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I recently finished a book that is probably going to drive my husband crazy. In There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, the author, Linda Akeson McGurk explores the cultural differences in parenting in the United States, where she resides with her two daughters, and Sweden, where she grew up.
In the Scandinavian countries, children spend the majority of their time playing (and learning!) outside, no matter the weather: rain, snow, sleet, or sun. The saying, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing” comes to life in the pages as she takes her two daughters to live in Sweden for six months and quickly finds her young children thriving in a less stressful, more outside-focused environment.
What McGurk argues in her book really struck a chord with me: Children who are outside are healthier, happier, show fewer instances of ADHD, have a greater appreciation for the environment, and learn healthy, risk-taking skills. In a juxtaposition to the American way of college prep pre-schools, standardized testing and over-scheduling, she sure did make a slower way of living — outdoors, no less — seem very appealing. Even in the winter.
I grew up in New Hampshire, which is a wildly different climate from Texas (to say the least). I mourn the fact that my children won’t have an ocean three miles down the road and some of the best skiing mountains less than two hours away. But I’ve been here for more than 10 years and, I’ll admit, I’ve gotten soft. When cold weather hits, I quickly feel the draw to stay inside, fire blazing, TV on.
So I’m committing to spend more time outside this winter and stocking up on new winter gear for the whole family. Here are a few things we can do this winter to get outside — and maybe feel a little happier and healthier.
- Support local and visit a farmer’s market (most cities in Tarrant County have one!).
- Do one of 32 nature crafts featured in this book.
- Visit a nearby farm (Nash Farm in Grapevine is small but all outdoors).
- Plan your spring garden (this book is a great one) or plant a winter garden.
- Make frozen suncatchers with items you find on your nature walk.
- Use sidewalk chalk to write sweet messages on your sidewalks for neighbors to read (perfect for Valentine’s Day).
- Try geocaching (check out the Trinity Trails Geocaching Adventure).
- Build a bird’s nest using twigs, feathers, leaves, dried grass, pine needles, and branches to see how difficult it is for a bird to build a nest with only its beak.
- Make a bird feeder out of pinecones rolled in peanut butter and bird seed.
- Visit the zoo.
- Conduct a science experiment and time how long it takes to turn water into ice.
- Make kindness rocks and leave them around your neighborhood or at your local park.
- Take a hike on various trails in Tarrant County.
- Play on a playground.
- Create an outdoor play group (for accountability to get outside).
- Learn about animals native to your area in the winter and talk about who could be hibernating nearby.
- Complete a nature scavenger hunt (check out these 12 printable ideas).
- Neighborhood scavenger hunt.
- Build a fort or camp in the backyard (on one of the *warmer* nights).
- Flashlight tag or kick-the-can works as a great way to burn energy post-dinner since it gets dark earlier.
- Watch airplanes take off and land at Founder’s Plaza near DFW Airport.
- Host a s’mores and hot chocolate “happy hour” around a fire pit or bonfire — also a great socially-distanced activity to invite a friend or neighbor.
- Visit a botanic garden.
- Paint the windows in the front of your house for a joyful view from the street (use dry erase markers, window paint, and gel clings).
- Have an outdoor family breakfast picnic with brunch from a local restaurant (and coffee from a local shop).
- Take your kids outside to see the different phases of the moon (and a few planet sightings).
- Make a nature mandala.
- Teach about snowflakes. Though we may not get a lot of snow (or heck, any snow) but many other parts of the country do. Why not teach your kids the uniqueness of snowflakes — and what a pain it would be to shovel it!
- Go on a photo walk — let your kids take the photos!
- Make ice jewels.
- Do a backyard treasure hunt (hide things around your backyard and then make a map; kids will love digging through dirt to find hidden treasure).
- Jump on a trampoline.
- Make an obstacle course using all those Amazon boxes you got at Christmas time that you still haven’t put out for recycling.
- Teach your kids about composting (here’s a good beginner’s guide).
- Go ice skating at Panther Island Ice (make sure to buy your tickets in advance).
- Visit the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth and relieve 19th Century Texas history.
- Make a leaf lantern.
- Make fake snow (‘cuz you know we probably won’t see a flake this year!)
- Turn your water table into a frozen, icy polar scene.
- Take those family photos you never got around to taking in the fall.
- Create your own bowling alley in the driveway (or backyard!) using empty cans and a heavy ball.
- Wash the windows — okay, this may only work with toddlers but my son loves using a squirt bottle and helping me clean.
- Create foraged arrangements for neighbors and friends (another great outcome of a nature walk or scavenger hunt)!
- Hunt for fairies and fairy homes (i.e., mushrooms).
- Play hide-and-seek.
- Set up a driveway version of tic tac toe using natural elements for the Xs (sticks, perhaps?) and Os (round rocks?)
- Take a family bike ride (on those days when it’s not *too* cold).
- Jump rope in the driveway.
- Make your own wind chime by wrapping similar-sized tree branches in different color yarns.
- Let your child(ren) be in charge; they choose the activity!