Outdoor Winter Activities for Families

by Victoria Georgoff

A crisp winter day can be fun and exhilarating -- and a good way for the whole family to burn off extra energy from being cooped up indoors. While winter certainly doesn’t have the outdoor versatility of a warmer season, there is still plenty to do -- though you may have to schlep a little extra gear around to keep the kids warm and happy. So before embarking on your winter adventure, be sure to bundle up the family well, bring a pair of dry socks for everybody, and a big thermos of hot cocoa to share.

Playing in the Snow

Playing in the snow is a classic go-to family pastime, you do not need any special equipment -- just nice warm clothes -- and it can be as easy as stepping out your front door. Classic winter activities are building snowmen, having a snowball fight and making snow angels -- but 10 minutes later -- the kids are bored and ready to go in. Shake it up by sculpting your entire family out of snow people, including the family pets. Dress up the snowmen to look like mom, dad and kids using old clothes or props you have on hand. Experiment with non-winter sports such as tossing a Frisbee around -- sure is harder to run after it in snow boots -- or break out baseball gloves, but substitute a snowball for a baseball. What happens when you hit a snowball with a tennis racket or croquet mallet? Look through your garage for more unusual snow games to play.

Snow Art

Fresh fallen snow is beautifully white, and just waiting for you and your family to color it up. Take several cups of water dyed with food coloring and use an eye-dropper to splash little drops of color on the white canvas that is your yard. Or, fill a squirt bottle with the colored water to spray a bigger area. Make sculptures or ice people and paint them with the dyed water. Create “snow castles” by using your kid’s beach supplies. Sand buckets and shovels are perfect tools to make castles -- and they may actually stay together better than the sand variety. Have an ice sculpture contest with your kids -- everyone can find twigs, rocks, leaves and other yard debris buried under the snow and float them in a disposable plastic cup of water. Allow them to freeze overnight, remove the plastic cup and see whose sculpture looks the coolest.

Outdoor Adventure

Winter is the perfect time for an outdoor family adventure. Dig out the sled, rent some snow shoes or cross country skis and take to the great outdoors. Even young toddlers can get in on the action with a pair of tot-sized snow shoes. Go on a family hike or scavenger hunt through a park; make a list of winter items such as icicles, fallen pinecones and abandoned birds nests in the barren trees -- check each item off as you spot them. Don’t have or want to rent winter gear? Take a family walk on fresh fallen, but shallow snow and see if you can find any animal tracks. Bunnies, birds, squirrels or even the neighborhood cats and dogs are sure to leave prints behind; track them until they disappear.

Take to the Ice

Spending some time on the ice is sure to be a fun family day. Help your kids learn about and practice their ice hockey or figure skating skills. Or, simply help beginners learn to stay on their feet. Family members who are hesitant to strap on a pair of skates can enjoy walking or sliding on the ice, or taking a ride in a sled across the frozen water. Anytime you go to an outdoor ice rink, ensure it is frozen deep enough to support the family. If it is a city rink or lake, they will post signs if the ice is not thick enough -- heed the warnings and find another activity for the day.

About the Author

Victoria Georgoff has been writing professionally since 2007. Her articles have appeared in "The Journal of Sexual Medicine" and "The Encyclopedia of Sex & Society." A dually-licensed mental health counselor, with additional EMDR certification, Georgoff specializes in writing about parenting, education, sexual health and psychology, but also writes prolifically on many other topics. Georgoff holds an Master of Arts in counseling from Valparaiso University.

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