40 Outdoor Activities for Kids this Winter
Don’t let a little cold weather keep you cooped up! With many indoor spaces closed right now, it's extra important to find fun new ways to get kids outside. There's a saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." Well, with the right winter gear (and a little ingenuity) there is plenty of fun to be had during even the shortest and coldest days.
Before a bad case of cabin fever sets in, try one of these 40 outdoor activities that are sure to get the whole family outside and moving. From backyard campfire cooking to outdoor science experiments, these activities help keep kids away from screens and devices and get them fresh air and exercise in these chilly winter months.
Get Kids Outside in the Winter—Activities To Do at Home
1. Frozen Sun Catchers
When the temps fall below freezing, these beautiful sun catchers can be made completely outdoors. All you need is some outdoor treasures like sticks, berries, or leaves to make a frozen sun catcher. Food coloring makes a pretty addition, too. When the temperature isn't quite low enough, they can be frozen in the freezer, and then hung in the trees outside.
2. Howl at the Wolf Moon
The first full moon of the year is called the Wolf Moon. Bundle up, and head outside to watch the first moon of the year rise above the horizon. Actually, there's no need to wait for the full moon. Kids adore howling at any moon!
Learning to identify evergreens is a pretty cool thing to know! Photo by Sara M.
3. Identify Evergreen Trees
Fir? Pine? Spruce? Get up close and personal with the needles and pine cones of evergreen trees and learn how to identify them with this handy guide.
4. Bird Watching
Not all birds fly south for the winter. There are hundreds of migratory birds that make your backyard, parks, or sanctuaries home for the winter. From nesting bald eagles to Canadian geese, learn how to spot our feathered friends all winter long.
5. Grow Onions
Defy the natural elements and take on a new challenge this winter by getting your hands dirty in the garden. With a little planning, you can plant onions that will be ready to harvest in the Spring.
Think like a bird and forage for what you need to make a nest.
6. Build a Nest
Think like a bird, and forage for items outdoors to create a bird’s nest. This STEAM challenge is not only fun, it also teaches basic engineering skills.
7. Campfire Cinnamon Rolls
Just about anything tastes better over a fire, and there is something magical about the smell of cinnamon wafting through the fresh air. All you need is a stick and some cinnamon roll dough to create the perfect campfire concoction.
8. Star Gaze
With all those extra hours of darkness, observing the night sky can really put a bright spot in your day. Check out this interactive sky map and learn about what you will be looking at before you head outside.
Even the simplest feeder draws all the birds to your yard.
9. Build a Bird Feeder
With colder temps, snow, and everything else Mother Nature throws at us, those birds have to work hard to find food in the winter! Give them a treat by creating one of these easy bird feeders.
10. Kindness Rocks
Instead of rainbows and sunshine, decorate a winter batch of kindness rocks with snowflakes and trees. You can leave them around the neighborhood or at a public park for others to find.
11. Animal Tracks
Take a walk in freshly covered snow and see if you can spot any animal tracks. See if you can identify rabbits, squirrels—or maybe even a fox. If there isn't any snow around, kids also get a kick out of wilderness walks where you can try to find and identify scat.
12. Make Evergreen Tea
Also called Pine Needle Tea, this is a special winter weather treat. Packed with antioxidants, pine needles have more vitamin C than orange juice! All you need to do is forage for some fresh pine needles to create this recipe.
13. Garage Roller Rink
A garage is often underutilized real estate. The smooth concrete floors make it perfect for a variety of wheeled activities. So, kick the car onto the driveway, crank up the tunes, and get rollin’ with roller skates, ride-on cars for toddlers, or even mini scooters.
Driveways and sidewalks can be the site of a masterpiece! Photo Marisa Illonardo
14. Chalk Your Walk
Any paved surface can become a beautiful canvas in the winter. Chalk your walk with motivational messages, or try drawing a snowy winter scene.
15. Build a Campfire
That fire pit isn’t just for summer nights. Build one indoors if you have a fireplace, or dust off the snow on your outdoor fire pit. Cozy up with a mug of cocoa and let kids roast their own marshmallows, camp style.
16. Create Frozen Bubbles
If the temperatures are particularly frigid, especially in the teens or single digits, try blowing frozen bubbles with the kids! It's a science lesson with a wow factor.
No need to hibernate all winter—hit the zoo and see what the animals are up to.
Things To Do with Kids Outside in Winter—Go Explore
17. Explore A Winter Waterfall
Often, parks with waterfalls are overcrowded in the warmer weather, making it hard to enjoy the natural sounds of your surroundings. The sound of water trickling through the landscape is something that solitude seekers can enjoy in the winter months.
18. Visit a National Park
Unlike their famous furry residents, our national parks do not hibernate in the winter. In fact, guests will enjoy smaller crowds and get to enjoy the beauty of these natural treasures. Before visiting a park, please check the park website to make sure it is open this winter.
