Winter weather making you pine for the fresh air of spring? After weeks of holing up inside to avoid Jack Frost, you may be dreaming of picnics at the park, swim sessions at the neighborhood pool and sunny days at the beach.
While there’s nothing that quite compares to a bright, sunny afternoon outside, you don’t have to put off outdoor adventures just because it’s cold. With a coat and a plan, you can take your family out even when the thermometer takes a plunge.
Check out these 9 ideas for outdoor winter activities your family can do together.
#1) Snowball Fight
In the summer, it’s fun to pelt water balloons at one another. During the winter, you can channel that same energy into a snowball fight. The splat is just as satisfying, and you won’t be left with balloon bits scattered across the yard.
If you get tired of throwing snowballs at each other, direct your shots toward a target instead. Draw a chalk bullseye on the driveway, hang a hula hoop from a tree, or aim for a spot on the side of the garage.
#2) Bonfire Party
A big fire can make even the chilliest days feel cozy. Invite some friends over to gather around your backyard fire pit. Warm drinks and toasty marshmallows will round out the fun.
Just be sure that you’re starting with dry wood so that it will burn readily. Logs that have been buried under a thick layer of heavy snow may not work well. Pair your dry wood with a firestarter to get the party roaring to life quickly.
#3) Hill Adventures
Snowy days call for a trip to a nearby hill. Sledding is a classic winter activity. If you don’t own a sled, try using a large piece of cardboard instead. Other possible alternatives include shower curtains or inflatable inner tubes.
If you’re feeling more adventurous — and have a big enough incline nearby — try snowboarding or skiing. Many places offer family lessons for novices. You’ll work muscles you didn’t even know you had!
#4) Frozen Suncatchers
You can make a winter craft with found nature items and other simple supplies.
First, take a nature walk to gather winter treasures. Look for pine needles, small pinecones, berries and leaves. Fill shallow dishes with a thin layer of water, and add your gathered items. Leave the dishes outside overnight to freeze.
The next day, pop the suncatchers out of their containers. Gently carve a hole through each one with a drill or a pointed instrument. Run strings through the holes, and hang the suncatchers in your trees. They’ll glisten and glint until the sun melts your handiwork away.
#5) Bundled-up Picnic
Who says that picnics are just for summer? Picnic lunches can make for fun memories in the winter, too.
Before your adventure, pour chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate into thermoses. Then, head out for a short winter hike. After that, it will be time to dig into your feast. The hot soup and cozy cocoa – not to mention the hike itself – will warm you from head to toe.
#6) Bird Watching
Not all birds head south in the winter. For instance, winter is bald eagle season in many regions of the country. And people in the northernmost part of the U.S. may see snowy owls.
Consider checking out a book on bird watching from the library, then head into nature to listen for bird calls. Stay still and quiet, and you may even lay eyes on some feathered friends. Don’t forget to bring binoculars!
#7) Frozen Bubbles
On a single-digit day, see if you can get bubble solution to freeze. This activity works best on days without much breeze.
Blow bubbles using your favorite solution, and follow them to where they land. If you take a camera outside, you may be able to capture stunning photos of crystalized bubbles.
#8) Waterfall Hike
Frozen waterfalls are a sight to behold. If you live in an area that’s cold enough to freeze flowing water, see if there’s a family-friendly hike that includes waterfall views.
Hiking provides a great workout, too. Just be sure that you’ve got the proper safety gear in case the trail is slick. Ice cleats for your hiking boots and trekking poles can help you maintain your footing.
#9) Cabin Camping
Since there are so many opportunities for outdoor fun during the winter, think about spending a whole weekend in nature. Spending time in the natural world can lower your stress, cheer your spirits and boost your self-esteem.
Some campgrounds stay open year-round with accommodations to keep you comfortable throughout the night. Heated cabins are a popular option. Yurts and glamping tents sometimes include heat as well.
Safety Tips for Outdoor Winter Adventures
Winter playtime is fun, but it calls for extra precautions. Be careful with your family’s health and safety so that you’ll always be ready for adventures.
Know the Wind Chill
Wind can make it feel colder outside than the reading on the thermometer. Wind chill is a measure that takes into account both temperature and wind speed.
In general, if the wind chill is 10 degrees Fahrenheit or below, keep infants, toddlers and preschoolers indoors. Older children and parents can spend short stretches outside in such conditions, but you’ll need to bundle up carefully.
Make sure that everyone is covered from head to toe with the proper gear. That includes wearing hats. A lot of body heat can escape from an uncovered head, but a warm hat will hold the warmth in.
Don’t forget gloves or mittens, either. They’ll protect your hands and fingers from frostbite.
Opt for several layers on top, such as a fleece jacket covered by a weather-resistant shell. You can always take a layer off if you warm up while adventuring.
Once your clothes get wet, your body temperature can start to drop quickly. You then run the risk of developing hypothermia, a deadly condition.
Opt for waterproof gear when you go outside. Waterproof boots can be especially important. Snowpants are another smart investment if you live in an area with lots of snow accumulation.
If you get wet, wrap up playtime and head inside. You can always return later with dry clothes.
Your body needs sunlight for vitamin D production, but even in winter, you need to be careful about UV exposure. Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin (like your face) before going outdoors.
Keep in mind that a white blanket of snow is a highly reflective surface. The rays will hit the ground and bounce back up at you. You’ll want to protect yourself by applying sunscreen to the underside of your chin and other downward-facing spots, areas you might not think about normally.
Although you might not be as sweaty as in summer, you’ll still lose water from your body during winter activities. It’s important to replenish that water loss throughout your adventures.
In fact, winter dehydration presents a concern that you don’t have to consider in summer: hypothermia. When your body is short on fluids, your risk of hypothermia increases.
Before you head outside for winter play, grab water bottles for everyone. If drinking cold water doesn’t appeal to you, bring insulated bottles of warm broth or herbal, decaf tea instead.
Preparing for safe winter adventures takes time and effort, but spending time with your family is worth the extra steps.