“Side! Side!” screeched my 2 year old while holding up her winter boots. My toddler loves going outside, or “side” as she calls it. Her enthusiasm brings a smile to my face although it took her a while to warm up to the idea of going outside in the cold weather. Between the heavy winter boots, thick layers of snow gear, and snowy ground she had a few false starts and tears of frustration. Now she can’t wait to get outside and play on her sled, dig a snow tunnel, or shovel the pathway. Outdoor winter time has easily become her favourite part of the day.
Going outside with a 2 year old in the winter months does have its challenges. Just getting a 2 year old dressed in snow gear should be an Olympic sport! However, the effort is more than worth it. Fresh air and sunshine help strengthen a toddler’s immune system while active outdoor play is important for healthy growth and development.
If you’re looking for outdoor winter activities to do with your 2 year old you’ve come to the right place! Here are some of my 2 year old’s favourite winter activities along with tips and tricks for making winter play a fun and positive experience for your toddler.
15 fun outdoor winter activities for 2 year olds
In this list of outdoor winter activities there are some activities that are snow dependent and others that are not. I realize that not everyone has snow during the winter and so I’ve tried to include some “snow-free” winter activities and alternatives.
1. Go on a sled ride
Learning how to navigate snow with heavy boots and layers of snow gear is no easy feat for a 2 year old. The best solution for overcoming this challenge is a sled! Being pulled on a sled is one of my 2 year old’s favourite winter activities. We can explore our yard or a trail more easily and she can get on and off as desired. Our sled is big enough for her to lay down in, or for two to sit on. This way an older sibling or parent can sit with her to go down a hill.
Snow-free alternative: If you’ve got no snow, bring your 2 year old on a wagon or stroller ride around your neighbourhood or to a park. Here is a fun stroller bingo challenge [PDF] if you’re looking for some strolling inspiration.
2. Set up a birdfeeder
2 year olds are fascinated by birds. Perhaps it’s because birds can fly or that they come in so many shapes and colours. One way to let your toddler get a closer look at birds while helping them out during the winter is by setting a bird feeder in your yard. You can make birdseed ornaments or a simple bird feeder out of an empty milk carton, plastic bottle, or egg carton.
3. Visit a playpark
Snow transforms play parks, creating new and unique challenges for your 2 year old to explore. The slide might be more slippery, and the structures might be more challenging to climb with mitts on. However, with a little help and guidance, these winter challenges will develop your 2 year old’s problem-solving skills and movement skills.
4. Do some snow painting
To paint snow fill some squirt bottles with coloured water and let your 2 year old paint the snow with them. Spray bottles also work but are a bit tricky for 2 year olds to use. If you don’t have squirt bottles or spray bottles, fill a few small containers with coloured water and give your toddler a paintbrush. This activity is great for developing fine motor skills and creativity.
Snow-free alternative: If it’s raining, bring some paper outside and paint with raindrops. Another alternative is to bring out some street chalk.
5. Take a walk in the snow
The first time my 2 year old walked in the snow she was not a fan. I can’t blame her. Our first snowfall of the winter was over a foot deep, which meant the snow was past her knees! With a little persistence and practice she got used to the uneven ground and heavy boots and now she can’t wait to play in the snow. While walking in the snow might seem like an overly simple winter activity for you and me, it’s a great activity for toddlers. Walking on uneven snowy ground helps 2 year olds build strength, balance, and coordination, giving them greater confidence when tackling other types of bumpy terrain.
Snow-free alternative: Bring your 2 year old for a walk along a beach, path, or trail that has elements like rocks or tree roots to clamber over.
6. Make a snow angel
2 year olds make the cutest snow angels! This winter activity helps toddlers work on coordination. To make a snow angel, have your 2 year old lay in fresh snow, with snow gear on of course, and wave his arms up and down and move his legs out and in. These movements are the same as doing jumping jacks, although it will be a while until your toddler masters this more complex movement pattern.
Snow-free alternative: Make a “snow” angel in sand, dewy grass, or mud!
