Winter family fun

Photo: Julie-Anne Davies

Nature’s beauty and depth is found in every season, from sun-soaked skin on a summer’s day to mud-puddle splashes in springtime rain, to crunchy, crisp leaves in autumn. But winter holds its own special rhythm and wisdom, with much to enjoy and explore.

There is so much to see and do this snowy season, and winter provides an incredible opportunity for outdoor learning and fun. If you’re not sure where to begin, we have a few ideas.

Sit still

Have you ever heard of a sit spot? This is a special place you choose in nearby nature. As you revisit the same spot through the year, you can see seasonal changes at play. Sit spots have been proven effective for children’s connection to the natural world in their own wild backyards. 

You can start this practice today with children in your life! Make sure everyone is dressed for the weather, then take a walk through your neighbourhood. Maybe there is a postage stamp forest behind the elementary school, or a shady grove of trees in the local park. Even a tree stump in your own backyard could be a perfect sit spot. 

In your special sit spot, ask kids to reflect on these questions:

  • What does winter sound / smell / feel / taste / look like?
  • If you could be an animal, how would you cope with the winter? Would you migrate to somewhere warm? Burrow into the ground? Stay and survive?
  • What would you say to Mother Nature, if you could write a letter about winter?   

Look close

Scour your junk drawer or head to the dollar store and pick up a magnifying glass and a simple piece of string. Children can place the string somewhere outdoors, like along a tree trunk, under a branch or on top of the snow. Use the magnifying glass to ‘walk’ along the string path. Ask your kids what they see. How many colours, textures and shapes can they find? What surprised them? 

After they’re done taking a ‘string walk’, bring a black backdrop (e.g. a t-shirt or construction paper) outside. Place a few snowflakes on the canvas and use the magnifying glass to study the patterns. How many different patterns can you find? When fingers get frosty, go inside and recreate the snowflake patterns on paper. 

Ice art

Go on a nature walk and gather some different natural objects (leaves, berries, pine needles and so on). Try to find different sizes, textures and colours. Place the items in a circular tray such as a pie plate, add a looped string at one end, then fill carefully with water. Leave outside to freeze and you will have a beautiful piece of ice art to hang outside your window. If you have family here for the holidays, this is an easy activity for everyone to enjoy! 

Critter catch

Animals move in different patterns, like walking, galloping and waddling (see below). Practice these patterns with your kids, then head outdoors to play a pattern game. Create a playing field outdoors, stand at one end, and shout out a movement pattern. Players must move from one side of your playing field to the other in that pattern. Once everyone has perfected the different patterns, switch up the game by shouting random patterns as the kids move from one end of the field to the other.

Take the learning deeper by asking your kids which pattern was easiest for movement? Which was fastest? Pick an animal they enjoyed mimicking and go to the library to learn more about that creature. 

Walking (felines, canines, ungulates): Move right hand and left foot at same time (and likewise their left hand and right foot). As the hand moves forward, the foot goes onto the spot where their hand just was.

Galloping (rabbits, snowshoe hares, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, shrews): Larger hind feet land in front of the smaller front feet.

Bounding (otters, minks, martens, fishers, weasels): Front feet hit first, and then the back feet land where the front feet were.

Waddling (heavy-set mammals such as beaver, porcupine, raccoon, skunk): Weight shifts to the right as both the left hand and foot move forward at the same time, then shifts to the left as the right hand and foot move in their turn.

PHoto: Julie-Anne Davies

Curious kids

There are endless ways to engage your child in outdoor activities and learning this season. Whether it’s a simple walk in nearby nature, a busy active game, or a quiet reflection in your special sit spot, we hope you and the children in your life find ways to celebrate nature this season. 

If you’d like to find even more ways to learn in and from nature, visit our resources page

At Wildsight, we give students across the Columbia Basin opportunities to take part in nature-based learning through programs such as Winter Wonder, a half-day field course for primary students to learn about the natural world in our snowiest season!

ps Did you know we are launching an exciting new resource to engage students in animal tracks and the wonders of winter? Join the free workshop this February!