Play Outside in the Snow!

Toddler playing outside in the winter

Do you feel that temptation to stay indoors and cozy up in front of a fire for the next week? Don’t do it! Well, not the whole time, anyway. Bundle up and go outside everyday, even if you are anxious to return to your warm house.

What happens when young children aren’t tired enough when bedtime comes? You know the answer, don’t you. They keep tired parents from sleeping. Especially with little kids, outdoor activity can make us tired enough to sleep well during a mostly lazy holiday. Better yet, when you come in from the cold, it is a perfect time to have hot chocolate or wassail.

My family will be spending the rest of today with friends. If there is enough snow, we will go snowshoeing; if not, we will go hiking. Either way, we anticipate windblown cheeks and cold noses as we unwind our scarves when we return to the house and to the sweet smells of lunch. That feeling is one of my favorite parts of the holidays.


8 Outdoor Activities for Your Family Holiday

Go for a Walk. Make it a habit to walk after lunch. My family has two fuzzy dogs, so our walks through the snow mean dogs covered in little snowballs like Christmas treat ornaments. The dogs have a great time romping like puppies, and we have a great time chasing after them. No matter whether you are in town or in the country, a walk is a great way to spend a part of your vacation days.

Build a Snow Fort. If you pack the snow tight enough, your fort can last long after most of the snow is gone. Last year, our whole neighborhood contributed to one snow fort, with adults and dogs included. This can be an ongoing activity.

Make Snow Angels. Drop down onto your back in the deep snow and swim your arms and legs back and forth until you create a wings and skirt. Toddlers love this activity. The first year my husband spent in the heavy winter after growing up without much snow, I convinced him to fall into several feet of powder. I fished him out and told him, “Welcome to Winter!” I’m a bit more careful with my children, but they still do this.

Scavenge for Winter Nature Table Decorations. Are there still evergreens, pinecones, winter berries. Children will tromp from place to place not even realizing that they are actually on a walk.

Sledding. Whether you have an old-fashioned sled, an old tire, or a cardboard box lid, you can probably find something slippery around the house for sledding. We have quite a few steep hills near our house, but we have another version of sledding that involves my husband grabbing tight to the rope on the sled and hauling children around. It worked better when they were little, but everyone still wants to see who can pull the rest of the family. If you celebrate Festivus, this could be one of your feats of strength.

Moon and Stargazing. The moon is past the quarter and will be full next week. If the sky is clear, you should have enough light for a late night walk. During the most recent full moon, my son stared out the window and said, “It’s so light! I wish we could go outside.” I asked, “Why can’t you?” He had no answer, and within minutes we were all bundled up for a midnight walk under the full moon. I was back in quickly, but they just sat in their tree swings, swinging patterns in the snow and talking for nearly an hour. Little children might not be able to take a long walk in the extreme cold, but the adventure of a nighttime walk can awaken the senses.

Bundle up and make sure snow can’t sneak into boots or mittens. Stay out long enough to have fun but not so long that children become miserable. The cold helps you and your children appreciate the warm. The activity helps you appreciate the opportunity to curl up with the family without the stresses of every day.

Happy Holidays and warm fingers and toes to your whole family.

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5 Way to Use Natural Decorations This Winter

Mother holds a child wearing an autumn leaf crown

Finding the best natural seasonal decorations is easy because they are in your own backyard. You don’t need to buy the icons of someone else’s place and culture when you are surrounded by your own.

As it gets colder outdoors, we often bring reminders of the season indoors with us. This could be the end of the Autumn leaves—the bitter end if you just can’t face raking them up—or evergreens if the world around you has turned mostly grey.

The tradition of bringing evergreens into the house during midwinter is a reminder that the green spring will return. The persistence of green through the stark winter warms our living spaces. Bringing evergreen boughs into the house is, of course, the origin of having a tree during midwinter then, later, Christmas holiday season.

What surrounds your house? Conifers, perhaps. If you are really lucky, holly or mistletoe. Bay. Palm trees. Whatever you have can work as a holiday decoration. This might also be the time of year that you realize you want to plant evergreens next year so you will have more green around you all winter.

My clever child, who is consulting with me on ideas for winter decorations, points out that not everyone has a yard. He doesn’t think that a Festivus pole is enough to brighten up the urban home, so he suggests that you go to the park. Another way to find abundant evergreen is to go to sellers of trees. When they trim trees to fit tree stands, they often giveaway or sell inexpensively the bottom branches.


