Parenting in a pandemic is rough enough but add winter weather to that mix and it’s even harder. Isolation combined with the dangers of too much time inside staring at a screen can make winter feel long and dreary, especially if you aren’t into cold weather activities like skiing, tubing, snowboarding and ice skating. That’s why getting outside in the winter is so important and it doesn’t get more convenient than your own backyard or walking around your neighborhood for fresh air and sunshine.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes of daily exercise for kids, and outdoor play is also a great way to burn off some steam. Just make sure the kids are bundled in dry and breathable clothing. Dress them in thin layers and make sure they take breaks to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. If the temps drop down really low (we’re talking a wind chill below 15 degrees), keep them inside. Here are some fun ways to make the most of your backyard (or a nearby park) this winter:
Do Some Birdwatching
This year-round activity is great for those who love animals and birds, and yes, you can see more than just Canada Geese everywhere. Look for cardinals (you’ll spot the bright red color this time of year), goldfinches and blue jays. The kids can make their own bird feeders out of suet and birdseed and some ribbon to attract hungry birds to the neighborhood. Grab your binoculars and download the Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to help the kids identify what they’re seeing.
Make Some S’mores
This favorite treat isn’t just for summer camping. If you’ve got a fire pit in the backyard, light it up (make sure kids are always supervised) and start toasting those marshmallows with a side of hot cocoa in your Yetis. If you don’t have a fire pit, pick up a portable City Bonfire kit which uses non-toxic soy wax to give you a mobile heat source.
Warm Up in a Hot Tub
Cool outdoor air and a warm tub is what winter dreams are made of. A hot tub can be a big expense, but there are a host of new inflatable options on the market including the Coleman SaluSpa which goes for $500-$600, inflates in minutes and heats up to 104 degrees with jets.
Create Frozen Ice Orbs
When temps are below 32 degrees, the kids can take balloons, fill them with water and a bit of food coloring and set them outside to line the driveway or porch. Let them freeze before using scissors to cut off the balloons and you’ll be left with pretty glass-like orbs.
Have a Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of commonly-found items, like fallen yellow leaves or red berries from trees (don’t eat them!), or different bird species and send the kids outside to find them. First one back with their items checked off wins!
Go Sledding or Tubing
You may have to leave your backyard unless you’ve got a hill. Head to a neighborhood park on snowy days to get your fill of sledding and snow tubing.
Ice Dye the Snow
Your kids are probably already hooked on tie-dying which makes this idea a total win. They can use fresh snow and ice when they tie-dye clothes, but they can also color the outdoor snow so your yard looks like a festive landscape. Fill spray bottles with water and a few drops of food coloring, and let them design their own masterpieces.
Make a Snowman or Snow Fort
Before the next snowstorm, pick up some new snow accessories—that will help them make bricks for snow forts and dress up their snowman in a cute wardrobe (without raiding your closet). Supervise snow fort building to make sure they’ve got a level, solid base to put their structure on, and that they use water to freeze the snow to prevent cave-ins. (We’ve got more snow fort pro tips here.)
If the temps are well below freezing, they might even make bubbles that freeze.
Grab a Ball or Frisbee
Take a screen break and head outside during the day to kick the ball around or toss a Frisbee with the kids.