WIth a Stay at Home order in effect, it doesn’t take long for us to feel trapped inside our homes. The days can be long , challenging and isolating. That being said, now is not the time to turn our back on anyone, let alone downplay the importance of getting outside for our mental and physical health. Not all of us are privileged to live in rural settings or smaller towns, which makes it harder to access the outdoors. That’s why I’m providing a more accessible follow up blog post to “Locked Down Doesn’t Mean Locked In” on how to bring the outdoors closer to you, no matter of where you live.
1. Build a bird feeder. No matter of where you live, there are birds nearby! Why not reuse a plastic container or a milk carton for a DIY bird feeder? Wild bird such as chickadees, juncos, bluejays, woodpeckers, sparrows and even the coveted red cardinal will happily feast from a homemade bird feeder. You can also try making your own suet cakes or pinecone feeders using peanut butter, lard or pure meat fat (see this link for an easy DIY).
2. Check out that night sky. There is something so serene about getting outdoors in the winter at night. Take your family and go for a walk (safely!!!) in the dark. There’s something so magical about the way the snow sparkles in the dark and how the snow muffles the world (both under city lights or a starlit sky). Kids will have a blast playing with flashlights and if you’re lucky enough to find somewhere to see the stars, why not lay a blanket down and observe some constellations?
3. Go searching for tracks in the snow. A fresh snow provides a canvas for all the critters of the woods to document their story. Tracks from coyote and deer, mice, moles, turkeys and owls can all be found in the woods. Animal Tracks of Ontario by Ian Sheldon is a delightful and illustrative read full of information to help with ID’ing, or check out this awesome article from the Canadian Wildlife Federation to get you started. Have your kids document their findings in a nature journal and note the different eco systems and corresponding footprints. Once indoors, have your kids write stories or draw pictures of the animals who left their tracks behind.
4. Have an outdoor scavenger hunt. Even though there is a layer of snow on the ground, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of wonderful forest finds just waiting to be discovered. Hang on to your forest treasures to use for crafts or artwork or leave them for others to enjoy. Download and/or print off this scavenger hunt check list (below) and head outdoors to see what you can find!
5. Plant a mini indoor garden. Winter is by far my favourite season, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself longing for the warmth of planting season and getting my hands dirty. Why not bring outside in with a little indoor garden? Try reusing a water bottle or plastic container, fill with soil and place in your brightest window. No seeds? Scoop out a few sunflower seeds from your birdseed and see if you can get them to sprout. Kids will look forward to checking everyday for sprouts and the lesson of tending to the plants needs every day is a beautiful way to teach them to be nurturing and caring towards nature. Other ideas include: planting herbs for eating, an indoor bean planter, or an avocado tree.
6. Shovel a driveway. We all know someone who struggles with the burden of a heavy snowfall, so pick an unsuspecting neighbour (or stranger) and get their driveway cleared (especially that dreaded snow-packed part at the end). The pay off will be that ever-contagious feeling of doing good and knowing you are helping someone out!
7. Have an Ice Exploration Field Day. Kids are naturally attracted to the appeal of ice, so why not throw an ice themed exploration day? There is an abundance of ice crafts you can make when the outdoors is a large freezer. Try using your scavenger hunt finds in an ice sun catcher, such as this one from http://www.takethemoutside.com. Or use an ice cube tray or ice ball maker to make outdoor building blocks or bowling balls? Go on a hike to see what kind of ice formations your local shorelines, rivers, rock cuts and waterways form? Finish off the day with popsicles in the outdoors! And of course, never ever venture onto ice unless properly equipped and informed on ice conditions.
8. Play some summer games! Who says sports are for summer only? Bust out that net and try your hand at a game of epic winter badminton (swap out your birdie for a snowball if you’re up to the challenge), or why not see how well you can play soccer while bundled up in snow pants and boots? Guaranteed to get you belly-laughing and even a little competitive.
9. Plan a snow fort story time. A well built snow fort is one of the coziest things. Theres a certain hygge that comes with hunkering down in your little fort, out of sight (things we as adults forget to enjoy). Spend one day building the fort and the next bring out a few waterproof sleeping bags, a thermos of hot choccy and your favourite wintertime tales. Don’t have enough snow for a fort? Snow problemo! Why not try freezing some sheets and learning them against a fence or using a tarp to give you that cozy shelter vibe.
10. Build that snowman!! One of the most classic and simple wintertime activities won’t be forgotten in this blog! There is something so wholesome about getting on the ground and pushing that snowball around! Packing snow can easily be made by adding a little bit of water from a pitcher or watering can, although nothing beats waking up to a fresh snowfall of the good stuff. Switch it up by creating animals, using things like pine boughs for the wings of a bird or homemade snow paint to give Frosty that pop of colour! Don’t forget to take pictures so in the heat of the summer you can remember the memories made with your little snowy pal.
No matter where you live or how you’re choosing to spend the next couple of weeks, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting outside. It can be a lot of work if you have little ones, the layers of clothes, the “I’ve gotta go pee’s”, the never-ending pile of wet gloves and boots… But in these trying times, its important to keep our mental and physical health in check, and nature is the best medicine! I promise you will never, ever regret getting outdoors and connecting with nature.
If you DO plan on heading out, try to stay within your own region/town or district. Provincial parks, conservation areas and wild spaces all remain open for your enjoyment. But please, for the sake of others and varying COVID opinions, respect all users, remain socially distant at all times and wear a mask if and when 2m can’t be obtained.
Thats all for now, friends!