How To Get Your Kids Outside This Winter

Three Bridges Park. Photo from Instagram by @awealthofnature

We hear you. It’s just so. darn. cold.

And yet, we all know the massive benefits of fresh air and getting outside, even in this cold, snowy, wintry climate. And especially during a pandemic.

To help motivate yourself and your kids, here are some helpful, tried-and-true tips:

1. Dress strategically.

It’s an obvious, but oh-so-important component of winter adventures. You simply must have gear that fits properly and keeps you and the kids warm.

As the noted British travel writer, Alfred Wainwright so wisely said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

Extended length cuff mittens make all the difference, and so do wool socks, full-coverage balaclavas, and hand-warmers. And remember, layers are key: Three on top, two on the bottom, and one pair of warm socks.

2. Pair it to something you already do every day.

A proven strategy for forming new habits is to attach them to ones you’ve already formed. So try attaching your outdoor adventure to something you already do each day.

Naptime at 11:00 a.m.? Take a quick walk around the neighborhood before hand each day. Pick up the kids from school at 3:30 every day? Stop by the playground before you head home for dinner.

And if you miss a day, so be it. Try again the next day.

3. Start small.

Half the battle is just getting outside. Try telling yourself (and your kids, if they are whining) that your outdoor adventure will be brief. Five or ten minutes, perhaps. If that’s as long as you last, at least you tried. But chances are the fresh air will feel great, and you’ll all last much longer.

4. Check our daily calendar.

Our Daily Events Calendar is packed with local nature centers who offer guided hikes and outdoor adventures for families. Bookmark it to keep it handy.

We’ve also put together a list of 14 winter hikes that are great for kids, and Must-Visit Playgrounds that your kids are sure to love.

Outdoor education at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Photo from Instagram, @aubreylxnfulsaas

5. Find Your Go-To Spot.

If you’re a creature of habit, lean into it. Even if you head to the same nearby park, or go on the same walk through the neighborhood each day, you’re sure to notice something different each day. It’s especially easy to notice seasonal changes when you visit the same place repeatedly.

Plus, you can carve out a space that you can claim as your family’s own, like a special tree, a small waterfall, or a favorite bench.

6. Promise Hot Cocoa

We’re not above bribery. Let your kids know that after your outdoor adventure, you can all enjoy some hot cocoa together. Better yet, pack a thermos and bring it with!

7. Stay Home!

Many of us became bird-watchers during this quarantine, and it’s a great way to learn about the nature that’s right in your own backyard. Do some research about the plants and weeds that grow around your house, and the birds and animals that come to visit. Especially in childhood, adventure is just outside your door.

Here’s a fantastic little book about the Wisconsin birds you may see in your own backyard:

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