6 Activities To Get Your Kids Outside in Winter

Not every child loves winter. For some, the idea of playing outside in January is challenged by hibernating indoors under a blanket fort. But with a little creativity, winter can provide hours of fun for any child! And besides, children need to play outside – even in winter. Playing outside in the snow encourages imaginative play, can offer some much-needed Vitamin D and provides exercise.

kids activities for winter

Not every child loves winter. For some, the idea of playing outside in January is challenged by hibernating indoors under a blanket fort. But with a little creativity, winter can provide hours of fun for any child! And besides, children need to play outside – even in winter. Playing outside in the snow encourages imaginative play, can offer some much-needed Vitamin D and provides exercise.

sledding hill

If you are at a loss about how to get your kids outside to play during the colder months, here are some ideas for children of all ages:

1)   Build your own sledding hill

While going to a big sledding hill is fun, sometimes having one closer to home (like right in your yard) is fun too. A neighbour of mine challenges himself every year to take all the snow from his driveway and build up a tall sledding hill in his yard for his son and his friends. Depending on that year’s accumulation, the sledding hill can get quite tall and the bigger the better for most kids! The neighbourhood kids look forward to this snow hill every year and can be found playing on it well past their bedtime during the holidays and on weekends!

2)   Frozen Bubbles

build a snowman

This activity is great for young kids. Take out your leftover bubbles from the summer and get blowing! Frozen bubbles are harder to pop and last longer – and young kids think frozen bubbles are cool. Make a game out of it by seeing how many bubbles can travel across the street without popping or who's bubble can travel the highest before bursting.

3) Build a snowman

The family that builds together… drinks hot chocolate together! After building a snowman (or snowmen) as a family, have your kids choose old mitts, a hat and scarf and decorate the snowman in their own unique style! Don’t hesitate to get creative. In my neighbourhood alone, I have seen two snowmen playing hockey and Harry Potter (the snowman version) playing Quidditch!

4)  Animal tracking

rabbit tracks in snow

Bundle up and head to a local park or nature trail and look for animal tracks. Fresh snow makes for a great opportunity to teach kids about local wildlife and the imprints their paws make. Most urban areas have at least squirrel, rabbit and bird tracks… not to mention dog tracks, which can be noted for all their different sizes.

5) Spray Paint Art

Fill spray bottles with water and food colouring (or Kool-aid) and draw and paint the snow! Have young kids practice writing their names or play tic–tac-toe in the snow using the spray bottles. Tip: Make sure the bottle doesn’t leak and that the colour easily washes off clothes.

6)  Fort building

fort building

You can buy snow fort building tools in most toy stores or you can use a recycling bin to build big bricks or a sand pail to build smaller bricks. As kids get older you will find them wanting to build forts on their own. Again, encourage their creativity by letting them use various containers you have around the house to build.

I love that my daughter will go outside and play with her friends in the winter, but for those kids who struggle with finding fun in the winter, I think a little family time together outside can be inspirational. Skiing and snowshoeing aside, with a little ingenuity and a lot of imagination, you can keep all children active in the winter, while having a great deal of fun yourself.

Winter activities in Ottawa: Feeding the Birds at Mer Bleue

While Misty is dreaming up ways to make things feel a bit more winter-y I'm all for embracing the warmer temperatures and doing some of the outdoor things I usually avoid because I don't like being cold. 

This weekend I thought we would enjoy the lovely weather and get outside and we headed to Mer Bleue Boardwalk to see if we could find some chickadees to feed. Mer Bleue is a few minutes down Anderson Road from the 417 so it's a short drive from a lot of the city.

What to feed the birds

I'm no great expert on this but we stopped at bulk barn and for $2 or so of the wild bird seed I got enough seed that we could visit at least 5 more times without running out. Someone else who recently went to feed the birds said the birds seemed to love black sunflower seeds even more (and you can get that at bird shops). I stopped for coffee for myself on the way and asked for three small empty cups for the kids so they could each have something to carry a reasonable amount of seeds in on their own.

Where to find the birds

I've only done this a couple of times but here's what I've found to be key (please leave a comment if you have other/better ideas :).... listen for the chickadee dee dee noises... they tend to be close to treed areas, and then put some seeds in your flat hand and wait to see if they show up.

It's not very scientific, we found the birds in quite a few different places around the boardwalk, including in the tree right next to where we parked in the main parking lot. In fact, the most photos I got that I love were taken within 10 feet of my van!

I learned something pretty quickly with my three though. While the birds will land in a completely flat hand that isn't moving, the sensation of having a bird land on your hand is kind of strange and the kids didn't love it so much. My daughter dealt with it best. The boys each tried it once and then wouldn't try it again.

So what do you do instead?

Birdseed on the head! The birds happily landed on all three kids' hats within a few minutes of me putting some seed there.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Enjoy the Boardwalk

The Mer Bleue Boardwalk is a nice 1.2 km walk that is completely flat. The three kids (9, 6 and 6) made it the whole way without anyone trying to convince me to carry them or having to be left behind (at least not for long). It's beautiful, there's a self-directed tour if you're interested and if you're lucky your kids will pose for a few pictures for you.

If you're more of a winter person than I am, you can go and check this out once there's snow on the ground too!

There are so many great activities in Ottawa, leave us a comment and let us know where you like to go out and enjoy nature with the kids.