5 Ways to Enjoy Nature with Kids in Winter

How do you enjoy nature with kids in the winter? Unless you are building a snowman, sledding, making a snow angel, or having a snow ball fight, it’s difficult to find things for kids to do outside in the winter months. Before you give up and allow them more screen time, consider the following 5 activities that will help your kids pay a little less attention to the screen and more attention to the great outdoors.

#1 - Explore a tree.

Trees change from season to season. Even evergreen trees that do not loose their needles in the winter look different in cold weather vs warmer weather. Take a walk and let your child pick a tree to study. First, check the roots - can you see any? Explain how the tree uses it’s roots. Guess how far the roots stretch. Next look at the bark. What does it look like? How does it compare to the bark of surrounding trees? If you want, make a bark rubbing with a piece of paper and a crayon. Then study the leaves. Does the tree have leaves? Is it bare? If the tree has leaves or needles, notice the color, shape, and texture. Compare them to surrounding trees. If the tree has lost it’s leaves, take note of the shape of the branches. Winter is a unique time to see the shape and outline of deciduous trees. Make a sketch of the tree, go home and look it up if you know the variety and have your child add leaves to see what it would look like in the summer. If you don’t know the tree type and can’t find a picture of the actual tree, that’s ok - let your child use his or her imagination! If the tree has leaves, take some home to make leaf rubbings.

#2 - Keep a moon diary.

Have you ever really studied the moon? In the winter, it gets dark earlier - a perfect time to study the moon with kids before they have to get to bed. Find a notebook and keep track of the phases and rhythms of the moon. What does it look like? What shape? What color? How bright is it? Find a good book that explains that phases of the moon and has great imagery so that kids can see what it looks like up close. Deb from Living Montessori Now has some great recommendations in her blog post “The Best Moon Books for Kids.”

#3 - Build a snow sculpture bird feeder.

Fireflies + Mudpies has some great ideas for DIY Winter Bird Feeders. My favorite, because it is the easiest, is the snow sculpture bird feeder. Pack snow into any shape you want, make a bowl or hollow spot, and then fill it with bird seed. If it melts, that’s ok - the birds will still find the seed! Don’t have enough snow? Add sticks or leaves or other natural items you find lying around. Sit back and watch the birds flock to your new - and temporary - bird feeder!

#4 - Study snowflakes.

Another easy and fun winter activity with your kids - studying snowflakes! Your kids will be amazed by the different shapes and to discover that the old adage is true - no two snowflakes are alike. All you need is dark paper or fabric (like gloves!) and a magnifying glass. Weather Wiz Kids recommends putting the paper or fabric in the freezer if it’s too warm out, but if it’s cold enough you can skip this step. Catch the snowflakes on the dark paper or fabric and peer at them through a magnifying class. What do they look like? When you come back inside, your kids might want to make a few sketches of the snowflakes they saw.

#5 - Make and compare snow.

Have you ever made your own snow? It’s really easy - just grab some ice cubes and blend them in the blender. Make sure your blender is strong enough to handle ice. For your kids, making homemade snow might be enough fun. But then compare your homemade snow to the snow outside. Do they look different? Feel different? Taste different? Let your kids be the judge!

Looking for more ideas? Check out “50 Ways to Connect with Nature This Winter (With or Without Snow)” by Debi Huang from Go Explore Nature.