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 embrace the beauty of kids’ winter activities; we hike, we hit the playground, and we socialize with friends all year-round outdoors.
This year, I’m hearing a lot of talk from moms who are worried about getting outside during the winter. But now, more than ever, with the pandemic changing the way we view indoor play options that are staples for many families forever, is the time to explore kids’ winter activities. Luckily, I’m here to tell you that you can still have fun outside, year round.
Here are some tips to get started.
Prep Yourself Mentally
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 cold. And cold can be conquered.
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.
“Cold can be conquered. ”
Get prepped physically
Of course, getting prepped mentally can only go so far–you also need the right gear to truly make winter kids’ activities actually fun.
So be sure to load up all on the kids’ and baby snow gear essentials, from clothes to snowsuits before you even attempt hitting the great outdoors. Getting the right winter gear is essential to everyone having fun. Oh, and don’t forget: this is true not just for the kids, but for moms as well, so get your own gear as well.
Snow gear for kids
Some of the basics you’ll want to stock up on include:
- Thick, water-resistant mittens (make sure they are secure at the wrist so snow can’t get in)
- Insulated, water-proof boots
- Snow suit or quality coat and snow pants
- Layers underneath the outer gear
- High socks
Once everyone is warm and dry, the winter outdoors are suddenly a lot more pleasant.
If you don’t know where to start, 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 winter kid activities
When most people think about playing outside in the winter, they think about building snowmen, sledding, snow games, 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 doing the same activities they would be doing during normal weather.
For instance, we leave our trampoline up year round, and our swings never get a break. We visit our favorite parks and hiking trails, even when they’re blanketed in snow. You can also do things like play games in the snow, from football to frisbee.
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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