When the cold weather arrives and the evenings get dark, it can be a little too tempting to huddle indoors. Kids are left to their game consoles and DVDs, while you wait for the first signs of spring.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Winter can be a rewarding season to explore the great outdoors and enjoy the open spaces in relative peace. The key is to find activities that defy the weather, or, in the case of snow, make effective use of it.
Hitting the trails can be a stimulating challenge in winter. Those long hikes that are just too strenuous under a fierce summer sun become great opportunities to get up into the mountains and experience bracing breezes. It’s important to be cautious if there is the danger of extreme weather conditions. Check forecasts and dress appropriately for exposed mountain regions.
Kids have more stamina than they will admit, but the secret to keeping them putting one foot in front of another is a system of rewards. Take a supply of sweet snacks to sustain their energy levels and promise them hot chocolate or pancakes and syrup at journey’s end.
Encourage your children’s competitive streak with a spot of mountain biking. There are trails suitable for most age groups and this is a sport with growing popularity, meaning new bike facilities are being opened up every year. Combine a bike trip with visits to a National Park or wilderness area.
A winter camp introduces an aspect of surviving in the raw wild that kids love; not too raw, though. It helps if you are bedding down in a heated cabin, or a yurt with a cozy log-burning stove. Waking up in the cold wilderness and seeing their breath in the crisp air as they build the breakfast campfire is an unforgettable experience for kids.
Even if your kids are not into the skiing and snowboarding scenes, everybody can appreciate the headlong descent of a sled over fresh snowfall. Head for your nearest slopes, or check for sledding facilities at ski resorts.
The important aspect to remember is adequate clothing. Little kids love the thrill of a sled ride, but hate getting cold and wet. Pile on the hats, gloves and extra layers to enjoy long hours out on the slopes
Even on those days when you need to stay close to home, encourage the kids to get out into the yard. Winter is a great time to start planning the next year’s layout, digging out seed beds, and tidying up the borders. Younger kids will enjoy clearing out debris and weeds and building up a winter bonfire. Their reward for an afternoon’s work might be a potato roasted in the fire’s embers and marshmallows toasted on the flames.
Winter is a great time to get young kids interested in ornithology. Some breeds of birds are reliant on birdfeeders during extreme weather, and this offers kids the chance to see bird life up close and take an interest in identifying different species. Invest in a bird identification book and keep a record of the birds they spot.
Enjoy a Cookout
Summer is the time for barbecues, right? Not necessarily. A winter meal cooked under the stars over a campfire or bonfire can be a great family bonding experience. Ask the younger kids to gather the sticks and fallen branches to make the fire, while the older ones prepare the frankfurters and burgers, or something more ambitious if your menu aspires to be more than just a weenie roast. It’s winter, so nobody has to pretend to like salad.
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