During the winter months, it’s tempting to hibernate inside, even when we know outdoor fun and fresh air are just what we need. You can overcome some of the common roadblocks to getting outside with these simple tips and strategies.
Roadblock #1: “It’s too cold”
The first step to enjoying winter play is to bundle up. Here’s my game-changing tip: warm up your children’s snow pants and mittens in the dryer (on a medium-low setting) for a few minutes before you go play outside. Even on very cold days you’ll stay positively toasty if you slide into pre-warmed gear!
Here are a few other ways to stay warm in cold weather:
- Invest in good-quality winter outerwear for the whole family. This gear can be pricey, so you can look online and in secondhand sports stores to find used clothing. Water-resistant fabrics are a must, especially for mittens and gloves. (While fuzzy and cute, polar fleece mitts will be soaked after the first snowball.)
- Choose function over fashion. Earmuffs and headbands may look stylish, but won’t retain the all-important body heat that will be lost through the head. Instead, wear a winter hat that’s well-insulated, fits properly, and covers the ears. After all, what are Canadians without their toques, eh?
- Close up openings where snow can get in and/or heat can escape. Zip the jacket right to the top, secure cuffs with Velcro wrist straps, and pull snow pant legs fully down over each boot.
- Apply sunscreen or moisturizing lotion to cheeks, and use lip balm if desired. Tuck a few tissues in a pocket in case of a runny nose.
Depending on your location, there may be extreme wind chill days that really are dangerous, but during typical winter conditions, enjoying time outside is entirely doable as long as you’re wearing enough layers. Check the weather and our handy infographic [PDF] to help you dress warmly.
Roadblock #2: “It’s too much hassle to put on all that gear”
True, it’s annoying to search for a misplaced mitten or discover still-damp snow pants shoved in the back of a closet. A few simple changes to your closet or mudroom can help:
- Designate a cubby or hook for each family member, so that everything can be found easily. Teach older kids to put things away in the same place each time, and assist younger siblings to do the same.
- Label kids’ belongings if mix-ups are common.
- Create a drying system that works in the space you have. Try placing a drying rack above a vent or clipping wet hats and mittens to pants hangers.
Roadblock #3: “There’s nothing to do outside”
If you need inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. The Active for Life team is always brainstorming new and creative ways to have fun outside. Maybe your family needs a sense of purpose, such as walking to check the mail, deliver something to a neighbour, or return a book to a Little Library. Perhaps a large-scale backyard building project is in order, such as a mega snow fort or sledding track.
Here are some of our best ideas for outdoor winter family fun:
- 29 fun games to play in the snow
- Try this active winter bucket list
- Outdoor winter activities for toddlers
- 5 tips for family winter hikes
- The many benefits of daily family walks
- How to make neighbourhood walks more interesting
Roadblock #4: “It gets dark so early”
Even as we’re yearning for the late sunsets of summer, we need to look for ways to maximize winter’s limited daylight hours. Walking to and from school is an effective strategy, or if schooling from home, break up the day with some outdoor time around noon.
Another idea is to schedule kids’ recreational screen time in the evening, when outdoor time is less practical. Or, you can embrace the darkness and take the crew out for a short after-dinner “adventure walk” with headlamps and flashlights. Remember to admire the stars along the way.
Related read: 13 fun activities to play in the dark
Roadblock #5: “I hate winter”
It’s not all bad, we promise. Keep trying a variety of winter sports, games, toys, and activities until you find something you truly enjoy.
Any outdoor time is a good thing, so adopt a “quality over quantity” approach. Go for a solo walk and enjoy the quiet time. Take pictures of pretty winter scenery. Or listen to music or a podcast while shoveling the snow.
Best of all, you can look forward to returning rosy-cheeked to a steaming mug of your favourite warm beverage. Cheers to winter resilience! This is Canada, and this is our season.