Winter play can be a magical experience for children; they love to run, jump, slide, climb, and play with everything they can find. Outdoor play in the winter inspires children to become explorers and discoverers of many things such as animal tracks, what makes crunching sounds, how snowflakes float as they fall to the ground, and how snow feels on mittens.
The main advantage of winter play is learning. Not only are there opportunities for conversations, with families and children alike, but it also drives children’s curiosity about their surroundings. And curiosity leads to learning! As the children play in the winter environment, there will be a repetition of actions to test their knowledge and skills, which leads to discovery.1
Here are some easy and fun activity ideas from Beverlie Dietze’s Get Outside and Play webinar:1
Grab a cardboard box or a plastic tray and have the kids push each other around on them. Kids can also give their teddy bears a sled ride!
Use a variety of movement styles when climbing or descending snowy hills. Climb like a bear and slide down like a seal!
Change what children know about building and what can be used as construction materials. Introduce the idea of using snow as cement with other building materials or use snow as blocks. This can allow children to incorporate new strategies and flexible thinking into their play.
Take craft time outdoors and use the snow as a canvas! Fill spray bottles with coloured water (made using food colouring) and have the children paint murals in the snow. Don’t have food colouring on hand? No problem! Children can use natural elements, such as sticks, to draw pictures in the snow.
Fill half an orange with birdseed. This can be a great learning opportunity to teach kids about local birds in the area.
A super-easy way to get children moving while outside.
Go on a search for different animal tracks in the snow and to get children extra active have them try mimicking the movements of different animals.
Send the kids on a hunt to collect leaves, twigs, pebbles, and toys you’ve hidden!
Create a maze in the snow and place a toy or prize at the end of the maze.
Snow is the perfect medium to create a tic tac toe game board!
For more outdoor play resources, visit:
Lynne Lafave is an associate professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary Alberta. She holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences and her research focuses on nutrition, physical activity, and well-being initiatives in early childhood education and care. As the principal investigator on the CHEERS project, she works jointly with early childhood educators and CHEERS project coordinators to support early child health and well-being initiatives in the early childhood education and care setting.
Ceilidh McConnell is a Psychology graduate student at the University of Calgary in HOPELab studying empathy and decision-making in adolescents. She obtained her BA (Hons) in Psychology at Mount Royal University.
Alexis Webster is a graduate student in Measurement, Evaluation, and Research Methodology at the University of British Columbia. She obtained her BA (Hons) in Psychology at Mount Royal University.
Samira Ali is an education student at the University of Alberta. She obtained her BA in Sociology at Mount Royal University.