Winter in Canada takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve grown up in the tropics like my husband and I. We moved here a decade-and-a-half ago at the beginning of autumn. This was the perfect and somewhat deceiving way to be introduced to the True North. The leaves were changing colour and nature was showing off its full glory. And then bam! The dreary and dark days hit us and we felt like getting indoors and staying there for the next six months.
The memory of that first December in Canada is still quite clear. I was miserably cold those first few weeks. It took a road trip outside of the city to help me see the beauty of winter. And as we started to enjoy the outdoors, I noticed that the cold wintry landscape wasn’t colourless after all.
I’m glad that I found a way to appreciate the weather before our first child arrived. Now I’m able to have fun outside with my girls all winter long.
For those who are new to Canada, like were were, it can be overwhelming and isolating to feel stuck indoors for months on end. But there are a few tricks to help you to embrace winter, and even if you never love it, I hope these tips will help you hate it a little bit less.
Dress for the weather
Dress warm and for the season. A long, wind-resistant, warm jacket is a good start. Hats, mittens, and scarves are important as well. Next on your list — boots. These must be snug, insulated, and with a good tread so you can step over snowbanks and wade through snow without chilling your feet or slipping on the sidewalk.
And don’t think you can get away with just outfitting your kids in warm gear and skimp on yourself. The key to making sure your kids enjoy the winter months is having a parent who is equipped to get out there with them.
Get outdoors as a family
Once you’re well clad there’s no reason to hide inside. Been there, done that, not worth it. Force yourself to take the plunge, breathe in the cool fresh air, and explore. Once your boots are on there’s no reason to stand still. Start small and work your way up to longer adventures. Here are a few ideas for ways to enjoy nature in winter:
1. Create a nature scavenger hunt. This was our favourite activity when my oldest was 4. It started off simple: we’d find three pine cones — bonus points if they were all different — and as many icicles as we could. As the kids got older we made the hunt more challenging. Squirrels, birds, berries, and paw prints, all make wintery exploration more interesting.
2. Go for a walk. During my childhood in India my parents and I would go for a walk, or a hike, or to the park. Picturing that same scenario with layers of clothing, and weighed down with boots, can make it tougher to get out the door. But once you do there’s so much to enjoy. A walk in the snow can me magical. Kids will use the opportunity to climb snowbanks and make snow angels. If it’s dark bring flashlights for some extra fun. And think of the bragging rights once you make it back home.
3. Try tobogganing. Sledding is an easy start. You don’t need much for this other than a sled, a hill, and the will to slide down it. Switch it up and compete: check your time, challenge yourself and the people around you, and when you’re at the top of the hill stop and admire the view.
4. Play in the snow. Building a snowman and then destroying it, having a snowball fight with your family, and catching snowflakes on eyelashes are all joys that can be experienced only on the coldest of winter days.
5. Visit your local rink. Many of the local rinks (but not all) have skates for rent. If you’re not sure about buying skates your first winter, find one near you that will let you try it out first. Skating is something that takes getting used to but may end up being an activity your family will enjoy doing together for years to come.
Take a class
Regular structured classes help adults learn skills that may remain unfamiliar, otherwise. There are private and group classes (which are also a great opportunity to make new friends) available. Options range from guided group hikes, snowshoeing, skating, or even skiing. Learning a skill that is unique to your new environment is a way to make Canada feel more like home.
It may not always be easy to embrace winter, but this long, unpredictable season is a reality that can’t be ignored. Finding the fun and beauty is much better than hiding under the blankets. Being a role model to your kids and showing them winter is more than just something to “get through” is a gift they will look back and thank you for, and will pass on to their own children some day.