If 2020 has taught us anything, it is how to adapt! The parent spirit has certainly been tested and called to adjust at every turn all year long. Everything from normal family life and school to work environment and grocery shopping has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. By now, I know you are feeling exhausted and probably a little overwhelmed by the upcoming holidays and winter months. How do we navigate our new world and still make it fun, memorable, and safe? To give you a bit of a mental break and some fresh hope for this chilly season here are 12 easy outdoor, social distanced winter activities you can enjoy with the whole family!
Build Snow Animals
Everyone has heard of making a snowman, but what about a snow panther or snow panda? Adding the animal element to your snow art opens so many more creative options. That left over feather boa from Halloween? It’s now a big bushy tail! Have extra cardboard lying around? Cut out some creepy crab legs and make an under the sea party! If you have multiple kids wanting to build multiple animals, turn the whole backyard into a zoo! The options are endless.
Make Iced Cocoa
I love a good hot cocoa, but sometimes the house is a little too hot and I need a chilly twist on a holiday favorite. Growing up, I would head out to the back yard and with my favorite fancy glass I’d pack it ¾ full of clean snow. Then, I would come inside, put a scoop of hot cocoa powder on top and pour milk until the snow was partially melted. I’d then stir it together until there was no more powder and it was a smooth consistency. It is so easy and tasty! This activity is so fun because there are so many ways you can jazz up the flavor and experience. There are so many different types of hot cocoa. You can mix them, add a little or add a lot, and create an iced cocoa stand. Serve your family all the new delicious creations you make.
Drive through Festive Neighborhoods
One warm and safe way to celebrate this season is to take a drive through the most festive neighborhoods in your area. It’s 2020, and some of these light shows can be quite the spectacle. Some people take the term “deck the halls” very seriously, and I promise you they want you to come and see their celebration! Make a rating system and deem awards to the best in show, most creative, over the top, lackluster, best use of props you name it! If you are brave enough you can even make awards to give to these winners just to see their reaction.
Have a Holiday Scavenger Hunt
While you are out checking out all the fancy decorations, bring a list of holiday characters and themes to look for. The more obscure the better! Make the scavenger hunt a friendly competition and whoever finds all the items first wins.
Make Frozen Sun Catchers
Get a couple bowls from the kitchen and go on a lovely nature walk with the littles (or bigs). Along the way gather little odds and ends you find–pretty leaves, sticks with berries, or even unique pebbles, anything that catches the eye. When you get home, fill the bowls with water and place them in the freezer or outside (if it’s cold enough). In 24 hours your bowls full of random nature and water are frozen into beautiful and lovely sun catchers! They are nature-made ornaments and will be the perfect reminder that there is beauty in all seasons!
Create DIY Yeti Tracks
All the wonderful things you can do with cardboard! I bet you didn’t know you can use it to spook your neighbors! Draw some large Yeti feet on that old dusty box, cut them out and strap them to your kids feet. They will have so much fun tromping around in the snow leaving mysteriously large tracks and being unabashedly mischievous!
Secretly Help Others
Winter is a wonderful time to help others! Sometimes the very best gifts are the ones no one knows where they came from. Doing little acts of service like shoveling someone else’s sidewalk or picking up/ taking in someone’s groceries can be the greatest gift someone receives that year. My in-laws are notorious for being difficult to get gifts for, so one year they decided all they wanted was for all their kids to come together and help someone. Any money we pooled together they would match, and it had to be used to change someone’s holiday for the better. One year we bought and wrapped gifts for a struggling family. Another year we paid for people’s groceries at a local Walmart. Leave treats on doorstops, mail gift cards, leave a kind note on a windshield, write happy messages in chalk. Another fun idea is to decorate a local park or a birdwatcher’s home with bird feed garlands and ornaments. That way you can serve both the animals and friends in the neighborhood. “Caring has the gift of making the ordinary special.”– George R. Bach
My all time favorite memories during the holidays always included bundling up in all my warmest clothes and braving the cold night to sing and bring cheer. A group of us would gather around a porch of a fellow neighbor and quietly discuss which songs would be most meaningful to sing to the family. After we decided we then would knock or ring their bell and begin to sing. We would always be greeted with smiling faces and curious eyes. Often after we finished our last hymn those eyes would turn misty and the cheer and joy in the air was palpable. Even if you are not the best singer, caroling can still be a sweet and memorable chance to celebrate the holidays and bring warm holiday cheer.
