Staying Active In Winter

Oct 6th, 2014 | By | Category: Winter 2014

“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets. And any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.”
– Luther Burbank (horticulturalist and botanist)

While we are so fortunate to live in a community with such rich outdoor opportunities, there is a rising concern about physical inactivity as we spend more and more time indoors with our electronic devices.

According to the World Health Organization, lack of physical activity and being overweight due to poor nutrition is one of the greatest health challenges and risk factors for chronic disease in the 21st century. Obesity among the Canada’s children has reached historic highs and according to some experts, this is the first generation that may not live as long as their parents! According to newly released data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (2012), only 9% of boys and 4% of girls meet the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (www.csep.ca/english/view.asp?x=804).

Richard Louv, in his groundbreaking book Last Child In The Woods, (2008) coined the phrase, “nature deficit disorder”. Louv calls for a “nature child reunion” with a stronger connection to the outside world. Time in nature gives both parents and children time to be together in meaningful ways, reducing stress and shared opportunities that children may remember well into adulthood. Research also tells us that many adults believe that children playing outside help to improve community spirit and helps families get to know each other.

  1. Frozen In The Pan: Using a foil pie plate, take the children on a nature walk placing the outdoor treasures in the pie plate. When you return, fill the pie plate with water, add a loop of yarn at the top and leave outside overnight. Next morning, take off the pie plate and you have a frozen collage to hang outside.
  2. Snow Angels: Lie down and spread your wings. Hop out and decorate with natural items, make a face, add clothing etc.
  3. Ice Villages: Think big! Make a variety of ice shapes by freezing water in a variety of different containers. Use milk cartons, muffin tins and lots of different plastic containers. You can add food colouring and imbed objects, toys etc. Now you are ready to create frozen villages.
  4. Ice and Markers: Place ice blocks in an area where the sun is most prominent. With markers the children can draw on the ice and observe what happens. The ice “pallet” soon becomes clear for the next artist.
  5. Ice Painting: Sprinkle washable dry tempra paint on paper. The children can use ice cubes to blend the dry paint or try an icicle. Ice cubes can be frozen with Popsicle sticks in the centre to make handling the ices more comfortable or use Popsicle makers. If you anticipate that this might be too messy, use an aluminum pie plate or for a larger surface, a food tray. Add food colouring to the ice cubes for a more complex experience.
  6. Little Ice Rinks: Fill several baking sheets with edges with water. Let freeze. Remove from the tray and the children now have an ice rink of their own – add “little people”, cars, trucks etc.
  7. Spray Painting: Mix spray bottles with a variety of different food colouring and encourage the children to paint the snow, paper hanging from the fence etc.
  8. Driving In Winter: Stamp out some roads in the snow and bring out the wheeled vehicles. Add road signs and little people. Find an area of ice that is flat and conducive to racing cars and trucks along an icy path. Estimate which ones the children think will travel the farthest.
  9. Snow Maze: Stamp out a large square or circle shape or be even more creative and create vertical and horizontal lines inside the shape. Play tag but you can’t step outside of the rows that have been created.
  10. Footprint Chase: This type of tag requires the chasing child to step into the snow footprints of the person running away.
  11. Frozen Tag: Run until you are caught. Freeze in place like a statue. You can only be released when someone else “frees” you by touching you.
  12. Snow Hop Scotch: Draw lines for hopscotch in the snow with food colouring and hop away!
  13. Tic Tac Toe Game: Stamp out the frame for the game and play it in the snow. You could use waterproof bean bags as markers.
  14. Snow Golf: Take old tuna cans and embed them in the snow. You can make flags and number the “holes”. Plastic golf clubs are available or try a second hand sports store and cut the clubs down to the children’s size. This works in warmer weather as well!
  15. Target Practice: Use large coffee cans, plastic containers etc. arranged in a pyramid and the children can throw snowballs to see how many containers they can knock down.
  16. Tic Tac Toe Game: Stamp out the frame for the game and play it in the snow. You could use waterproof bean bags as markers.
  17. Snow Golf: Take old tuna cans and embed them in the snow. You can make flags and number the “holes”. Plastic golf clubs are available or try a second hand sports store and cut the clubs down to the children’s size. This works in warmer weather as well!
  18. Winter Bowling: Fill the bottom of large pop bottles with sand and set up in a triangle. Use different size rubber balls depending on the children’s skill level. Mark the end of the alley with food colouring. You may need to stomp down the “alley” for a smoother delivery.
  19. Snow Soccer: Set up the boundaries for your game and set up a goal at each end. Divide into two teams and play away. Hot chocolate at the end of the game is a good way to celebrate!
  20. Snow Maze: Stamp out a large square or circle shape or be even more creative and create vertical and horizontal lines inside the shape. Play tag but you can’t step outside of the rows that have been created.
  21. Footprint Chase: This type of tag requires the chasing child to step into the snow footprints of the person running away.
  22. Frozen Tag: Run until you are caught. Freeze in place like a statue. You can only be released when someone else “frees” you by touching you.
  23. Funny Walks: Try out a variety of walking styles in the snow – toes in, toes out, one foot in front of another, walk backwards, try sideways, running steps, walking in deep snow, ice skating, walking on snow shoes etc.
  24. Snow Shoes: Child size snowshoes are available but you can make your own from heavy duty cardboard cut into oval shapes. Poke two holes around the child’s foot and secure with twine! They won’t last long but the children will enjoy the experience.
  25. Find A Good Hill: Slide like penguins, move like a seal etc. Use cafeteria trays for make-shift toboggans or an old plastic baby bath tub – punch a hole in the front and attach a rope.
  26. Ice Skating: If you have the space and the time to get it ready, nothing is more fun than skating on your own ice rink. Begin by shovelling snow into the area that you want to use and create a snow border. Then the stomping begins as the children tamp down the snow. Wait until the temperature is well below freezing and soak the rink with water over several days. Now you are ready to go!
  27. Little Ice Rinks: Fill several baking sheets with edges with water. Let freeze. Remove from the tray and the children now have an ice rink of their own – add “little people”, cars, trucks etc.
  28. Winter Camping: Set up a tent and all the camping gear you can find. Circle some logs and fill with red and yellow tissue paper.
  29. Winter Picnic: Make a winter picnic table out of snow and cover it with a plastic table cloth. Pack up some delicious treats in a picnic basket and enjoy a winter lunch! Eat lots of warm things – stew, soup, chili, hot chocolate etc.
  30. Beach Party: Bring out all the warm items you have associated with summer, swimming pool, towels, sun umbrella, props such as sun tan lotion bottles, leis from the dollar store etc. and have a picnic in your backyard or head off to the beach for lunch on a beach blanket!
  31. Scavenger Hunt: Hide fun items throughout the backyard and hand out shovels for the children to find the treasurers. Don’t have enough snow shovels? Try using a plastic dust pan – just the right size and height for little hands.
  32. Taking Snow Temperatures: Using two thermometers place one into the top of a snow bank and the other well into the snow bank. Leave them for about 10 minutes and check. The one deepest into the snow will register a warmer temperature than the one on top. Snow acts as a blanket to insulate the ground and why animals burrow into the snow during winter.
  33. Front Door Wreath: With a glue gun and a Styrofoam wreath shape, collect a variety of natural items, glue them on and add a ribbon! A unique welcome sign?

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

– Rachel Carson

Remember there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!

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