Get Outside: Ideas for Outside Family Time

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Written By: Stacey Birett

I don’t know about you, but as the days start getting shorter, the winds get stronger and the temperature gets colder, my initial instinct is to take the family and hibernate until spring. The alternative of course would be wintering in Florida but that doesn’t seem to be an option either. I’m not the only momma who feels this way, am I right?

But staying hunkered down inside for the next number of months will do nothing more than exaggerate the winter blahs and maybe add a couple inches to the mid-section. Neither of which sound appealing.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ve at least heard rumblings about the disadvantages of spending too much time under florescent lights, staring at screens and remaining inactive – and the time spent inside impacted by these conditions only increases as the days shorten and the weather starts to turn.

There is more and more research supporting the notion that spending time outside can do wonders for one’s health, particularly mental health. If you haven’t heard this, or don’t believe me just take a ten minute walk the next time you’re feeling stressed, angry or frustrated #YoureWelcome. You would think that knowing time spent outside would improve mood, focus, the immune system and general well-being would be enough to encourage us all to bundle up and get outside daily but reality is we are creatures of habit and sometimes we need to get creative, and get the whole family on board, to make a positive change.

As I started contemplating how to maintain the outside family time we’ve enjoyed over the summer as we are dealing with the first snow fall of the season, I challenged myself to come up with specific ways for our family to find outdoor activities that are: a) enjoyable despite (or even because of) the weather b) don’t cause more stress!

One of my absolute favourite activities that you can do with the family is a scavenger hunt and there’s no reason this activity needs to be limited to the summer. A simple online search for scavenger hunts will produce a wide array of options from printable ones with basic pictures for your toddlers, to more advanced lists for the older kids. You can even specify scavenger hunts for specific seasons! Once you’ve got them printed, I recommend putting it on a clipboard with a pencil and you are good to go. If you’re feeling really ambitious and have little kids, bring along a bucket to actually collect the items to decorate at home later!

Keeping along the lines of a scavenger hunt, another fun and simple way to enjoy the outdoors with the family is hiking. As long as you’re dressed for it (think layers and warm boots) going for a hike during the fall and winter seasons can do wonders for your family’s mental well-being and is a great way to connect with each other. Take the time to chat about what you see, hear, and smell. Every season brings with it new opportunities to entice the senses, we’re just often too busy to notice. Hiking opens the door to interact with your family in a completely different way without all of the distractions, and you can really start teaching an early appreciation for nature. We are fortunate to live in an area with many beautiful trails and paths, both free and paid, so get out and enjoy them!

Another great way to enjoy time outside and reap the benefits of quality family time and fresh air, is participating in a winter sport such as skating or skiing. Whether you start teaching your kiddos one of your favourite winter activities, or you all learn together, it creates a great opportunity to bond and provides something to look forward to when the weather starts to turn.

Something that my household has recently started to do as a family is outdoor chores. I know, I know, if you say chores to a kid there is going to be tremendous resistance and possibly a meltdown, so choose your words carefully! Ask if they’ll help you shovel or rake leaves. Kids love to help! If you equip them with child-size equipment it certainly adds to the appeal. I think of outdoor chores as a time to help teach responsibility and still spend time together while accomplishing something that needs to get done. Just a side note, do not expect that your child’s efforts are going to come anywhere close to what you would accomplish. As soon as you drop expectations, you will enjoy this opportunity to work together.

One of the last suggestions I have is so simple and yet so often overlooked, and that’s to just go out and have fun by channelling your inner child. Don’t worry about what the neighbours think, put aside your ‘to do’ list for an hour, and just spend time clowning around with your kids. Winter is the absolute best time to do this – think sledding, making snow angels, building snow men. I’m sure you loved those activities as a kid so why not create those great memories with your kids. I feel like it’s only as we age and lose our inhibitions that we start to want to hibernate come winter. Think about our recent first snowfall and the joy your kids exhibited. I know mine certainly weren’t groaning! In fact, they couldn’t wait to get outside and play!

Like anything, acting with intention is going to be what transforms your family from hibernating in front of the television for the next couple of months, to enjoying fun-filled active days together that help create a positive outlook that carries into every aspect of your day. Just twenty minutes a day can make such a difference in your mindset, your child’s mood and the interactions of your family. If you ask me, that’s time well spent.

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