With Covid this year, you might change up caroling a little bit. Call or text those you wish to carol to when you arrive at their house. Stay close to the street (or at another safe distance) to do your singing. You could also use video chats to do your caroling.
Visit a Zoo
A lot of animals are more active in the winter! Have you ever gone to the zoo in the summer and spent a half hour hiking in 100 degree sunshine only to find your favorite animal snoozing in the far corner? It can feel like such a let down when all that effort was spent to see a virtually empty and inactive habitat. Going to the zoo in the winter is awesome because there is far less traffic and the animals tend to perk up when it’s cooler. You and the littles (or bigs) are more likely to have that special encounter you were hoping for and have it all to yourself! And many zoos decorate for the holidays, making a magical atmosphere.
Bonfire Christmas Tree
I will never forget the first time we burned our old dried out Christmas tree. We honestly were not ready for the sight we were about to enjoy. It only took a couple seconds for the whole tree to be a hot, bright fireball! Something about the crispy pine needles sent our tree into a blaze. It was an exciting and thrilling end to the tree’s holiday life. Afterward we piled logs on top of the burning embers, roasted marshmallows, and drank hot cocoa. Behind us the house was still lit with sparkling lights and the stars shown bright above. It was truly a magical winter night! This is a great way to leave the old year behind and usher in hopes for a great new year!
Explore the Shore of a Frozen Creek or Pond
I was 16 the first time I heard the mysterious sound of ice cracking under a frozen lake. I was initially unnerved because it sounded so bizarre and out of this world. It is difficult to explain but almost like a rubber band or wire snapping but with an odd echo. You can hear the noise travel all across the lake and dart around like it has a mind of its own. If there is a thick layer of ice at the lake you visit, throw a decent sized rock onto the ice and listen. The sound you hear will be sure to fill you with wonder and awe. Just be sure you keep a close eye on small children!
Go Skiing or Snowboarding
Every Saturday in the winter our family would head up to the slopes and spend the day skiing and snowboarding in Park City, Utah. Being up in the mountains among the trees and freshly fallen snow is so peaceful. These resorts are so far removed from the city and its hustle and bustle. The snow mutes the sounds around you and you feel enveloped by the winter wonderland.
Mixed with the moments of calm are the rushes of intense adrenaline as you fly down a hill going faster than you thought humanly possible! For beginners, resorts always have a safe and chill space to learn. It is affectionately called the “bunny hill”. It is always close to the main resort and is separated from the more advanced enthusiasts. If it is your first time skiing or snowboarding, this is the perfect slope to get a good handle on your new sport. Always bring along a buddy who can help you if you get stuck and teach you the skills to do better. Before you know it, you will be ready to take on the bigger and longer trails up the mountain.
On a good day on the slopes you could spend 30 minutes only seeing 3-5 other people on your trip down the mountain. The only time you intentionally come in close contact with another person is waiting in line and riding the lifts. I have met the most interesting people while chatting with strangers riding up the mountain. The best part is you are already masked up (because of the cold) and it takes a lot to get to your face let alone touch it. Skiing and snowboarding are a perfectly safe and fun family activity you can enjoy this winter.
Be sure to check with the resort regarding rules and regulations before planning your adventure!
The ultimate snow day classic! There is nothing like sitting at the top of a hill, clutching a flimsy foam mat, praying that the risk you are about to take will pay off. A 3 minute exhausting hike up the hill for 10 seconds of adrenaline induced bliss. If you do that 10-15 times, in a couple hours you are sure to work up a sweat and get those endorphins flowing.
The great thing about sledding is you can use a variety of materials for sleds. Cardboard, a vintage wood antique, zippy foam death traps, a trash can lid, and my favorite the inflatable inner tube. Depending on the hill and your vehicle you can have a lot of fun for the different level of thrill seekers in your family. When you do go, make sure to bring a camera. You will want to remember all the hilarious hijinks and chaos that ensue during your epic adventure.
However you choose to celebrate the holidays make sure to spend time outside and in the bright sunshine! It is so important to soak up as much vitamin D as possible. As you participate in these outdoor winter activities I know you will beat the winter blues, get the wiggles out, and with safe practices, stay healthy from sickness. Happiness and fresh air are two of the most important things we can do for our bodies and souls to remain our most healthy. And you can enjoy making unique memories with your family!