Playing in the Cold Warms Your Heart

One of my favorite pictures of my son and I was taken after romping in the snow. We’re both decked out in winter coats, hats and mittens. Our cheeks are rosy and our smiles hint at the fun we shared. I’m sure we did all the traditional outdoor winter activities like making snow angels, throwing snowballs and sledding. What stands out most is the sparkle in both of our eyes.

The great outdoors provides unique opportunities throughout the year for play and exploration. While playing outside in winter requires more effort and planning than other seasons, it’s an important part of your child’s development and happiness. With a little bit of finesse, playing outdoors in winter can be fun for everyone. Help your child experience winter in a positive way. Explore, create and build.

Winter Planning

Here are some tips to make playing outside in winter more comfortable:

  • make sure your child has a warm and water-resistant coat
  • provide warm and water-resistant footwear (dry feet are warm feet)
  • wear a warm hat and mittens
  • dress your child in layers
  • take hot cocoa breaks
  • keep snacks handy

Activity Ideas

Here are some of my favorite winter outdoor activities:

  • Make a treat for the birds. String popcorn, cheerios or cranberries. Or dip pinecones in peanut butter and roll in bird seed. Then search for the perfect place to hang these treats.
  • Make colorful snow. Add some food coloring to a spray bottle, watering can, or any container with a hole poked into the lid. Just be careful not to get food coloring on your clothes.
  • Go on a track hunt. Look for tracks in the snow. Follow the prints to see where they lead you.
  • Build a snowman or let your creativity flow and create a snow family or snow creatures.
  • Freeze stuff. This is a two-part activity, but very fun. Fill a container (margarine tub, pie tin, whatever) with items (twigs, leaves). Put a straw upright in the container; you’ll use this to string your winter ornament. Place the container outside overnight. See what happened. Hang outside on a tree branch.
  • Make kindness rocks. Use paint to decorate rocks and place them along walking paths.
  • Snowball Target. Place a hula hoop in the yard and see who throws their snowball the closest to the target.
  • Go on a nature walk. Assemble a list of 5 items to look for (bird nest, mailbox) or to listen for (dog barking, car horn). Then check off items as you walk.
  • Take a sleigh ride. Use a sled attached with a rope to pull your child along a snow-filled path or sidewalk.
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard. This one is fun with and without snow.

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As the Early Childhood Learning Coordinator, Sherry is focused on engaging young children and their families in play-based early learning experiences. The Learn & Play Bus and its service are at the heart of her work. Sherry has a background in early childhood education.