During the colder winter months, it may seem difficult to enjoy the great outdoors. But no matter where you live, you can still enjoy time as a family outside. It just requires a bit of imagination!
Getting outdoors as a family during the winter provides many benefits, including keeping the whole family healthy by exercising. Of course you can’t go wrong in staving off that ever present cabin fever either! It can be a great time to explore and learn about the changing world around you.
For fun family and adventure on a winter day, try some of the following activities:
#1 Create Bird Feeders (see How to make a Bird Feeder in the Crafts section)
There are many ways to make bird feeders by recycling or re-purposing food or other household items. Providing a supplemental food option for wintering song birds is a great way to bring wildlife closer to you for your family’s viewing pleasure.
#2 Feed Backyard Animals
By doing a little research, you can discover what species reside in your area during the winter. Some of the more common species you may observe are deer and squirrels. By visiting your local home goods or hardware store, you can find species appropriate diets to set out in your backyard that will bring wildlife right up to your window!
#3 Take Your Pet for a Walk
Be sure to bundle up, then take Fido out for a walk! The fresh air and exercise are good for the whole family, including those furry members who can also get a little cabin fever during those long, cold, winter months. This activity also offers an excellent opportunity to catch up with one another.
#4 Go for a Nature Walk or Hike
Nature looks and behaves much different during the winter than it does during the summer. Going for a nature walk can be a great learning opportunity, great exercise and, even a bit magical!
#5 Visit a Nature Center
Often it is difficult to enjoy wildlife and the outdoors during the winter, but visiting a local nature center can be a great option. Many nature centers have special programs, events, animals, walking trails, and even touchable fact packs, making them a great place to visit for the whole family! As a starting point to find a local nature or environmental complex check out this list of nature centers.
Snow-print of owl hunting. Photo by Susan Barstow via Earthly Mission
#6 Look for Animal Tracks
The snow and mud that often accompany winter make it easy to find and follow animals tracks. Sometimes you can even find amazing animal impressions, like an owl catching a prey in the snow, that you would never be able to see during warmer months. This is also a great teaching opportunity for your children.
#7 Use Your Imagination to go Cloud Watching
Have you ever spent the afternoon laying in the grass on a warm summer day just staring at the sky and finding shapes in the clouds? Well, this is the winter version of that. If it is too cold or muddy to lay outside, simply sit by a window or sliding glass door and use your imagination to find different shapes in the clouds.
#8 Go Bird Watching
Although many birds migrate, some species live in the same regions year-round. Winter can be a great time to go bird watching because the trees are bare, so it is more difficult for birds to camouflage themselves. In addition to observing backyard song birds, often times birds of prey like red-tailed hawks, along with water birds like great blue herons, can be seen more easily during the winter as well.
#9 Learn About What Animals do During the Winter
Many animals exhibit major lifestyle changes during the winter. If the weather is just a bit too bitter to go outside, you can spend the afternoon learning about how animals survive during the harsh winter. Teaching your children about caching food, hibernation and migration can be interesting and help them to understand wildlife behavior better.
#10 Do a Good Deed
Winter can create many opportunities for performing good deeds for those around you. Has it recently snowed? Go out and shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk or driveway, clean off their car, or bring them a newspaper. This can be a great way to get to know them and do something kind for someone else, all while setting a great example for your children!
#11 Make a Winter Drawing or Painting
A cold winter day can be a great time to pull out the old box of crayons, or if you are feeling adventurous, the finger paints, and draw a winter scene.
#12 Make Ice Art
Use the cold weather to your advantage make some ice art! You can keep it simple and use ice trays, dishes, or fun shaped molds filled with water colored using a few drops of food dye, and left outside to freeze (or if it is not cold enough put them in your freezer). After it is frozen, release the ice from the molds and use it to build a colorful ice sculpture in the yard! For more ideas and examples visit Learn Play Imagine.
#13 Make a Snow Painting
If your yard is covered in powdery snow, then making a snow painting may be the perfect idea! All you need are some empty spray bottles, food dye, water and a little creativity. For complete directions visit KinderArt.
