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Get outside! Winter activities with the kids

I live in upstate New York (not New York City-New York but the part of New York near Canada) where we have very cold and snowy winters. When I lived away for some time, I would reminisce about the fun times I had during the winter when I was growing up – building snow men, sledding, snow ball fights, ice skating, etc., and experiencing all four seasons was actually a very important factor in moving back to the place I grew up.

So I came back and had three children, pretty much back to back. And I seemed to stop going outside. Snow men? Sledding? Try videos and the shopping mall. I actually remember a few years ago in early March when I bundled up the kids and was walking around the block with my two daughters – who were around 2 and 4 at the time – on their bikes –  pushing their baby brother in a stroller (now March is still pretty much winter here – there is really no spring). My sisters drove by us and rolled down the car window and yelled “What are you guys doing? I thought you didn’t leave the house?!” That said, it is much easier now for our family to embrace the winter as the kids are a bit older – 7, 5 and 4. Kids definitely need to expend energy and get fresh air, regardless of the temperature. Here are some outdoor activities for the winter months:

Get outside every day.Even if it takes longer to get the kids dressed and undressed than the actual time they spend outside, your kids (and you) will be happy for the fresh air. If you have a playground, kids can still have fun on it, even if it’s not warm outside. My kids love to jump off our’s into the snow – the jungle gym provides new opportunities when snow is added.

Take a walk. Even if it’s just around the block, it’s great to get some exercise. If you have a dog, let the kids walk him – with help if they are little.

Go to the neighborhood playground or your local zoo. Again, not just for warm weather. And you will most likely have the place to yourselves.

Snow fun. There are endless things to do with snow if you are a kid – although sometimes they need some direction. The other day my kids were outside with some friends and I poked my head out to check on them and they were about to turn on the hose. Redirection was obviously needed so I remembered some plastic cubes I had bought that are used with snow or sand to build a wall, igloo (check out theis website for step-by-step instructions on how to build an igloo with your kids,) etc. Lying in the snow and making angels, and of course building snowmen – or snow families – is always fun.

Snow painting. Fill some water bottles with water and a few drops of food coloring and your yard is a blank canvas.

Sledding. The youngest kids can sit on your lap and enjoy the ride. Remember that big hill from when you were little? It probably wasn’t that big. Kids don’t need much for a thrill. Even being pulled around the block on a plastic sled is still considered “sledding.”

Try ice skating. Even kids as young as 3 can hold onto a chair or walker and get started. Most local colleges with rinks have open skate times that are really reasonable or look in the phone book for local rinks. You can rent skates fora nominal fee at most places.

After all of this activity, it’s time to come in for hot chocolate and probably some treats. For my kids I think the hot chocolate is the incentive for all of the outdoor fun.  Try Rachael’s Toffee Hot Chocolate for a decadent take on the traditional hot cocoa.

 How does your family get outside and enjoy the winter?

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Rachael Ray