Fresh air reinvigorating your soul, vitamin D boosting your mind. What’s not to love about the great outdoors? We know the many benefits of getting outside daily, but in the cold and dark months of winter – particularly with little ones in tow! – a brisk walk around the neighborhood often feels like an uphill battle. Whether you have visions of lost mittens or relentless complaining, we’re here to gently remind you: It’s so, so worth it.
After all, in the words of Aristotle, “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” Below, find 8 tips for getting your kids outside this winter — plus, a fun (free!) game to play all year long!
One of the secret tricks to habit formation is to pair a new habit with an already-established one. Want to finish 100 jumping jacks a day? Tackle it while the tea kettle warms. Ready to try your hand at 5 affirmations? Say ’em in the shower.
Likewise, start small by attaching a short outdoor adventure to a winter routine you’re sure you won’t skip out on. If you never miss your first cup of coffee in the morning, try pouring it straight into a Thermos and shoo everyone outside right away. Never skimp on a Sunday service? Pack a wintery picnic to enjoy in the parking lot afterward – tailgate style!
Keep an adventure bag in the car.
Stuff a backpack with water, mittens (plus spares!), a winter hat, hand-warmers, snow pants, and a heavy blanket for you and the kids (our favorites are below). This way, the next time you drive by a farmer’s market or a new-to-you pocket of woods, you’ll have everything you need for an impromptu adventure – and everything you need to warm up afterwards.
Getting kids outdoors doesn’t have to look monumental or shiny, and it doesn’t mean you’re lacing up your hiking boots at sunrise every day. After all, few things sound more intimidating than a mountain trek with a cold, tired, hungry 2-year-old! Instead, getting your kids outside can be as simple as a quick detour from your everyday errands – and letting the adventure unfold from there.
Stay in the loop for local events.
A bit of research is guaranteed to churn up a handful of activities in your area, so no need to go at it alone here. Check your local community calendar often for outdoor-friendly events: a free hike with a naturalist at a nearby nature preserve, a short tour of botanical gardens. While self-education is of utmost importance, it’s always nice to have a helping hand to guide you along the way.
Bonus? For kids who are outdoor-averse and not yet comfortable with free and independent play outside, a scheduled activity is a nice foray into the beauty of our natural world. And for parents who are the same? A pre-registered activity is a built-in method for ensuring outdoor exploration makes it onto the calendar.
Bring a Thermos.
And we’re not just talking for the kids! Listen, there are days in which we’re just not feeling it, in which we’d rather bury ourselves in the cozy sofa than stare at a shivering leaf for another 20 minutes. And yet, we are the leaf leaders, the pond marvelers, the snowball makers. If we want our kids to fall in love with the outdoors, we must – at the very least – arrange an introduction. It’s up to us to invite our littles to the magic of it all.
And so, when the great outdoors feel less than great, we’re not above relying on the fine art of bribery (for the kids and for ourselves!) – a pocket of pretzels to dole out on a trail, a stick of beef jerky in the woods, a picnic of gouda and cherries, sourdough perhaps? And always: a Thermos of something warm to delight us all.
On the coldest of days, consider a fire pit in the backyard with blankets and some bird-watching binoculars. Exploration doesn’t have to mean trail-blazing! If we’re patient, the adventure will come to our own front door.
Consider investing in a few inexpensive guides or resources to brush up on your local knowledge. Keep a set of field guides at the ready for identifying unknown creatures and line your walls with a slew of lovely posters designed to keep you in the know. Or: make it fun for the whole family with an ongoing, simple game of Bird or Bug Bingo.
And don’t forget our very own Other Goose original Winter Pack, filled to the brim with seasonal outdoor inspiration – minus the wind chill. ;)
Layer, layer, layer. In the wise words of our Swedish friends, “There’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing.” On the coldest of days, aim for the 3-2-1 rule: 3 upper layers (long underwear/base layer, a fleece or wool turtleneck, waterproof jacket/coat), 2 bottom layers (long underwear/base layer, waterproof snow pants), and 1 pair of wool socks.
Add a knit hat, neck warmer (no more re-wrapping loose scarves!), mittens, and snow boots. For our members’ kid-approved cold weather accessories, scroll down!
Find your spot.
We creatures of habit have a particularly hard time veering far from our own comfort zone, don’t we? Our own secret: carve out something cozy. Snag a place that’s familiar and easy – a nearby creek, a backyard tree – and claim it as yours.
Once your spot becomes comfortable and well-trodden, you’ll know precisely what to expect when you make the 5-minute trek, so it’ll be an easy yes on the chilliest of days. Remember: adventure needn’t always be adventurous!
Try a nighttime walk.
If your days are less available for traipsing around with little destination, all hail the nighttime walk. Grab a few flashlights, pile the wagon with blankets, and explore a quiet world where birds sleep and stars emerge. Darkness has a way of slowing us down and re-calibrating the beat of a fast-paced day. Take advantage of the quiet pace and roam just a few minutes after the moon comes up – even if only to the mailbox! (Bonus? Sleepier kids = simpler bedtime.)
What to Wear
Just for fun — we asked everyday experts (i.e: our members!) to list the cold weather accessories they can’t imagine adventuring without. Here are the top picks with rave reviews:Fleece Top Bib Overalls ($17)
“These bib overalls were a game-changer for us! The top part is fleece, so it stays snug to my son’s chest and I can layer his parka over it without him feeling squished or suffocated.” -Amy F.Merino Wool Base Layer Top & Bottom ($65)
“These are SO SOFT! I keep multiple pairs as pajamas and they work fantastic as base layers in the snow. I just wish they made them in my size!” -Carrie B.Extended Length Cuff Mittens ($15)
“I’ll never buy another mitten! These have long sleeves to layer under my toddler’s coat, so there’s no exposed skin around her wrist. Long gone are the tantrums over snow getting trapped under her sleeve! Genius.” -Sara M.Wool Socks, Pack of 6 ($15)
“Affordable and cute, and they’ve lasted through 3 kids so far!” -Tara R.Snow Blanket ($70)
“We keep this in our jeep to warm up the kids after short hikes in the woods. It’s waterproof, so we can spread it on the ground for a meal. And the kids love to make forts with it! It’s light, but really really warm. Highly recommend!” -Jackie S.Stroller Sleeping Bag ($225)
“I live in the city, and this stroller sleeping bag is THE BEST! I don’t have to bundle up the baby when we’re running late in the morning. Just zip and go!” -Sage M.Balaclava Headwarmer ($15)
“My cousin lives in Dublin and she brought a balaclava home for each of our kids last Christmas. It’s the BEST THING EVER. No more fussing with scarf-tying or re-adjusting hats over ears!” -Cordelia Y.Hand and Toe Warmers, Pack of 24 ($23)
“We sneak these in our socks and mittens for long hikes. The whining is non-existent!” -Molly B.
Remember, when it comes to getting kids outdoors in the winter, automate what you can. If you know you’re more likely to visit the local ice skating rink if you keep a membership, by all means, keep a membership. Sign up for the botanical garden’s mailing list, or subscribe to our own lessons (1 outdoor prompt every week!). Schedule weekly trips to the winter farmer’s market. Carve adventures into your day by making them a habit and a priority — a regular non-negotiable. Then? Stick to ’em.
Little by little, you’ll notice small wins (Fresh air! Longer naps! Vitamin D!) that will boost your momentum as you fall into a new outdoor-friendly winter rhythm.