Get your kids to go outside in the winter!

Get your kids to go outside in the winter!

"Aaahhh no, I prefer to stay inside and watch TV."

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Does this sound familiar to you? You're not alone! It's not always easy to motivate children to get outside, especially when the cold season is in full frost.

Below we explore creative ways to ignite a desire to get out and explore winter's treasures.

1) Before heading out: entice them

The essentials:

  • Bring prepared, ready-to-eat snacks that can easily be eaten with mittens to avoid freezing fingers.
  • Dress more warmly than the weather actually is, especially if you want to remain motionless to nature watch. The multi-layer technique is the most effective to stay warm.
  • Bring hot drinks in a thermos to give a little energy boost.
  • Sometimes you can have a picnic and a small fire in winter. The kids love it because they feel like real trappers!
  • The ultimate winter must-have: a classic hot chocolate with marshmallows upon returning home.

Michel Leboeuf, author of Family Nature, regularly teaches his children to observe nature. To pique their curiosity before heading out, he helps them learn about what they can discover by visiting a few of his favourite sources:

  • The Canadian Museum of Nature website is a great site featuring fact sheets for each animal that can be observed in the Canadian wilderness.
  • The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a great kids site to help nurture the love of nature.
  • Public libraries are packed with beautifully-illustrated nature books. Michel's trick: leaf through a guidebook of the region or habitat you are planning to visit.

2) Activate the imagination

Pirates seeking treasure on a desert island? Woodsmen trading furs in the New World? Explorers of unknown lands at the North Pole? No matter what colourful story comes to mind, there is nothing more motivating for children than a role-playing game.

"It's not about going for a walk in the woods, but rather going on an adventure!" says Michel Leboeuf.

3) Adapt children's activities for age appropriateness

For toddlers: observe easy-to-spot animals. In winter, birds are easiest to see on branches with no leaves to hide them.

"I take my children walking in a large urban park and bring sunflower seeds," describes Michel Leboeuf. "The chickadees come to eat out of our hands. The kids love it and are very excited to make contact with animals!"

For kids: go observe owls. Owls are large birds that are relatively easy to spot during the day. "Sometimes they can be spotted sleeping near evergreens, with a field mouse trapped in their claws. Youth are impressed to see owls." And there's no need to go very far: they can be found in suburban woodlands close to cities.

Pick up a couple of tracking reference materials from the library or local nature centre and go searching for animal traces in the snow. This is an ideal activity for young people aged 10 to 12 who are looking to gain more autonomy. With a guide in hand, they are able to succeed.

For teens: they enjoy trips where they get to leave the city and disconnect from civilization. For techies, maps and GPS locators are great tools to help dive fully into the expedition

4) Launch challenges

Young people are much easier to motivate when they have a challenge. Add a challenge to an outing to give them a simple goal that they can successfully accomplish. For active kids, a treasure hunt with clues is a great way to engage them. For the pensive types, why not ask them to create an album of the most beautiful pictures of their finds? Artistic kids can arrange their findings in a scrapbook: a remnant of bird's nest can be transformed into a beautiful piece of natural art!

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