For the next while, things are going to be different, again. Changing our routines can really wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. It’s even tougher if you’re at home with kids. While we are all at home, why not kick the mundane to the curb and get outside? I promise you, the best payoff is getting your blood pumping and seeing those rosy cheeks on your kids!
I’ve compiled a list of some local based – low risk activities that will help you get outdoors and embrace the winter playground. All YOU have to do is bundle up!
1. Birdwatching. Both myself and my 3 – year – old are HUGE birding fanatics. Others in the younger generation seem to lack the interest in an activity generally perceived for the 55+ (sorry Mom). But what if I told you the birding is basically a real life version of Pokemon Go (Thank you Audubon Society for the Analogy)? You don’t need fancy equipment or to live anywhere special, but a set of binoculars does come in handy. Cities and rural routes, open shorelines and frozen woodlands all provide diverse ecosystems for winter migrants and resident birds. You might even check a rare species off of your list or see a huge bird of prey! Check out different apps such as the Merlin Bird ID or eBird for assistance in locating birds and ID’ing. For local Quinte sightings, check out www.naturestuff.net .
2. Geocaching.This can be tough if there is a layer of snow on the ground but still tons of fun for older kids. In Ontario, there are tiny capsules hidden literally EVERYWHERE. Download the Geocaching app to help you pinpoint their location. ou will be surprised where the caches are hiding (think real life Easter egg hunt, without the sugar rush). Finding one is such a thrill! Parents: make sure your children know to check with you before opening or picking up a cache and sanitize your hands before and after!
3. Plan a hike/ski or snowshoe. This one seems pretty obvious but what about exploring new territory? Until the pandemic, I was oblivious to HOW MANY parks, trails, conservation areas, nature preserves and crown land existed within our region.
Using the AllTrails app and doing a few google searches, I was able to stay within my own county and spend weeks (if not months) exploring every nook and cranny in the southern part of Hastings and Prince Edward County, exploring various types of shorelines and forests and towns. There is so much to see, so much beauty out there! Check out Quinte Conservation, Lower Trent Conservation, Ontario Parks, Ontario Trails and the MNRF for an extensive list of places in our area to explore!
4. Participate in a household trash bash or shoreline cleanup (snow and weather permitting). If we are going to be outside, why not leave it better than we found it? Clean North has some great tips for safely participating in a clean up (especially during a pandemic), while The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a great resource to help with tracking and local spots in need of a tidy up.
5. Plan an outdoor meal! Who says hotdogs on an open fire have to be saved for summer, anyway? Kids love the thrill of roasting their own hotdogs on a fire and food always tastes better outdoors! Don’t have access to a firepit? Fire up that BBQ or pack soup in a thermos. The kids can help with “setting the table” as snowbanks, snow forts and fallen logs make perfect spots to dine. Don’t feel like doing the cooking? Pick up a pizza and have a pizza party in the snow! Just make sure to take everything with you when you leave!
As always, follow social distancing protocols and all safety warnings for trails and wild spaces. Take all trash with you when you leave and stay OFF of ice and shoreline ice formations. Check all weather conditions before leaving, dress warm, move your body and have some fun!!