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Frost Fun: 10 Outdoor Winter Activities for Kids and Families

Published on: January 13, 2014

Outdoor winter art

Build with ice

The next time the forecast calls for temps below freezing get ready for some ice play as featured on The Artful Parent.

On a chilly night, freeze water in ice cube trays, muffin tins, Jell-O molds, and old yogurt containers in order to create building blocks blocks in various shapes. You can do it in your freezer or experiment with liquids and solids by leaving them outside overnight. If you add a drop of food coloring, the next day you will have colorful ice blocks to create your own outdoor ice sculptures. Is it still cold enough to "glue" the pieces together by dribbling water on them to freeze into place?

Excavate Toys 

Toy treasure

Have your kids rescue their toys from the icy spell of the Snow Queen. Fill a bowl with little toys and pop it in the freezer as seen on Chasing Cheerios. 

Soon your kids will be excavating with a variety of tools -- hammer, blunt knife, screw driver, magnifying glass and maybe even salt or a hair dryer -- and learning about the states of matter.

Winter Tree Art 

Winter tree art

Need an easy, yet stunning family painting project? Create winter tree silhouette by observing the trees in your neighborhood. I was inspired by the tutorial on Inner Child Fun and the end result is gorgeous!

While on a walk, gather twigs and inspect how they grow. Where are they thicker or thinner, closer to the trunk or towards the sky? Using binoculars, can you see a bird’s nest to zoom in on? Get up close to the tree and notice the texture of the bark. Return home to create a beautiful watercolor. 

Backyard Sundial

Tracking the sun

Make a backyard sundial with chalk or one that can be brought outside when it's sunny. Tell time with shadows and witness the daylight increase by one minute every day (yay!)  

Baked Potato

Warming walk

Bring still-warm baked potatoes wrapped in foil on a beach walk in pockets to use as hand warmers. When you need to warm up, snack on them while discussing being a warm-blooded mammal. What do marine mammals like seals and whales use to keep warm? At home, do the following experiment from Sick! Science. 

Place your hand in a bowl of ice water, then do it while your hand is in a "blubber glove!" FYI: If you don't have shortening, replace it with 2 sticks of butter. Then use the butter to bake these easy shortbread cookies from Angry Chicken. Each child can try cutting them into whale and seal shapes.

Cozy Trees

Cozy trees

Our bodies are wrapped in wool sweaters, mittens and hats this time of year. So why not spread the love with outdoor knitting as they did at Occidental Park in Downtown Seattle?

Yarn bomb a favorite tree in your yard or chain link fence with 100 percent wool or other natural fibers to beautify your neighborhood using knit graffiti as seen on Kind Over Matter.

Watch carefully as it degrades over time. In the spring, gather and hang the remaining fibers in a loose ball from a branch for the birds use small bits in their nests. 

Pine Cone

Pine cone collection

Make a conifer collection. How many different kinds of cones you can find? Here in the Pacific Northwest we have our fair share of conifer cones in various shapes and sizes so it's easy to catalog a few. Even if you never identify them, it's a lovely collection to start. If you find a plethora of pine cones, it might be fun to make a peace wreath as seen here at Mother Rising.  

Jack Frost

Jack Frost walk

Challenge your family to spend All Day Outside (or as much time as you can muster) on a winter day. Prepare the night before so you can bring those baked potatoes (from #5) in pockets as hand warmers and snack on them along with thermoses of tea and chili for lunch. A shorter version of this is to gather your supplies and bundle up to take a Jack Frost Walk. Bring a magnifying glass to inspect frost patterns, frozen puddles, birdbaths, fountains, or a pond. Build a fairy house for the frost fairies out of ice, then move on to #9 and host an outdoor fire. 

Fire It Up

Fire it up

Do you have a space where you can build an outdoor fire? Our favorite way to spend time outside in winter is after dark. We each make a releasing wish bundle inspired by Pixie Campbell.

List anything you’d like to transform and burn up and away (I choose anxiety into flow.) At sunset, we begin collecting sticks for roasting dinner over the fire. I bring out a tray of hotdogs, sausages, condiments, chips and dips, veggies, and a big thermos of warm sweet tea. We build a big fire, invite some friends and enjoy the stars by the glow of our urban streetlights. 

 Snow Day

Snowflake day

Plan your own snow day (which means, no school, no driving and nothing is scheduled.) Even if the weather doesn't cooperate, use President's Day or MLK Day to put your coat on over your long johns, walk over to your local park for an outdoor frolic. Then, return home to read books under blankets while drinking hot chocolate. Make it extra relaxing by turning off all your electronics and keep your calendar clear. Play board games, cut out paper snowflakes, create art, make a meal and visit the neighbors. Don’t forget, no driving!

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