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Outdoor Winter Activities for Kids

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For many families, the winter months can feel limiting when it comes to spending time outdoors. Cold temperatures, rain, snow, and wind chills often create unpleasant conditions so that playing outside feels less than optimal. This can lead to frustration for kids staying inside for longer periods, especially those with high energy levels, and even more frustration for parents as they try to keep their children occupied with healthy and engaging activities.

Why Time Outside, Even in Winter, Is Important

Though spending time outside on wintry days may feel like a hassle, it is important for several reasons. Even a brief opportunity for fresh air is healthy for the mind and body. In addition, vitamin D (“the sunshine vitamin”) can reach low levels during winter months, so spending reasonable time outside exposed to sunlight can offset this deficiency. Allowing kids to have time outside in winter is also important for their continued physical health. Though it may be more challenging to run and play in the cold, opportunities for exercise are even more crucial during this season.

Perhaps the most important reason for kids spending time outside, even in winter, is the ability to be away from digital screens. Research has shown that more children than ever are suffering from myopia, or near-sighted vision, as a result of their increased screen time. Spending time outside allows the eyes not just an attention break from digital light and screens, but exposure to natural light and a wider range of far-sighted focus.

Suggestions for Outdoor Winter Activities

Depending on the area in which you live, some of these suggestions for outdoor winter activities may not apply. In those cases, you may need to rely on your creativity (or that of your children) to adapt these ideas to fit your winter experience. The most important outcome is to get some time outside by having some fun!

Of course, any outdoor winter activity should never compromise the safety, health, or security of your child. Parents should ensure their children are prepared for the elements by dressing them appropriately with adequate protection from cold temperature, precipitation, etc. In addition, children should be supervised at all times when outdoors.

In the Cold

  • Nature walk: A short, brisk walk can be entertaining and rejuvenating for kids and adults, even when it’s cold. To add some fun, make note of the changes that winter has created in nature. Are there fewer animals to see or birds to hear? How do the trees look? Even the youngest of kids can share their observations.
  • Outdoor art: Sidewalk chalk and bubbles are usually associated with warm weather, but they can still be fun even in the cold. Your children can draw outside pictures and experiment with the look and size of bubbles when the temperature is cooler. It’s also easy to “spray-paint” snow with a bit of food coloring dissolved in cool water in a spray bottle. Kids can enjoy an outdoor canvas even in colder temperatures.

In the Snow

  • Build in the snow: Most kids enjoy building snowmen, but snow can be used as building material to make other fun creations. You can give your child a “category” such as animals or food and see if you can guess what they have imagined and built with this snow challenge.
  • Sledding: Sledding is a fun activity for the entire family. Communities that generally get substantial snowfall often have parks with little hills for sledding or tubing. Trudging back up the hill to go down again is bonus exercise.

In the Rain

  • Splashing: Just like any water play, splashing in the rain is typically a joyous experience for kids. Though parents may be reluctant to allow their kids to get wet (or potentially muddy), this can be a fun activity before a warm and clean indoor bath or shower.
  • Five senses: Being in the rain, even briefly, is an opportunity for kids to explore their five senses all at once. They can describe how the rain looks, sounds, smells, feels, and tastes, and then compare their descriptions with yours.

In the House

Depending on the circumstances, there may be winter days when it is unquestionably not safe to venture outdoors. This could be due to severe weather or temperature conditions. In this case, children can use their creativity and imagination to bring the “outside” inside the house as the next best thing. Here are some ideas:

  • Build an indoor snowman: Instead of actual snow, you can use all manner of art supplies to draw and create an indoor snowman. Cotton balls can come in very handy for this project.
  • Melt some ice: If the outside is too cold or icy, you can encourage your kids to experiment with ice and the way it melts when in the house. Their natural curiosity will take over with just an ice cube or two and a couple of bowls for melting races, observations, comparisons, and more.
  • Signs of spring calendar: If your child is anxious for spring to arrive, they can create and decorate a calendar to count down the days until the next season. You can even make a spring activity list, so it is already planned and ready for nicer weather.
  • Hibernation day: Just like many animals during winter, set up a hibernation day. Everyone can stay in their cozy pajamas and even create blanket forts to have some quiet playtime or do some reading.

The winter blues can affect everyone at times, including children, as the holidays fade and the weeks stretch towards spring. If you notice that your children are a little out of sorts due to the season, this is an excellent opportunity to validate their feelings. You can reinforce that those occasional grumpy days are ok. Share with them that you also feel sad or frustrated about not going outside as much but be sure to point out that winter is an important season for nature and its creatures to get ready for spring. This will encourage your children to appreciate the world around them, even from indoors.

One of the best ways to ensure that you and your kids are able to spend quality and healthy time together during the winter months, especially when inside, is to choose engaging activities that facilitate fun and learning. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys that encourage family togetherness as well as independent play. That’s why we provide games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed and unique to enhance children’s critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. Our products allow families to connect and learn with each other, in addition to creating lasting memories by prioritizing excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and literacy skills.