5 Way to Use Natural Decorations This Winter

Trim the Tree
If you are surrounded by pine cones, tie ribbons to them and hang them on your tree. Pinecones and acorns can be used as ornaments all over the house. Put them up high if you have very young children.

String a Garland
Sew through individual leaves to create a hanging garland. I like to use thick, red thread sewn through the dark green, teardrop-shaped leaves of the bush outside my front door. It adds a nice touch of color.

Make a Wreath
Gather evergreen boughs into a circle and you have a wreath. You may need to use string or wire to hold them, but it is very easy to do. Many people put wreaths on their front door. In my neighborhood, people put them over the lamps in front of our houses.

Surround the Candle
Midwinter is the time for lights, for festivals of lights in many cultures. If you make candles part of your winter decorations, surround them with evergreens. Be careful of using dried leaves near candles, though.

Wear a Crown
Decorate the people! My family like wearing crowns: birthday crowns, holiday crown, or just because crowns. Gather up the last of the Autumn leaves or a bunch of evergreen leaves into a wreath that you wear. You probably won’t want to use conifers, since they can poke as well as leaving sap in your hair. Getting sap out of a child’s hair is no fun. At my own midwinter wedding, I wore a crown of bay leaves because there was a big bay bush in my in-laws’ yard where we held our reception.

Don’t run out and buy those holiday decorations. Look around you and see what you can do with what you already have. Stay warm and green this winter.

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Freeze Tag and Other Outdoor Winter Games for Children

Children playing outside in the winter

I woke up to 3″ of snow on the ground, and I’m thinking about how to make sure my children continue to play outside.

Usually, my children entertain themselves outside. They build forts and pile up snow to create high vantage points—and giant snowmen. Sometimes, though, they thrive on a little bit of structure. When I say, “Let’s go outside,” it can take some extra incentive to encourage them to leave their warm cocoons. I can usually get their attention by saying, “Hey, I have a great idea. Let’s play a game.”

Freeze Tag seems like a completely obvious winter game. A lot of other games transfer just fine to winter. You can play Hide and Seek, Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, and most other games you love in the summer. With the addition of some squeeze bottles of colored water, you can add Hopscotch, Tic Tac Toe, and drawing. If you have enough space, you can go Sledding, Cross Country Skiing, or even create your own Rope Tow with your little kids holding on to end of a rope while you drag them screaming and laughing through the yard.

There are a few activities you can do in the winter that you can’t do in the summer. If you need to entice your children with something special, these are a few ideas.


Blowing bubbles

When the temperature goes below freezing point, go outside and blow bubbles. The results are fun and surprising, though it really should be obvious. For bubble solution, just mix water with a little dishwashing liquid. Even big kids love this. My children experiment making bigger and bigger bubbles with string and ropes.

Snow sculpture

If you have snow, you are surrounded by art materials. Mold it, sculpt it, and build shapes big and small. If you can stand to take your kitchen implements outside, gather up big cookie cutters, cake molds, and big bowls. You can build a foundation with bigger molds and decorate the creation with the cookie cutters. This is a scalable activity that works for very young children as well as for teenagers and adults.

Flashlight tag

It is getting dark earlier, which means nighttime walks for dogs. Our dogs are part beagle, so they are born to track. They like to chase children. The kids run out of the house first then the dogs follow their trails in and out of the trees. We put red flashing lights on our dogs’ collars, which means we can see them as they run free. The children also carry flashlights on nighttime walks.

These walks are fun enough as they are, but what if you don’t have tracking dogs? You can still play an active nighttime game in the snow. Play a version of tag with flashlights. The person who is IT has their flashlight on. When their light hits someone else, the person lit up is IT. Their light goes on and the first person’s light goes off.

The fun in the game is trying to use the other senses than just seeing. You have to listen carefully. Make sure children know the boundaries. If they are running in the dark, they can run into hazards more easily. We only go out just as it is getting dark rather than in the dead of night.


Don’t forget to have a hot drink ready
when your red-cheeked little people come inside. I love hot chocolate, but milk doesn’t love me. We tend to have a pot of spiced cider on the stove most winter weekends. A lot of recipes suggest that you add sugar. Why?! Apple juice is super sweet already. Just add apple juice, orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and you are all set.

Have fun, and Happy Winter!

7 Tips for Dressing Your Toddler in Winter

Toddler sitting in the snow licking his face

Keeping your baby warm in winter is easy when you wrap yourselves up inside a baby carrier and a double coat. When your child is starting to walk and ready to test out independence, though, you will need to make some changes. How will you keep your toddler warm without stifling that desire to explore on their own?

