Layering Up for Fun

Kids playing in snow

It can be easy to feel cooped up inside during the winter months when temperatures drop and the trees are bare. During the current pandemic, annual cabin fever can feel especially bad when it’s unsafe to gather in indoor spaces and it’s no longer inviting to spend long days lying on a blanket in the shade at your local park. But the arrival of winter weather doesn’t mean you have to stop going outside – even if you’re quarantining with kids. There are so many fun ways to spend time in the outdoors with kids of all ages in winter!

There are, of course, classic snow day activities like sledding, ice skating, and building snowmen, but it’s also fun to look for animal tracks and create your own prints in the snow for an imaginary animal, make snow ice cream, or build a snow maze and challenge each other to escape the quickest.

boys running

Not everywhere gets lots of snow in the winter, though, and there are plenty of fun activities to do on chilly but snow-less days. For example, you could write fun messages on the sidewalk in the park using chalk to welcome runners, walkers, and bikers. You could also build nests for an animal of your choosing in a nearby tree, or make kindness rocks and leave them out for people to find while on a walk in your neighborhood. The National Park Service even offers virtual park tours – try watching one and then making your own tour of a local park using a cell phone or camera.

It’s also fun to join a nature identification app like iNaturalist to track the animals you see in the winter and improve your plant identification skills even when many species have lost their leaves.  As kids head back to school, whether virtually or in-person, following winter break, the National Park Foundation has got you covered with tons of hands-on learning activities to get kids outside during the pandemic and reinforce school-based learning with at-home activities. NatureBridge also offers lots of resources to help parents and teachers be co-explorers with kids in the outdoors even if they don’t have a wealth of natural knowledge themselves. 

family preparing to ice skate

There are also great organizations like Blackpackers who are partnering with us here at NRF in 2021 to bring new folks into the world of winter snow sports, which can often feel exclusive to the white and wealthy. If you’re in Colorado, consider applying to one of their trips to learn how to ski, snowboard, and stay active outdoors all year long!

It can sometimes feel intimidating to head out for a big outdoor adventure in the winter, but the essentials remain the same – bring appropriate layers, drink water, and plan to take breaks and eat a snack or two. It’s also ok to go small. You can get all the mental and physical health benefits of spending time outside by taking a walk around your neighborhood or heading to a nearby park to observe how your local nature changes in each season. Working some outdoor recreation into your winter routine will help make everyone happier and healthier – kids and adults alike.