Outdoor Winter Activities
Winter in Utah is always cold! We know that finding fun things to do in the cold weather can be challenging. Our friends at RunWildMyChild.com put together a huge list of fun outdoor activities. We are sharing with you some of the ones we thought would be especially fun and easy to do in our area from their list. You can see their full list HERE.
1. Ice skating
Winter is such a fun time to try ice skating – particularly at an outdoor rink. There’s something magical about skating outside when it’s frosty cold. Most rinks have rental skates for kids as young as two, along with buckets or rails for little kids to hold onto. If your kids are little, we also recommend wearing a bike helmet and super thick gloves to protect kids’ heads and fingers.
2. Frozen colored ice globes
Even if you don’t have snow, you can add some magic and fun to your outdoor space by making colored ice globes. All you need to do is add a few drops of food coloring to the water in a water balloon and let them freeze (either outside or in the freezer). Once frozen, pop the balloon and you’re left with a beautiful ice globe in your color of choice. Take them outside to decorate or play with.
3. Frozen suncatchers
Suncatchers made from ice are not only beautiful, but super easy to make! Spend some time outside gathering natural items to use in your suncatchers. The more colorful the better. Examples: branches, berries, twigs, flowers, buds, leaves. Lay out a plastic lid, paper plate, pie plate or silicone mold to use as the mold for your suncatcher. Fill the mold with water and add your natural elements to the water in any design of your choosing. Leave outside for a few hours or overnight to freeze. Gently remove the ice suncatcher from the mold and hang from a tree branch or window sill. Pro tip: Rumor has it that if you want your ice to be crystal clear, boil the water first! For a full tutorial, check out our post on how to make frozen ice suncatchers.
4. Chalk hearts & kindness words
This is a perfect outdoor wintertime activity for kids to do around Valentine’s Day. All you need is some sidewalk chalk and desire to make others smile. Head to your local park or pick a sidewalk on a favorite street. Have the kids use the chalk and leave words of kindness, love, and encouragement for others. Decorate with hearts or any other designs of their choice.
5. Make a snowman
Do you want to build a snowman? We’re not sure if there’s anything more quintessential winter childhood than building a snowman. If your kids are looking for a creative spin on this classic activity, try making a snow animal (bear, cat, dog, penguin) instead.
6. Snow paint
Get creative with your outdoor nature crafts this winter by making some snow paint for your kids. Combine food coloring or watercolor paints with some water and place in a spray bottle. Send your kids out to color the snow in any creative way they’d like! You’ll be surprised what incredible clever creations they come up with!
7. Freezing bubbles
Blowing a bubble and watching it turn to ice is such a fascinating activity. If it’s super cold outside (below freezing), try making frozen bubbles! This is a great science experiment for kids in freezing temperatures. It might take a few different attempts to get a bubble to freeze, depending on time, sunlight, what the bubble lands on and bubble solution. This is an experiment that can last over weeks!
8. Explore an ice castle
Have you heard of the Ice Castles? The Ice Castles are awe-inspiring, must-see winter phenomenon, each built with hundreds of thousands of icicles that brings fairy tales to life. There are six locations throughout the US and Canada in 2020 (Colorado, Alberta, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Utah). The perfect destination for the whole family to explore. The photos I’ve seen taken there are just spectacular! They’re blue and white and gorgeous by day and lit up in vibrant colors at night. Visiting an ice castle is at the top of my winter bucket list.
9. Animal tracks spotting
Winter is a great time to head out to the woods (or even your local park) and see if you can find animal tracks. Fresh snow is great for showing tracks of various woodland animals. Examples include rabbits, foxes, deer, and squirrels. Make it a game and see who can spot the most tracks, the biggest, the smallest and the most exotic. Try to guess what animal made them, where they were going and what they were doing. Don’t recognize the tracks? Take photos of the tracks and look them up when you get home to see what animal made them.
10. Snow maze
If you’ve got an untouched patch of snow (a field or a large yard), have the kids create a snow maze! It’s up to them to come up with the parameters, the maze entrance, the obstacles, and the exit. Let them challenge each other to see who can make the hardest maze and see who can finish fastest.
