleep and overall mood for your kiddos. Bonus points: you will get all of the same benefits just by going outside with your children. Simply bundle up and head out on a walk or, if you need some inspiration, check out these ideas for five slightly more involved outdoor winter activities to try now.
1. Pack a Warm Picnic and Build a Fort
Grab a couple of thermoses and fill them up with warm soup, herbal tea, or hot chocolate. Pack a few blankets and head out on an adventure. If you can get out in nature, open space, or even a neighborhood park or your backyard, collect branches and use the blankets (and some imagination) to create a fort. Get cozy inside and enjoy your warm treats.
2. DIY Bird Feeder
You can make a bird feeder anytime of year as a great way to attract birds, but winter may be one of the best seasons to do so. During the colder months finding food can be more difficult for birds. By creating a food source, you will find ample opportunities for bird watching and observation. If you live somewhere with below freezing temps a majority of the time, you can make a frozen feeder by filling ice cube trays with water and bird seed and freezing them. Place a piece of string in each cube so you can hang it when it’s frozen. If you live in a warmer climate, check out the step-by-step DIY bird feeder instructions from our Outdoor Summer Activities.
3. Create a Seasonal Journal
What better time of year to start a new journal than January? Get outside and observe your surroundings. A child can take notes, draw pictures, or collect leaves and plants that can be pressed between the pages. Give your child a camera to take photos outside, print the photos and tape them inside the journal. The hope is to continue the observations throughout the year as the seasons change. This is a great way for children to experience the change of seasons and reflect on the cycle at the end of the year.
4. Plan a Spring Garden
Spend time outside choosing and studying a space to plant a garden. Even if you don’t have a yard, a small window garden will work, too. Seeds can be planted pretty soon, depending on the plants you choose and the climate you live in. Use an egg carton or dixie cups to start your seedlings and set them in a windowsill. Ready, Set, Grow! A Kid’s Guide to Gardening is a great book for beginning gardeners, whether you live in the city or the suburbs.
5. Snow Volcano
Gather a tall carafe, glass, or jar, baking soda, vinegar, and natural food coloring (not necessary, but makes it much more visually exciting). Put a spoonful of baking soda and a couple of drops of food coloring in the carafe or jar. Build a small “mountain” or “volcano” using the snow, around the carafe, leaving an opening at the top of the mountain, just as there would be with a real volcano. Pour in a bit of vinegar and watch it bubble over. No clean up is necessary when you’re outside!
For more winter entertainment ideas, check out these 30+ Ways To Keep Your Kids Entertained During Cold Weather.
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