Most parents spend countless hours outside with the kids during the warm summer months. But now that the colder winter months have rolled in, we find ourselves feeling stuck inside. We attempt to meet our kids’ need to explore by playing yet another game of hide and seek or doing living room scavenger hunts. The sad truth is that eventually all of the good hiding spots aren’t surprises any more, and all of the good things to hunt for in the living room are old hat. So now is the perfect time to set aside an hour, bundle up the kids, and get outside. Even though the colder weather may not be as enticing, a ton of great nature exploring is still yours for the taking.
The question of what to do outside during the cold months still remains. Logistically, it is much more difficult to ride bikes and scooters when you have to be all bundled up to stay warm. And you really can’t go on a wildflower hunt when the grass isn’t even growing. So here are a few ideas of things that are fun to go explore, even when it is cold.
1. Go on a rock hunt. The rocks stay the same despite the temperature, and you might be amazed at all of the different types of rocks that you find while just walking around your neighborhood. Take the hunt one step further and see which rocks are the shiniest, or the hardest, or which ones “write” like chalk. When you are finished, give the kids a bucket and an old toothbrush so they can really shine up their new treasures.
2. Find the birds. Many of the birds have migrated south for the cold months, but several types can still be found. Take a bird guide with you on your trek so that you can figure out the names of the birds you find. Or have even more fun and make up your own names for feathered friends. The kids will laugh plenty while thinking up new names for the birds, and it can become your own family’s joke that crows are now called “big black squawkers.”
3. Inspect the trees. It is much easier in the summer to identify trees because of their leaves, but why not go out and try to figure out the trees by their bark and twigs. You may have to get a guide or do a bit of research on this one, but the new tree knowledge will be worth it. The kids will enjoy exploring the bark differences from tree to tree, and it is so gratifying for them to finally name the tree.
4. Set up some feeders for the critters. The birds and squirrels in your backyard are scrounging for food, and your family can help by hanging some feeders for them. If you don’t have feeders, you can make peanut butter feeders for the birds, and you can put out dried ears of corn for the squirrels. It is always entertaining to watch the wildlife stop by your house for some treats, and it is so fun when the kids start to recognize the “regulars” who will probably get their own unique names as well.
5. Freeze some stuff. If it gets below freezing at your house, it is the perfect time to conduct your own “will it freeze?” experiment. Collect a variety of containers, fill them with water, freeze them and you have new ice blocks. Hand the kids a metal cake pan, fill it with water and have them collect all sorts of items from the backyard to make their own frozen masterpiece. Get creative with anything “liquid” around your house; have you ever frozen an egg?
So even though the cold temperatures can definitely be an outside exploring deterrent, don’t let the cold spoil all of the fun that can be had in nature in the winter months. Not only will you get out of the house and satisfy the kids’ needs to explore, but you will make lasting memories for you and your kids.
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