11. Start a winter solstice tradition
The Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter (in the Northern Hemisphere), which is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Many families adopt traditions for the Winter Solstice that they do every year to get outside and celebrate the change of the seasons, such as candlelight dinners, outdoor picnics and offering trees. Traditions help us remember the past and are wonderful ways to pass love and memories to the next generation. If you’re looking for some fun festive traditions to start with your family to celebrate the Winter Solstice, we have a great post with a few fun and simple ways your family can celebrate the Winter Solstice this year (and every year!).
Skiing and snowboarding with kids is incredibly exhausting, but so much fun! Pack up your gear and head for the hills to take advantage of all the fun the winter has to offer. If your kids are new to skiing, we highly recommend a lesson or ski school before hitting the slopes. Instructors are usually really great with kids and teach them in a way that’s fun and easy to understand. Once they’ve gotten the hang of it, they can show off their new skills with you.
13. Build a nest challenge
Building a nest is a super fun STEM challenge for kids that gets them thinking creatively and applying imagination to science! Making a nest is a great activity for any age. Start by going on a nature walk and collecting items that a bird might like to use to build a nest. Twigs, feathers, leaves, dried grass, pine needles and evergreen branches are all great building materials. Use the dried grass and twigs to make a circular shape. Weave in some feathers and leaves so that there’s a comfortable, padded space for the birds and their eggs. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about the intricacies of nests and how hard it must be for birds to make without hands!
14. Shovel someone’s sidewalk
Around the holidays is a great time to consider doing some acts of kindness to others. If you have kids old enough to help, shovel the sidewalk or driveway of an elderly neighbor or new parents. They’ll not only appreciate the kindness, but hopefully, pay it forward.
15. Ice fishing
If you live in an area where ice fishing happens, share this experience with your kids! It’s not something I’ve had the opportunity to every try, but I can only imagine how fun this would be to fish with those tiny poles and pull out a massive fish! This activity is definitely on our family’s bucket list! Make sure you dress warm and go with an experienced angler that knows what they’re doing and how to stay safe.
16. Study snowflakes
There’s nothing more magical in the wintertime than snowflakes! If you’ve ever seen photos of individual snowflakes up close, you know just how truly miraculous and incredible they are. Take some time this winter to study snowflakes with your kids. Talk about how snowflakes are formed, how/why they’re similar, but all unique. Use a piece of black felt to try to catch falling snowflakes to observe and see if you can even photograph them.
17. Cross-country skiing
Tons of people enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter. I personally have never tried cross-country skiing, so I’m definitely not the right person to tell you how to get started with this activity with your kids. Our friends over at Tales of a Mountain Mama have a great post on how to cross-country ski with kids. I leave you in good hands! Let us know how it goes.
18. Fly a kite
You may think that kite flying is only for summertime, but you’d be wrong! You can fly a kite in any season and winter is a great time! Winter winds can be chilly, but they also make it easy to fly kites to great heights. Plus, in the dreary weather, the splash of color high in the sky is a beautiful contrast to the gray-white background.
19. Visit a zoo
Winter is a great time to visit your local zoo. The crowds are usually much thinner in the winter and there’s often a discounted admission fee! There are so many animals that are super active in the winter. Wolves, otters, red panda, snow leopards, cougars, arctic fox, sea lion, and polar bears love the cold weather. Plus, many zoos have penguin walks/parades in the winter and let the penguins get out and explore. Check out all the different ways animals get through the colder months and talk about the differences. There’s a lot to learn in the winter!
20. Turn water into ice
Turning water into ice sounds simple enough, but in the winter, it’s a great educational science experiment. Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Challenge your kids to see how long it takes water to freeze into ice at various temperatures throughout the winter months. Try freezing water in various locations around your neighborhood to see if that makes a difference. What about using different containers? On a super cold day, we’ve heard of people throwing a cup of water into the air and watching it freeze instantly!
