There’s a chill in the air. School is out. Do your kids just want to snuggle into their beds and play video games all day? Do you rarely see them because they’re binge-watching TV and texting friends? If that’s the scene inside your home every winter break, it’s time to do something different this year.
Going outside allows children of all ages to move and burn off energy. It keeps them entertained and in tune with the natural world. They also get the vitamin D they need to remain happy, healthy, and energetic. If you head out with them, you get all the same benefits plus some bonding time.
The question is how you get your kids away from their screens and outdoors without making it seem like a chore or a bore. We have a few suggestions that may work for kids of various ages.
At What Age Should Kids Go Outside Alone?
Let’s talk about safety first. If your children are too young to head outdoors alone, go along with them. Consider it bonding time. You deserve to get some fresh air and vitamin D just as much as the little ones. You could probably use some time away from screens as well, right?
What if you know your kids are old enough to go out alone, but you’re worried? We suggest you make a modest investment in a smartwatch for kids equipped with GPS as provided by companies such as GabbWireless. That allows you to give your kids a little more freedom with less worry. You never know when you will lose sight of your child in public, so these watches are great even when you’re together.
Finally, make sure your neighborhood is safe enough for solo missions. Think about traffic and other obstacles in the area. Make sure your children know the rules of where they can and cannot go. Now, let’s get down to the business of having a little fun outdoors this winter.
1. Paint, Hide and Find Rocks
Have you ever found one of those hand-painted rocks? People all over the country are painting rocks with decorative themes and hiding them in public. They may contain artwork, an inspirational quote, or both. The fun is when someone else finds a rock and goes to a website to report where it was found.
The website for reporting a found rock is typically a Facebook page for a local area. Check The Kindness Rocks Project first. You may want to use that group because it’s large with a lot of participants. There is also a long list of “linked groups” that may fit your needs better. Finally, you can search Facebook for groups in your area or start your own.
The next step is to find or buy flat rocks of different sizes and a variety of paints. Glitter, stickers, and other resources are optional. Don’t forget to put something on each rock that says where the finder can report. Some people print out stickers with the web address while others just use paint or a marker. You may also want to add your initials and/or the date of creation.
Your kids may get the biggest thrill when they see that someone else found and really appreciates their rock. Even if that doesn’t happen, you will get them outdoors. If you have older kids, perhaps hiding rocks around town will become a favorite pastime.
2. Act Like Tourists
When someone comes to your town, what do they want to see or do? If you live in a small town that doesn’t get many visitors, think about a larger city nearby. Go online and run a Google search for things to do in your area. You’re likely to find outdoor activities that you have never tried, let alone heard about.
This winter is the perfect time to go. If it’s an hour or two away, consider it a day trip. You may even want to plan a weekend trip if you have room in your budget.
For example, let’s say you live about a half-hour outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. You could take your kids to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade or go ice skating at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. There are also some nearby ski resorts if you want to try a winter sport.
Figure out what a visitor to your area might do. Then give your kids those same experiences.
3. Take a Hobby Outdoors
What do your kids like to do inside? Is there a way that they can do what they love outdoors? For example, let’s say you have a pre-teen who loves taking selfies. She might get excited if you propose a photoshoot at the local park or downtown. You could spend the day allowing her to pose for pictures that you take with your camera.
This is a fun idea that will have you both walking outdoors for at least a couple of hours. You may even discover a hidden talent for photo editing when you get back home. At the very least, she will have new photos to share with her friends and a memory shared with you.
If your son is taking guitar lessons, have him play outdoors to build confidence. Your budding painter may want to set up an easel outdoors and paint whatever he sees. Do you have a future astronomer in the family? Head outdoors after dark to look up at the sky from various locations.
Indulge Their Personalities
The key to getting kids to spend time outdoors in the winter is to personalize the experience. Make it feel more like a surprise or reward. You may find that they willingly drop the video game controllers and follow you out the door. No persuasion is needed.