19. Add Some Magic with Twinkle Lights
Even after the holidays have passed, you can add a little light to the darkness by creating an outdoor play space with twinkle lights. Place lights around a patio or swing set to create a bright and cozy winter play space.
20. Visit a Zoo
A day trip to the local zoo should not be reserved for summer days. Check in on your zoo friends in the winter months and you will be rewarded with fewer crowds and the chance to see different animal activities.
21. Visit a Botanical Garden
Most botanical gardens provide shelter from the elements in toasty greenhouses where it always feels like summer. Stroll the grounds to absorb the stark beauty of winter, while the kids run around and get some of that pent-up energy released.
22. Glow Stick Hunt
To set up a glow stick hunt, simply crack a glow stick, and place it into the snow, or behind rocks and trees. Once the sun goes down, head out, and see how many the kids can find.
23. Winter Scavenger Hunt
Download a copy of our outdoor scavenger hunt and make your own winter scavenger hunt. Add items like a mitten, pine cone, or animal tracks to get the kids outside and moving.
Why wait for spring to take a hike?
24. Winter Hikes
When the seemingly endless cold and gray of winter is giving the whole family a case of cabin fever, it’s time to bundle everyone up and head to the nearest park, trail, boardwalk, or beach to enjoy the crisp air.
25. Winter Photography
Find the beauty in winter by looking at the landscape through a new lens. Photograph a winter day adventure, or just have fun examining the shape and texture of the leafless trees.
26. Flashlight Tag
Add a little light to the dark days of winter with a few rounds of flashlight tag. This twist on the classic game of tag is even more exhilarating in the cold night air.
27. Bust Out the Sand Toys
Wet sand works just like snow. So dig out your shovels and pails and start building a snow castle. Use a mini rake to make a road around it. Plastic sand molds are great for packing with snow to decorate your yard with frozen starfish, crabs, and more. You can even open an ice cream shop by piling snow on small cups and adding grass sprinkles. If snow is in short supply, head to the nearest beach or playground and make a sand snowman!
28. Learn to Skate
No matter what the weather is outside, in the winter there is usually a skating rink nearby. If they haven't skated before, expect to spend most of your session holding your kids upright, or look for a rink with those ice skate buddies that they can hold as they "glide" across the ice.
Do you want to build a snowman? (Someday saying that will get old, but that day is not today.)
Games and Activities To Play in the Snow
29. Snowman Competition
Get the neighborhood to participate in a snowman competition. Arrange awards for categories like “most creative” or “tallest”—the winner gets the first cup of cocoa!
30. Make Snow Ice Cream
Here’s one way to sweeten up a snowy day! Use clean, fresh snow snow as the base and something sweet on top—this easy recipe uses maple syrup as a sweetener.
31. Study Snowflakes
Sure, it’s fun to catch a few snowflakes on your tongue, but there is a whole lot of science behind those little flakes. Before they melt away, observe and study these little six-sided wonders on your own.
32. Paint in the Snow
Freshly fallen snow is a perfect blank canvas. Fill spray bottles with diluted watercolors or food coloring and spray away to create a masterpiece.
33. Snow Obstacle Course
Snow doesn’t just have to be for sledding. After the blizzard has passed, head outdoors to create a snow obstacle course with a series of challenges, such as making a snow angel, a snowball, and so on.
34. Shovel a Snow Maze
Got a lot of snow? Grab your shovel (or snowblower) and craft a path through your yard or the park to put your kids to the test. The walls don’t have to be over their heads, just provide enough false turn-offs to make it a challenge. If you find it difficult to come up with a design on the fly, grab a pencil and paper and map out your maze in advance. It’s something they can do over and over, and when they’ve got the solution down pat, the course can become a series of trenches to hide in during a snowball fight.
35. Learn to Cross Country Ski
Downhill skiing requires a lot of equipment and gear, not to mention expensive lift tickets and lessons. The great thing about cross-country skiing is that once you have the basics down, any flat snow-covered surface becomes your playground.
36. Build a Snow Slide
Everyone builds snowmen or snow forts; you can bring your snow play to the next level by taking the time to build a snow slide.
37. Snowball Fight
38. Learn to Ski
One of the best ways to survive winter is to find a seasonal activity that the whole family can enjoy. It gives everyone a reason to look forward to the season, as well as something to do. Skiing is often the perfect family-friendly winter activity that will have you begging for MORE snow. The local ski mountain might not be renowned for its powder, but it'll probably do the job for a quick day trip.
What kind of animal makes these tracks? The frightful childus showshoeius.
39. Learn to Snowshoe
Does skiing feel too daredevilish? Trade the skis for shoes. Snowshoeing requires very little instruction or equipment to enjoy a day of exploring in the great outdoors. Plus, no drive to a mountain is necessary.
40. Find a Sledding Hill
Put on that gear and head for the hills! It doesn't take monster mountains and tricked out sleds; any snowy incline and saucer or even cardboard box can provide plenty of exhilarating runs.
Unless noted, photos by the author