21. Make kindness rocks
Making kindness rocks are one of my kids’ favorite activities. I have to admit, I love it too! Any time we have a rainy day or need to stay inside for any reason, I set them to painting kindness rocks. We keep them super simple with brightly colored paint and simple words of kindness such as “hope,” “brave” or “love.” Once we’re back outside, we love taking these rocks to local parks or carefully placing them along hiking trails or walking paths. We hope that they’ll spread kindness and smiles to those that need a little extra love.
22. Winter hiking
Hiking in the winter is one of my favorite ways to spend time outside in the cold. Hiking warms us up and gets us active on cold days. We love exploring some of our favorite trails in the winter to see just how different they look/feel. Without all the leaves on the trees, you can usually see really far into the woods and spy lots of awesome things you can’t see in other seasons (bird nests high in the trees, frozen waterfalls, icy creeks, fallen logs, etc.).
23. Night hike
Because it gets dark so early in the winter, it’s a great time to consider a night hike with kids! Give each child a lantern, flashlight or headlamp and head out on a local well-known trail around dusk. As it gets dark, your eyes will adjust to the dark and you’ll start hearing different sounds. Hopefully, you’ll also be able to see the stars in the sky and hear an owl hoot or coyote howl. Hiking at night adds a whole new layer of excitement to a normal hike. But make sure to stay extra safe when night hiking in the winter. Always stay on the trail and make sure someone knows where you’ll be and when you’ll be back.
24. Build snow castles
Sandcastles are all the rage in the summer, but building snow castles can be just as much fun! Get out your sandcastle building equipment (cups, bowls, shovels, etc.) and do the same in the snow! Create elaborate castles with moats and leaf flags. Bring out the army men, Barbies or characters and make an entire town. Add some colored water to give it a whole new look! There are so many fun things to build in the snow.
25. Go ice bowling
Keep your kids outside and occupied for hours with ice bowling! All you need are 10 water bottles and a balloon. Fill all the water bottles with colored water and place them outside or in the freezer to freeze solid. Leave room at the top or leave the lid off to give the water room to expand as it freezes so it doesn’t distort the bottom of the bottle, keeping them from standing upright on a flat surface. Fill a round balloon with water and freeze to make a round bowing ice ball. Once it’s all frozen solid, take outside and set up a bowling lane! The bottles are the pins and the ice water balloon is the ball. Teach your kids how to keep score and it becomes an educational math activity as well!
Sledding is a quintessential outdoor winter activity for kids of all ages! All you need is snow, a sled and a hill to have some exhilarating outdoor fun! Dress the kids appropriately for the weather and they can stay outside sledding for hours! The thrill of speeding down a hill on a sled is invigorating! Plus, trudging back up the hill a hundred times is sure to get them all the exercise and fresh air they need to sleep very well through the night!
27. Host an outdoor playgroup
Sometimes getting the kids outside in the cold weather is easier if they’ve got someone to play with. Hold yourself more accountable for getting outside by creating or hosting an outdoor playgroup. Invite some families with kids the same ages as yours and pick a time, place and outdoor activity to do. Knowing that others are counting on you makes it more likely that you’ll get outside. Plus, having friends around makes it much more enjoyable for kids, so they’ll likely spend more time outside and less time whining.
28. Winter scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are fun outdoor activities for kids that can be enjoyed year-round, no matter what the season. Winter scavenger hunts are extra fun for kids because so much can be seen and observed outside without the leaves on the trees. The barren landscape provides a new element in the hunt and an extra challenge. Winter scavenger hunts focus on items that can be found outside in the colder months. You can find a lot of examples on Pinterest (this is a good one) or make your own. Include things like pinecones, acorns, animal tracks, frozen puddles, feathers, evergreens, etc. We also have a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt that can be done at any time of year.
29. Go snowmobiling
If you live in an area where you’ve got lots of snow, we highly recommend a snowmobile ride! There’s nothing quite like zipping across the snow to get your heart racing! Snowmobiles can be rented for the day or even by the hour. Lots of rental places offer safety lessons and guided tours, for those not familiar with the area or machines. Snowmobiles will give you access to incredible places you couldn’t otherwise get to. Snowmobiling is a fun outdoor winter activity for the whole family.