Dress your toddler for winter success.

1. Connect mittens to coats. My mother just knitted a long string between my two mittens, but we have quicker solutions now. Mitten clips make it easy to keep track of toddlers’ mittens.

2. Choose two-piece snowsuits to make diaper changes easier. A toddler has places to go and less patience for a diaper change. Set the stage for the quickest change possible.

3. Cover your toddler’s legs. Tights can cover your baby’s legs, but they also add time to diaper changes. Baby Legs stockings don’t go up as far as the diaper, so add warmth without adding time to pit stops.

4. Make sure beginning walkers have good traction on their footwear whether indoor shoes or heavier, outdoor boots.

5. Have a handkerchief ready to wipe noses. Toddlers don’t seem to care so much if their noses run, and, left unwiped, this can lead to freezing, chappy patches on the face. Worse, they will lick at the running nose and add chappy lips to the mix. Chase, wipe, repeat.

6. Put a sunscreen stick in your pocket to cover exposed nose, ears, or backs of hands. A sunscreen stick is quick and very easy to apply. While you have your hand in your pocket, reapply lip balm and wipe noses.

7. Keep a change of socks in the diaper bag. After sledding or playing in the snow, your toddler may have cold, wet feet. A nice, dry pair of socks can go a long way toward comforting a cold child.

Image © Daniel Dupuis | Dreamstime.com

Surviving Winter While Pregnant

Pregnant couple in winter
Belly itchy? Feet swollen? Coat doesn’t quite fit around you? There are a few simple steps you can take during the winter to make winter pregnancy easier.


Health

Nutrition and Rest. I cannot over-stress the importance of good nutrition and plenty of rest during pregnancy. They are always important, but the implications during pregnancy reach beyond you to your child, and it is worth the extra effort to keep yourself healthy. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins, get some sunlight (Vitamin D), and eat winter vegetables, including high-nutrition leafy greens like kale. Good nutrition and good sleep will put you in a better position to fight off winter colds and flu.

Skin. Stretching your skin over a big, pregnant belly can make you dry and itchy during any season. During winter, your skin can feel dry all over. Be sure to drink enough water and moisturize your skin on your belly, face, feet, hands, elbows, and everywhere you feel dry. Pay attention to your trouble spots—if you can see them.

Feet. Along with the dryness, your feet can get swollen during pregnancy. It’s even worse in winter when your feet can get so cold. Keep them covered and keep that circulation going. Elevate your feet regularly. Scrub them a brush or a rough cloth when you bathe, or ask your husband to scrub them if you have a hard time reaching. Get a massage. This is a great time for your husband to learn the basics of massage or reflexology.


Clothes

Shoes. You’re carrying more weight than you are used to, your center of gravity has shifted, and the ground can be slippery. It’s a bad combination, and this is no time for fashionable heels. Go for practical (yet adorable) shoes with soles that will keep you steady on the ice. Then, avoid the ice.

Coat. Depending on where you are going, you might be able to get away with wearing your husband’s winter coat. That’s what I did as my pregnancy started to show one winter. If you need to maintain a professional look, though, you may need to go for the maternity coat. There are a lot of beautiful styles available. If you are a handy seamstress, you can even find great patterns for maternity coats. When I was pregnant with my second child, I didn’t find a look I wanted, so I made a pattern for a maternity coat with a matching coat for my 2-year old daughter, which helped her feel very special despite all of the focus on the coming baby.


Winter Shopping Deals

Baby clothes. If you don’t mind buying clothes for the baby before the birth, you can get some great deals on baby clothes for next winter at end-of-season clearance sales.

Fitness deals. January is prime time for fitness club deals. If you need that extra boost to keep your pregnant self in shape and keep working out, take advantage of the offers you will find. This helps after the birth as well. If you already have a membership and a habit of working out, it will be easier to get back into shape.


Relationship

Get away. If this is your first child, think of these months as your last chance to get away with your husband for a while. Even if you leave a young child with grandparents for a weekend, it’s worth the time to get away, take a deep breath, and focus on one another for a bit. My husband and I went for a weekend of massages and ridiculously elaborate meals at a little Ontario resort a few months before my first child was born. You might want to consider going south, though. As a matter of fact, grab a bikini, head way south, and show off that gorgeous round belly on the beach. Why not? Warm your feet up, get some rest, and spread some happiness to your growing baby all at once.

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