Encourage Winter Outdoor Play
People tend to spend a lot more time indoors during the winter, especially in our Canadian climate with ice and snow. It’s natural to want to hibernate but heading outdoors with the kids has many health benefits. A backyard playground is the perfect way to reap those benefits such as:
- Increased exposure to fresh air helps to strengthen a child’s immune system by limiting their exposure to germs and bacteria that are thriving indoors
- Playing outdoors, especially moving through piles of snow, allows a child to strengthen their muscles and practice gross motor skills that they wouldn’t use for indoor play
- Sun exposure is a great source of vitamin D, which promotes calcium absorption and healthy bones. Vitamin D also changes serotonin levels in the brain which can lead to happier moods
- It provides a different perspective. Your kids are used to playing in, on, and around the play set during the summer. Adding in snow gives the swing set a different atmosphere. It can enhance your child’s problem-solving skills that they wouldn’t use indoors. For example, how can we still have fun on a play set covered in snow??
So don’t be afraid to pull out your children’s hats, gloves, and boots, layering them up, and heading outside for some outdoor winter fun.
WHAT CAN THEY DO?
Create A Snow Maze
Create a snow path pattern for the children to follow all the way to the play set. It can be simple straight lines or have tons of twists and turns. Your kids can run or walk through the maze to see if they can find the fast way from start to finish.
Incorporate the play set into an outdoor winter obstacle course. The activities you include will depend on your backyard and available resources. Plus, you can customize the course based on your kids’ ages. Set up stations around your snowy yard and challenge the kids to complete them all. If you have a hill, you might have the kids climb the hill, sled down, jump over snow hurdles, climb up the play set ladder, go down the slide and knock over targets with snowballs.
The Snow Ball Race
Have your children two at a time wait at the top of the slide. Mom and Dad can make equal size snowballs and hand them up the children. Then it’s race time – each child places their snow ball at the top of the slide beside each other. Count down, 3-2-1 and they roll their snowball down the slide – first to the bottom wins or make it best two out of three to decide the winner. A spiral slide makes this race even more exciting. (Note: you can add a bit of different food colouring dye to the snowballs so that they can keep track of which one is theirs)
Snowball Target Practice
Make a bucket of snowballs and carry them on the play set. Let the kids practice their throwing skills by hurling snowballs aiming for certain hard-to-hit parts like the trapeze rings or the swing beam or choose other targets around the backyard and keep score of who has the best aim!
Build a Snow Fort
Your play set has already probably been imagined as a fort during the summer and now is the perfect time for your kids to build walls of snow around the base. Pack the snow around three sides as high as they can go, leaving an opening to use as their entry and let your kids’ imaginations go into overdrive!
Swings work just as well in the winter as they do in the other seasons. The kids can simply swing and enjoy the feel of the cold breeze on their face or jump off into the soft snow or for the adventurous – build a snow wall near the swings and they can hop on the swing and bust through the wall. The sky is the limit on winter fun time imagination.
Build Snow People
Help your kids build mini snow families around the play area. You can try building a tiny snow person on a swing, at the top of the slide or in the sandbox.
Build slightly larger snowmen around the play set as guards. The swing set can be the castle, and the snowmen are the royal guards.
They can also use their imagination and build snow pets or monsters!
Be A Winter Explorer
Check out the winter wonderland in your backyard from a higher point of view on the play set. Grab binoculars and look around the yard for interesting sights like animal tracks, icicles or wind-blown piles of snow.
Feed The Birds
Help the birds who stay for winter by using your play set as a bird feeding station. Make your own bird feeders and hang them on the play set. One easy option is to spread peanut butter onto a pine cone and then roll it in birdseed.
Once you start feeding birds in the winter, you need to continue feeding them, because they grow to rely on that food source. If you don’t want the birds around the play set, hang the bird feeders in another part of the yard, and sit in the play set to watch your new feathered friends enjoy a snack. This activity is a great way for kids of all ages to observe birds.