30. Flashlight tag
It’s dark so early in the winter, so use that to your advantage. Burn some energy after dark with a game of classic flashlight tag. This fun game mixes hide and seek with tag and is played in the dark. The person who is “it” waits at home base counting to a high number while everyone else hides. Then, armed with a flashlight, this person searches for the others who may be switching hiding spots. The flashlight must remain on at all times and may not be covered. When “it ” spots someone, s/he must use the flashlight to get a close enough look at the person to identify him or her and call out that person’s name (who then becomes “it”)!
31. Host an outdoor family happy hour
We love the idea of hosting an outdoor winter party for families. Cover your summertime lawn furniture with buffalo check plaid tablecloths and lots of warm snuggly blankets. Make a centerpiece of evergreen branches, holly, and pinecones. Set up a smores station around a bonfire, with hot chocolate for the kids and mulled wine for the adults. Add some twinkle lights around the location and you’re all set for a fun and festive outdoor event!
32. Winter word hunt
Similar to a scavenger hunt, try doing a winter word hunt with your kids. This fun winter outdoor activity combines education with exploration. Learning outdoors is active and increases students’ physical, mental, and social health. Outdoor education and play support emotional, behavioral, and intellectual development. Most children learn better by using their senses, and outdoor environments provide wonderful hands-on experiences in nature. Check out our Winter Word Scavenger Hunt post for more details on this fun activity.
33. Go geocaching
Geocaching is a fun outdoor activity for kids no matter what the season. As long as your location isn’t buried under tons of snow, geocaching is a great way to get outside and explore during the cold winter months. Geocaching is basically treasure hunting, with the GPS on your phone as a guide. Caches can be found nearly anywhere these days and kids have a blast finding them! Bring along a few trinkets to trade and mark them down as a smiley! If you need more info, we’ve got a great post on how to get started geocaching with kids.
34. Winter photography challenge
Two of my biggest passions are exploring the outdoors and photography. I love it when these two come together in one fun activity for kids. Winter is a great time to give them a camera (handheld or phone) and see what they can capture. You can either make a list of winter items to photograph or let them choose what to capture on their own. There’s a lot of beauty in the cold winter months and this activity forces you to actively look for it. Consider photographing things like snowflakes on colorful leaves, winter shadows, frost on leaves and grass, frozen berries, patterns in lichen or bark, fog, ice puddles, and animal tracks.
35. Park playground games
If it’s snowy and/or muddy outside and you’re not in the mood to track through the muck and get filthy, consider a playground. Most local parks have some sort of outdoor playground equipment that can be enjoyed no matter what the season or weather. You’ll likely have it all to yourselves, which makes it the perfect place to play games. My kids love playing Follow the Leader on playgrounds. They take turns being the leader and lead each other through a maze of playground equipment, doing silly and challenging things. For example, they love walking across the swings without touching the ground, climbing up the slides, and leaping from thing to thing. Check out our post for even more ideas of park playground games for kids.
36. Outdoor tic-tac-toe
Playing tic-tac-toe outside in the winter is so much fun for kids. There are a variety of ways you can set up a game outdoors. Use 4 large sticks to create a board and then use colored water in spray bottles to designate your X or O marking. Or use pinecones for Os and 2 sticks to make Xs. You can do the same even if you don’t have snow in your area. Play on a picnic table with rocks and sticks. Or play in the driveway.
37. Pinecone dissection
Winter is the perfect time of the year to examine evergreen branches and pinecones. Gather your science tools, a few evergreen branches, and some pinecones and get started examining and observing. Use your tools (tweezers, knife (with supervision) and microscope) to examine a pinecone and dissect it. Discuss how pinecones are the fruit of the tree and inside are seeds. Break or cut them open to observe. Feel the textures and smell them. Explore further by measuring, snipping, shaking and observing the pinecones in different scenarios (e.g. do they float?).
