After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the Winter months can seem to go on forever. The Christmas decorations have come down, the shopping is finally over, and now we are left with 3+ months left of snow . Winters are long in NW Montana so we have to keep ourselves busy and embrace the snow and cold instead of dreading it. I use to hate Winter growing up in the Midwest. It meant shoveling snow, not feeling your fingers, and wearing a million layers every time you had to go outside. I never really saw or appreciated the beauty that Winter brings.
The sun rarely makes an appearance here in the Winter, so when it peeks out, even for just a moment, I throw on my coat and boots and run outside to feel it on my cheeks. It makes me appreciate the sun and warmth that much more. (And taking your Vitamin D when the Sun doesn’t make an appearance for days is crucial!) The freezing crisp air can be invigorating and the forest seems so quiet in the Winter. We can stand there for a few moments in silence and here the crunching of little paws in the distant, a squirrel munching on something in the tree above us, and a bird singing in the distance. It seems even more peaceful and serine during the cold months. Everything is sleepy and still.
I want my son to welcome Winter and enjoy its beauty, not to dread it. The Winter season is a time for us to slow down, create, spend time with a good book, and focus on ourselves. And as much as I love cozying up inside, It’s also a time to get outside and enjoy the wildness of the forest in Winter. (Or your own backyard!)
Snow-covered trails means a better chance of finding animal tracks. My son has a little animal tracks pocket book that he keeps in his pack at all times, and it helps him identify the tracks he finds. He likes to imagine what that animal was doing while trudging through the snow and creates a story from the tracks he finds.
We bring out our snowshoes, go sledding, walk on frozen ponds and sweep away the snow to find frozen bubbles… We make snow angels and build igloos around our campfire pit. And after every adventure we hang up our wet clothes to dry and snuggle up with a hot cup of cocoa or tea and warm our hands on the mugs.
I think it’s important to get your kids outside during the cold months. It gets them away from screens, encourages exercise, and it makes us parents get off our phones and away from the chores to spend some quality time together as a family.
So for those of you trying to love Winter, or at least appreciate it, I made an Outdoor Winter Bucket List for you to share with your family and give you ideas on what to do outside! I left a couple spots blank so you can write in your own ideas. Hang it on your fridge and check it off as you go. It’s always fun to see what all we have done at the end of a season.
I made two color options for the printable. Click on the images below to print the PDF.
- Build a snowman – bring out an old hat, find some sticks for arms, rocks for eyes, a pine-cone for a nose… I’m sure we can all reminisce of building snowmen as children. I can still remember how proud I would feel when a towering snowman was in our front yard for all to see
- Go snowshoeing – We received snowshoes from my parents last Christmas and have been loving them this year! We keep them in the garage by the back door so we can throw them on and go.
- Make snow paint- We found a super simple recipe here. You can have your children squirt or spray the paint on the snow to make pictures, play tic-tac-toe, make a treasure map etc
- Make bird feeders- there are SO many ways to make bird feeders! You can cover pinecones with peanut butter and roll them in bird seed. Cut an orange in half and scoop out the flesh to make a bucket for bird seed. You can cover apples or make an edible garland like we did here. Set your bird feeders outside in a tree near a window so you can bird watch!
- Make a teepee or fort with sticks- This can be a mini version or a large size for kids to go into. We have woods right behind our house to build this but if you don’t have access to a forest, try gathering up small sticks from fallen branches in your back yard and make a tiny version for their toys!
- Go sledding
- Have hot cocoa or roast marshmallows by a campfire
- Carve a hiking stick – my son got his first pocket knife and we have been teaching him how to safely use it and keep control of the blade. If your kiddo is old enough, you can have them carve out notches and designs on a walking stick.
- Make bark rubbings with paper and crayons
- Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or front porch- this gets kids outside and teaches them how to be a good neighbor!
- Look for animal tracks in the snow- we see all sorts of wild animal tracks out here but even inner city parks have animal tracks you can hunt for! Try having your child copy the track in the snow, or take a picture of it on your phone for your child to sketch or paint later when you’re at home.
- If you have access to evergreen trees, look for small fallen branches and twigs and have your child collect them in a basket or bag to take home. You can have them make their very own wreath. Read our tutorial here.
- Check out your local state parks for any upcoming classes or guided hikes- they are usually free (or have a very low cost per person) and have lots of different types of classes. From birdwatching to snowshoeing, to guided evening hikes… I always look on Facebook and check out our state’s park website. If you are local to Montana you can visit the park’s page here.
- Make an evergreen and pine-cone mandala in the forest- Let your child gather up any supplies you can find outside- pinecones, rocks, twigs, evergreen boughs, berries, grasses etc and let them create a mandala or a picture with the items.
- Have a snowball fight!
- Gather pine needles to make pine needle bath salts- If you don’t have any pine trees in your yard, see if a neighbor has one! Nothing like a relaxing hot bath after a long cold hike in the woods! You can learn how to make pine bath salts here.
- Try a winter scavenger hunt! There are plenty on Pinterest you can print off for free or you can create your own. Here is one we really like : winter adventure hunt
- Go ice skating- if you don’t own your own skates, see if you have a local skating rink first. Before you invest the money in buying your entire family ice skates, I recommend renting them first to see if it’s something you and your kids enjoy!
- Try cross-country skiing (or skiing/snowboarding if you live in the mountains like we do)
- Make a bird’s nest
- Make frozen suncatchers
- Go on a night hike and stargaze
Is there anything I should add to my list?? What are your favorite outdoor winter activities to do as a family?