7. Shovel snow
Toddlers really enjoy imitating Mom or Dad. It’s how they learn new skills. Shovelling snow is one of those winter activities that 2 year olds will do with zest given the right tool—a toddler-sized snow shovel! You can find these small snow shovels at many discount stores (Dollar Tree, Dollarama, etc.) or at some hardware stores, and it’s definitely worth getting one. Shovelling snow helps toddlers develop gross motor skill and coordination while encouraging independence and can keep a 2 year old busy for a significant amount of time.
Snow-free alternative: Give your 2 year old a small handheld shovel (sand or gardening) to dig in the dirt, sand or rocks in your yard, beach, or park.
8. Look for animal tracks
Snow gives us a unique window into the movement of animals. As my toddler and I walk around our yard, we’re surprised to discover deer tracks and raccoon tracks—two animals that tend to be rather shy. Have a look around your own yard, a park, or nature trail and see what kind of animal tracks you can find. Here is a handy beginner’s guide to tracking animals.
Snow-free alternative: Search for animal tracks in soft dirt or mud!
9. Build a snowman or snow sculpture
This winter activity is a bit more challenging for a 2 year old, but with the right type of snow and some helping hands making a snowman or snow sculpture is oodles of wintry fun. You might want to cut up a few extra carrots for your 2 year old to snack on or she might insist on eating the snowman’s nose.
Snow-free alternative: Make a “snowman” out of items from your recycling bin or items in nature (rocks, mud, sticks).
10. Go for a nature walk
Head out to your favourite nature trail to explore winter with your toddler. When I take my 2 year old on a nature walk, I usually bring a sled or a toddler hiking pack so that my toddler can take breaks as needed. Also, I tend to pick a nature trail that’s good for meandering. As you may already know, going for a walk with a 2 year old can be unpredictable and you may only get a few feet away from the parking lot—that’s okay! If going on a nature walk or hiking with your 2 year old is a new activity for you, have a read through: How to make hiking with your toddler easy and fun for everyone. There are a lot of great tips in that article.
11. Eat (clean) snow
If you’re thinking “ewwww, that’s so gross!” just know that your 2 year old is going to do it anyway. Might as well show them where to find the cleanest snowflakes around. Now granted, snow can have some weird stuff in it but generally it’s considered safe to eat when it’s freshly fallen. You can even use fresh snow to make snow ice cream or maple taffy on snow.
12. Search for icicles
Icicles form in areas where snow melts and refreezes. Look around your downpour spout or along the eaves of your home. If your 2 year old spots an easy to reach icicle, break it off, and let him have a closer look. Chances are he’ll want to lick it but you can also show him that it can be used to draw in the snow or used in pretend play as a wand, sword, flute…
13. Throw some snowballs
Throwing objects is a foundational movement skill that most 2 year olds can do confidently. To continue developing this skill, encourage your toddler to toss some snow balls outside. You may need to help your 2 year old from the snowballs but after that watch out! I’m always surprised by how far my toddler can throw.
Snow-free alternative: Make your own “snowballs” out of old socks and have your own snowball fight outside.
14. Learn how to ski, skate, or snowshoe
Can a 2 year old learn how to ski, skate, or snowshoe? Yes, but they won’t be tearing down the slopes any time soon. At this age it’s more about introducing your toddler to the gear and environment in a fun, safe, and pressure-free way. Personally, I like to introduce my 2 year old to skating and Nordic (cross-country) skiing first. These sports are quite affordable and it’s easy to rent gear if you only try it a few times during the winter season.
Snow-free alternative: Bring your 2 year old skating at your local indoor (or outdoor) skating rink.
15. Winter activities scavenger hunt
Another fun winter activity to try with your 2 year old is a winter activities scavenger hunt. Print this free printable and bring it along the next time you go outside with your toddler.
More ideas and tips
I hope you and your 2 year old enjoy some of these fun winter outdoor activities together. If you’re finding it challenging to get outside with your toddler here’s how to overcome 5 common roadblocks that get in the way of winter play. And don’t forget to dress for the weather! Check out this handy printable for dressing kids for winter.