#14 Make a Snowman
Making a snowman is a favorite winter past-time! Use your imagination to build a whole snow-family, all you need are a few extra scarves, hats and maybe a carrot or two.
#15 Make a Snow Fort or Igloo
Right after a snow storm is the perfect time to get the whole family and head outside for good old fashion fun in the snow! With everyone working together, a snow fort will take shape in no time.
#16 Have a Snowball Fight
Once you have a snow fort, what better way to test it out than a friendly neighborhood snowball fight?
Image courtesy of Melissa and Doug
#17 Go on a Winter Scavenger Hunt
Make sure you are bundled up and then head outdoors for a winter scavenger hunt! You can use the list provided above or make up your own. If you want to make it a bit more interesting, get together in teams with friends and compete for a prize, or just bragging rights.
#18 Go Skiing or Snowboarding
Grab your skis or snowboard and get ready to hit the slopes! Skiing and snowboarding are a great wintertime family hobby. They give families a common interest to discuss, a great way to exercise together and who doesn’t love the occasional weekend getaway in the mountains?
#19 Go Sledding or Tubing
There is nothing more thrilling than flying down a snow covered hill at top speeds on your sled. Going sledding or tubing at a local park is a great way to get exercise and spend time with friends and family. Just look out for those hidden jumps, they can be a real doozy!
#20 Go Snowshoeing
Want to go hiking but there is just too much snow? Try snowshoeing! This is an activity that families rarely engage in, so it can be really fun to try this out together. Not sure how to get started? Often times at winter festivals there will be opportunities to learn and try out this new activity.
#21 Go Ice Skating
Although challenging, ice skating can be a really fun way to spend a winter afternoon. Most towns have a local ice rink, though sometimes you can find special temporary rinks that host special events starting during the holidays and lasting all winter long.
#22 Go Ice Fishing
If you enjoy fishing during the summer, then ice fishing is sure to be fun. Who knows, maybe you’ll even catch some dinner!
#23 Play Ice Hockey
Have a few friends who are looking for something to do? Start up a game of ice hockey. Check out your local intramural sports opportunities for a team or league you can join to help fill those long cold days of winter and maybe make a few new friends.
Photo via 12 Days of Aspen
#24 Check Out a Winter Festival
If you miss the plethora of festivals that accompany summer days and don’t mind braving the cold, attend a local winter festival. Most towns, especially ones in rural areas or near state parks, host winter festivals. You can also check nearby ski resorts. If you are looking for something a bit bigger, or feel up to a winter road trip, then check out some of the best winter festivals in the country here.
#25 Watch a Dog Sled Race
Learning about dog sledding, watching a race, or (if you’re feeling adventurous) trying out dog sledding yourself can be an interesting way to spend the day. Not sure where to start? Many winter festivals have dog sledding demonstrations, or you can look for local teams here.
#26 Go for a Sleigh Ride
Very few of us are lucky enough to either have our own or have friends with a horse and sleigh. Fortunately, sleigh rides are commonly found around city parks, resorts and winter festivals during this time of the year.
#27 Take Pictures of Winter Landscape
The beauty of this idea is that it can be done in your backyard, by going for a walk/hike, or while staying warm in your car driving through a state park. If your whole family participates, make a fun family evening by going through each persons’ photos while sipping hot chocolate!
#28 Have a Winter Campfire With Hot Cocoa and S’mores
If you still have your fire pit outdoors from those crisp fall nights, uncover it and fire it up! Grab some hot cocoa and marshmallows, and if you’re feeling a bit hungry roast some of those marshmallows for a tasty s’mores snack.
#29 Go Star Gazing
One great thing about all the trees being bare is that it makes the moon and stars all that much easier to see! So, if you’re feeling adventurous head outside to go stargazing. If it’s a bit too nippy then stay toasty inside, turn out the lights and gaze up at the heavens to see how many constellations you can spot!
#30 Go to a Maple Syrup Farm or Festival
Who doesn’t love a stack of hotcakes piled high with maple syrup? Why not take the family and head out to a maple syrup farm or festival to learn about where this delicious pancake topping comes from and maybe even harvest some yourself! Try searching locally or for some of the best maple syrup farms and festivals in North America check out Road Trips for Families.