Whelp, it’s still winter in Minnesota. I don’t know about you, but it seems lately that my house is closing in on me. I long for the spring and summer days when the kids can play outside for hours on end without worrying about frostbite, getting snow down their coats, or having a mitten or boot get stuck in the snowbank.
Despite it being winter, my goal is to get my kids outside daily. If I’m able to, I’ll go out with them and we’ll play in the yard, head to the park, go hiking nearby or pack up the sleds and visit a sledding hill.
Yet even with all the fun things to do outdoors, sometimes they still don’t want to go out. In these instances, I try to give them a little inspirational nudge to help them get outdoors and get engaged. This is especially helpful for the days I want to stay warm and cozy inside, or just need a few quiet minutes to myself.
One day they were arguing so much outside that on the spot I made up, “I have a science experiment I need you to do! Gather four different objects from nature and lay them on top of the snow in a flat area. We’re going to see which objects are blown away by the wind by tomorrow and which stayed where you placed them.” As soon as my words were out, I held my breath, wondering if they were going to see through me that I totally made it up. They turned around and immediately began foraging for materials. They even talked about it the next day, “Mom! Some of our objects are still there!” Phew! I’m glad that one worked.
But it got me brainstorming other ways to help them love playing outside – even in the winter. Here are a few more ideas to inspire your kids too:
If you have too many markers laying around your house, turn one into spray paint for snow. Grab an empty spray bottle, fill it with warm water, take the cap off a marker and place the marker, tip down, into the spray bottle. The color will leak out and give your kids a fun way to decorate the snow in your yard. Bonus points if the marker is washable. Pro tip: darker markers work better.
Race Around the House
If your kids need to burn some energy, you can have a cooperative race around the outside of the house. (Cooperative things work better for us, otherwise the kids seem to devolve into arguing and someone winds up in tears). Designate the scoreboard – a tree in the yard, or a bush… but pick a specific landmark. Each time a kid makes a lap, they get to throw a snowball at the tree trunk. Once the tree trunk is covered in white, they all win! You can even cheer them on from inside the house, or better yet sip a cup of hot coffee in peace.
Ask your kids to look for animal tracks and see where they lead. Can they find where the animals live? Can they tell what they’ve been eating during the winter? If they stay still enough and quiet enough, will they get to see one of the animals follow that path again?
Kids can sled down the hill, but how far can they get up the hill if they take a running start at the bottom? This one is another great energy burner. Have them mark a spot with a stick or snow paint (see above) to see how high they get each time.
Make an Animal Shelter
Have your kids search for small twigs, grasses, evergreen branches, or simply dig out a section of snow to make an animal shelter. Bonus points if they put it along a path where they saw animal tracks.
I hope some of these ideas help you get your kids outdoors with little effort on your part. What ideas do you have? What do your kids enjoy doing outdoors? Drop your thoughts in the comments – I’m going to need more ideas very soon!