38. Paint your windows
While technically an indoor activity, this is one that is worth including on the list. The house I grew up in had a series of large picture windows. Every winter, my mom would let each kid decorate a window any way they wanted. I usually chose colorful paints and created a bright scene on my window. It was such a simple thing, but something I looked forward to every year. Now, I let my 2 big kids each decorate one of the glass doors in our home. We use washable paint, dry erase markers, and gel clings. They’re always so incredibly proud of their designs. A few weeks later (when the paint’s chipping), I wash it all off and we do it again the following year.
39. Make snow angels
Making snow angels is a quintessential wintertime childhood outdoor activity. This activity needs no real explanation or instruction, but there are a few things you can do to make it more fun for kids. After the make the snow angel, let them decorate them! It’s really funny to see hollow snow angels on the ground with pinecones for eyes, sticks for hair, and a red berry mouth!
40. Have a bonfire
I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended having a bonfire and roasting marshmallows in every seasonal activity guide we’ve published. That’s because this is a timeless activity that can be done in any season and is always a hit. S’mores taste extra great when it’s cold outside and winter bonfires have the added bonus of warming your hands and backsides! Gather some firewood and those you love and spend some time outside together around a fire on a cold and dark evening. Sharing songs and memories around a campfire is such a simple and beautiful experience for families. It makes kids feel incredibly special to be part of it, to listen and participate.
41. Practice fire safety skills
And while you’re at it with the bonfire, let your kids be a part of setting it up. Safely building a fire is one of those imperative skills that every adult should know. But we often overlook how beneficial it is for children to know about fire safety and how to properly handle a fire. Because fire is inherently dangerous, I believe kids should learn about it at an early age. With the proper instruction and supervision, kids learn a healthy respect for fire, and with early and frequent exposure, the thrill and mystique of fire wears off. It becomes simply a useful tool, as opposed to something mysterious and forbidden which they can’t resist the urge to explore in secret. NPR has a great infographic on how to build a campfire that will help you teach your child about fires and fire safety.
42. Frozen water beads
Water beads are a really strange, yet super fun sensory activity for kids. Most people only play with water beads in the summer, but there’s no reason you can’t break them out in the winter, too! Take them outside and see if they stick/freeze to objects? Or freeze them (you can put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer) and use them in outdoor games, like marbles.
43. Bonfire cinnamon rolls
Making a bonfire is already on the list, but let’s take it up a level. Cinnamon rolls on the bonfire are a fun delicacy. All you need is a tube of store-bought cinnamon rolls and a few long sticks. Wrap a cinnamon roll around the stick and let the kids roast them in the fire. Don’t forget to rotate them and practice proper fire safety. They cook up nice and puffy and (once cooled enough to handle), you can pop them off the stick, dunk them in icing and enjoy!
44. Snowball target practice
Nothing thrills my oldest child like introducing some competitiveness to any activity we do. Making snowballs is all fun and games, but having a snowball fight is better. He tends to get a bit aggressive with the snowballs, so instead, we do target practice. All you need to do is draw a bullseye target on a large piece of cardboard, poster board, a box or even the side of the house or a fence. All the kids will need to make their own snowballs of various sizes, shapes, and densities (consider it a STEM activity). Then line the kids up and let them take turns hitting the target. Have them keep score and the winner gets a prize!
45. Winter slip & slide
Turn your slip-n-slide into an instant sledding hot spot! Get your money’s worth all year round by breaking out the slip-n-slide this winter. If you have time (and kids that are old enough to handle it), spray it lightly with the hose the night before your big sled party. This will create a thin layer of ice on it, which means extra speed and slickness when sledding. (We haven’t actually tried this at home yet, so proceed at your own risk!)
46. Find winter constellations
Cold (and early) dark winter nights are the perfect time to teach kids about the constellations. Stargazing is a great outdoor winter activity for kids. In the winter, there are six constellations that you can usually find in the night sky: Orion, Taurus, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Gemini, and Aurigo. These constellations are known as the “Winter Six.” Print out a copy of the winter six constellations and see who can find them first. If you need extra help, try the Sky View app.
Photo Credit: Mountain Resort Concierge
This idea was originally found on Run Wild My Child’s blog.