Written by: Cally Worden
Fresh, clear outdoor air is the perfect antidote to the centrally-heated lethargy that creeps up on you over winter. With our immune systems working super-hard to keep winter nasties at bay, exercise is more important than ever during this chilly season. It’s time to prise the kids away from the sofa for a while and go outside for some family fun. Winter weather can be less than appealing, so it’s important to choose your activities wisely to ensure your little ones enjoy a positive time out that leaves them hungry for more. Here are some tried and tested suggestions to start you off on the right track.
You don’t have to be a Girl Guide or Boy Scout to adopt this sensible motto. The key to keeping kids happy outdoors in winter is to make them comfortable. No one has fun if they are wet or cold. Dress your kids in several layers of clothing and make sure everyone has a hat, gloves, a warm coat and nice thick socks. If you are going out in wet or snowy conditions, it’s important to don waterproof gear too, especially on the feet. If you are outside for any length of time, be vigilant for early signs of frostbite (most commonly noticed via pain or numbness in the extremities and skin turning hard or waxy and pale in colour). This is your red flag to head for home.
Things to Do on Snowy Days
Now that you’re all geared-up and ready for action, it’s time for the outdoor winter fun to begin. Try these ideas:
- Build a snowman – okay, this is not the most innovative one on the list but it’s appeal is timeless and all that snow rolling is brilliant exercise. See how tall or small, you can make your snowman. Build little ones that your kids can carry home and sit outside their windows. Make snow animals sculptures instead of your bog standard snowman – the only limit is your imagination
- Make a snow tree – find a robust branch with several arms and plant it firmly in the ground. If you have the right type of snow you can pack the white stuff around the branches to create a shimmering, ghostly tree of pure white
- Grab a shovel – clear paths in the snow is hard work, but gives you a brilliant workout and can be great fun. Give your kids a shovel and challenge them to create a word or picture by clearing snow in recognisable patterns. Once back indoors, hop upstairs to view their creations from on high
- Make Ice Bubbles – in sub-zero temperatures the simple game of blowing bubbles is reinvented. With the right mix, your bubbles will turn into floating icy balls that your little ones will love to chase and shatter
- Be an Animal Detective – a walk in the snowy woods will reveal a world of activity through the animal tracks in freshly fallen flakes. Challenge your kids to find fresh tracks, speculate about what creature they may belong to, and take photos to aid in checking your best guess later at home.
Things to Do on Wet and Windy Days
Winter in the UK is often more about rain and gales than it is about snow. There is still plenty of outdoor fun to be had in these conditions, so forget your excuses and go get togged up for these fun activities:
- Puddle jumping and mud squelching – this is a bit like giving a toddler a cardboard box and watching them have hours of fun. The simple act of splashing and squelching rarely fails to amuse children and is a fun way to get them moving. Switch off from the inevitable messy aftermath for a minute – find your inner child and have a go yourself. Trust me, it’s great fun!
- Take a Midnight Walk – most kids love the excitement of the dark, so instead of hiding indoors grab a torch and a flask of something hot and take a walk in the night. Even 7pm will feel like midnight to smaller children. Get into the countryside if you can, or even just to your local park. Sitting on a bench sipping hot chocolate and listening to the sounds of the dark will fuel your kids’ imaginations. It will also get them out and about for some valuable exercise – just remember to stay safe!
- Play Torch-Tag – for older kids, take them to the park or an open outdoor space in the dark and have a game of torch-tag. Once you establish safe distance boundaries each child has a torch and flashes it on and off as they move, taking it in turns to catch each other
- Hunt for Mushrooms – the forests and woodlands are bursting with fungi in the damp winter months. Take along a camera or a pocket book with you and spot as many types of mushroom as you can. The can be found on and around trees, stumps and fallen branches, in hedgerows and grasses, and anywhere damp and mossy. Be careful not to touch any unless you are certain they are not poisonous. When you get homeÂ create a scrapbook of magnificent mushrooms
- Take a hike – dressed in the appropriate gear, most kids will enjoy a walk in the wilds, pitting their wits against the elements. For a little while a least. They may moan a bit, but you’ll see how energized it makes them when you get home and find them more lively than ever.
The Cold Myth
Going outdoors when it’s cold will not, in itself, make you poorly. Anyone who has been exposed to the cold virus and has a cold that is about to kick off may find their symptoms arrive sooner than expected, but it should be no worse than it would have been. This is one old wives’ tale that you can ignore!