There’s an old cliché – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Well, we live that out here in my household! My kids love playing outside no matter what the weather. And if you gear up the right way, you can enjoy being outdoors as a family, year-round, no matter where you live!
The Benefits of Being Outdoors
There are so many articles and so much research to indicate that being outside is beneficial in a multitude of ways.
For one, we get natural Vitamin D from the sunshine, and Vitamin D is crucial in keeping our immune systems functioning at top notch.
Additionally, being outdoors helps us to feel happier, and improves mental health. Getting off of screens and getting outside where our eyes are looking at the sky, trees, etc. gives us a mood boost and reduces anxiety. And it’s even more helpful if we’re up and moving outside, and not just sitting all day.
Studies also show that we get better sleep when we spend time outdoors!
You can see a full list with even more benefits here in this brief article on Web MD.
Some people fear being too cold outside in the winter or look at wintertime as a time to hunker down inside until the spring flowers start to bloom. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fire in my fireplace, snuggled up with a blanket and a good book. But I also love to get outdoors with my family, or even solo sometimes, and move my body even when it’s freezing!
First, you have to dress appropriately. My children all have basically a full-body thermal base layer that they wear under their clothing or snow pants during the winter. Thermal underwear would work as well. Making sure to have a solid base layer is the first start to feeling comfortable in the cold. My kids sometimes even complain they’re too HOT because their base layers are so effective!
We then add some more warm layers, depending on what activity we’re doing, including hats and gloves, and thick socks. Now we’re ready to roll.
Outdoor winter activities
From walks to hikes to family games, outdoor sports such as skiing or snowboarding, ice skating, and more. There’s really so much to do! Here’s how my family spends time outside year-round.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where there are hikes nearby, I encourage you to check them out! We live in Staunton, VA in the off-season, and we’re surrounded by places to hike ad camp. We have discovered some flat “hikes” as well, more like walking trails. We especially love the recently opened Blue Ridge Tunnel in nearby Nelson County. Another flat walking trail, with a hilly hike option, is the Augusta Springs Wetland Trail. We’re also close to the Appalachian Trail, Humpback Rock, and much more!
I personally love to walk, and when COVID shut everything down, including my local gym, I spent some time almost every day walking outside. Not only did it get me moving, but it helped me clear my head during a stressful time. Of course, that was springtime, but we had some wintery cold days! And some cold rainy days as well. But did that stop me? Nope! I just layered up and built up resilience to being out in the cold.
Then enter that winter, when my gym was still closed (or had very limited options). Two friends of mine and I started walking in our local park every week, despite the low temperatures. I think the record low for one of our walks was 16 degrees! We never gave up on our weekly walk and exercised while also getting some much-needed socialization and outdoor time.
We have a local outdoor ice-skating rink nearby that is open from November – March, and we love to plan a family outing each year to the rink! The kids love it, and my husband and I get a kick out of skating together and watching the kids improve – and fall and get right back up again! We pair this event with a stop for hot chocolate on the way home. A perfect winter outing!
My kids LOVE to put on football jerseys and have a game of football outside, regardless of the temperature. They’ll put on those base layers if needed, and then of course usually end up shedding some of the layers. They get very competitive and will be outside well past sunset trying to get those last points in! They’ll do this with almost any sport. We recently visited friends to watch the World Cup game over Thanksgiving, and afterward, our friends held a kids vs adults soccer game in the yard. It was amazing fun and everyone got into it! And to top it off- this friend of mine is a lifelong ‘Ghany friend!
Sledding and Snow Sports & Games
And let’s not forget the ultimate winter sports – skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, or even just playing in the snow!
Now, we actually haven’t taken our kids skiing yet, but it’s in the works. But they do LOVE playing in the snow and have snowboarded down our backyard hill before. They love to sled, build snowmen, have snowball fights, and just roll around in the snow. We’re already wishing for some snow days!
Outdoor Fire Pit
We love our Solo Stove that I gave to my husband a couple of years ago for his birthday. It was the perfect way to spend time with friends outside during those COVID winters. No matter how cold it is outside, we can always warm up by the fire!
I have a January birthday, and it’s safe to say I never thought I’d celebrate my birthday outside, but during that COVID winter, some friends of mine planned an outdoor birthday celebration around a fire pit. It was one of my favorite birthdays to date, and just proved that you can do anything outside if you plan accordingly!
Winter’s Here to Stay
While we’re sure to have a few more warm spells here and there, we’ve all switched out our closets, tucked away our open-toed shoes, and pulled out the winter coats and mittens. Winter is here to stay, and we’re adapting and planning some fun winter outings and games.
What are some ways YOU spend time outside in the winter?