The first and only time I was worried about whether it was too cold outside for my daughter was early on in motherhood. My baby was about four months old, and the barometer was at about 10 degrees — colder with the wind. But I had made a date to hike with a friend, and I really needed the outing for my mental and physical health.
So, we bundled up. I tucked my baby into her snowsuit and hat, then put her in a baby carrier on my front, with my coat tucked around both of us. She slept soundly in the cold air and I got much-needed exercise and social time.
Since then, I haven’t worried much about whether it’s too cold outside for the kids. In New Hampshire, where we live, it snows from October to May. If my family stayed inside all winter… well, we would probably lose our minds. Instead, we hike, hit the playground and socialize with friends year round outdoors.
This year, I’m hearing a lot of talk from moms who are worried about getting outside during the winter. The pandemic has shut down many indoor play options that are staples for many families. Luckily, I’m hear to tell you that you can still have fun outside, year round.
Mentally prepare yourself.
Many people dread the winter, but for me, it’s a fact of life. I just try to carry on, despite the cold. That attitude goes a long way when you’re preparing for a winter of outdoor play. A lot of having fun in the cold begins with a shift of perspective: it’s not miserable — it’s just frigid. And with the right gear, that’s no problem at all.
Adjusting your attitude and outlook is especially important if you have kids. Little ones who aren’t used to cold weather or copious snow gear are going to resist, so you have to be able to fake it till you make it. If they hear you whining about the weather, they’ll just follow suit.
Get the right gear.
Getting the right winter gear is essential to everyone having fun. This is true not just for the kids, but for moms as well. Once everyone is warm and dry, the winter outdoors are suddenly a lot more pleasant.
I searched local mom groups and stories about outdoor preschools to find the brands that were mama approved. Many of them were available for a steal on local buy/sell/trade pages, since kids never fit in gear for more than a winter or too. In addition to research there was some trial and error, finding what my kids liked (and didn’t). But once you have a gear routine figured out, you can buy the same items size after size (looking at you, gloves with zippers).
When you’re thinking about gear, consider the base layer too. Wool socks, leggings and flannel are all popular in our house for keeping warm and comfortable while outside.
Plan ahead with activities that the kids love.
When most people think about playing outside in the winter, they think about building snowmen, sledding or making snow angels. My kids will do those things for a few minutes, but the novelty quickly wears off. Of course, we also try some novel winter fun, like ice skating or skiing too, but those aren’t everyday activities.
What they really enjoy is going the same activities they would be doing during normal weather. We leave our trampoline up year round, and out swings never get a break. We visit our favorite parks and hiking trails, even when they’re blanketed in snow. These things seem to keep the kids’ attention much better than just snow play, and best of all, the kids can do them alone, without my guidance.
Have realistic expectations.
If your kids aren’t used to spending much time outside during the colder months, start slowly. My goal is always to be outside for as long as it takes to dress and undress kids in snow gear (since we all know that’s the worst part of getting kids outdoors during the winter). When, as toddlers, my girls hated walking in the snow, we took advantage of pulling them in the sled or playing in plowed parking lots. As with any parenting, a snack distraction, like a thermos of hot chocolate, is always a welcome distraction.
This year, more families than ever will be spending time outside long into the winter months. So tell us mamas, what works for keeping your children happy outside all year long?
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Reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN…