Monday, April 11, 2011

Getting Your 15 Minutes Outside in Cold Weather

This post is part of “Your Green Hour Survival Guide,” a series which I hope will provide inspiration to make getting outside every day a habit.

Last month I asked fans of Go Explore Nature’s Facebook page to share their biggest challenge to getting outside 15 minutes a day. The most common response by far was the weather – cold weather, to be precise.

Since spring still hasn’t really sprung for a lot of you, I decided to enlist the help of some true experts in this area to respond. These fellow bloggers and moms live in colder climates (including Alaska) and still manage to get outside with their kiddos every day. Let’s find out how.

Before You Head Outside


The most important and best advice I can give people about embracing the cold is to make sure you have the right clothing on both the children and adults. Like we say at, “No bad weather, only bad clothing.” Keeping warm and dry from the elements is easy as long as you dress in layers and look for waterproof and lightweight clothing. For some specifics, check out these posts:
From AKontheGO

Dress in layers. Do not skimp on gear. We've learned to invest in good gear for good times.
  • Base: Smartwool, polypro, etc. (NO cotton). Breathable fabrics wick moisture away from skin, protecting from chill.
  • Mid: fleece pants/top.
  • Top: Windproof/waterproof snowsuit, parka/pants combo. The key is to not have gaps where cold air/snow can get in and make kids cold.
  • Hat with ear coverings.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves.
  • Socks: Smartwool has great socks for kids, not too thick, either. We put "Little Hotties" handwarmers inside mittens and boots, too.
  • Boots: Bogs are our fave; waterproof and warm, down to -40. Yep.
  • Face: We add goggles to keep eyes from watering and the face covered. Balaclava is nice too, and an extra head layer.
Hiking in the forest around Anchorage on a -15 F day.
Photo by Erin Kirkland, AKontheGo
From Backyard Mama

Keep yourself warm, too. I just can't really have fun when I am shivering and uncomfortable. My son loves going outside no matter the weather. He has played through rainstorms, snowstorms even ice storms, but enjoys it because he’s warm and likes his outdoor clothing. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself!

I try to choose clothes that are comfortable and stylish – because my enthusiasm, excitement and enjoyment of our outside time directly affects the attitude of the children in my care.

From Your Wild Child

Keep gear accessible. We keep our gear – hats, mittens, jackets, snow pants and boots – by the front door so we always know where it is and it is easy to get into and get out.

From Greening Sam & Avery

Make putting on gear a game. If your kids are little, give them each an item and let them take the time to try and put it all on themselves (you can read a blog or two while you wait!). With older kids, you can quickly hide their gear around the house to make putting it on a race or adventure; after they find an item they have to get it on and be the first one back with all their gear on. 

Set small goals. Don't expect to spend your whole afternoon outside or to get hours of outside time during the winter. Focus on spending just 15 minutes outside. The fresh air will be great for everybody.

What to Do Outside

From AKontheGO 

Keep moving. If sledding, make sure the kids have some walking time to warm up and keep blood moving. Do dances, ski, sled, make a snow fort, anything to keep everyone engaged and forgetting about the fact that it is cold outside!

From Greening Sam & Avery

Have activities planned. Things that are simple, like building a snowman, digging a tunnel in the snow, painting snow, blowing frozen bubbles or doing something more involved like finding a trail to track animals, exploring where animals might hide to stay warm, challenging your kids to find places where there is no snow.

And if your weather is just cold with no snow, one thing that made those times more exciting for us was taking inside toys outside! Bring the wooden blocks, cars, animals, barn or train out onto a deck or patio. Playing with toys in a new setting might be just the motivation your kids need to put on all the cold weather gear.

From fellow Nature Rocks Ambassador Angela
  • When it snows, make snow angels, snowmen, snow tunnels, go sledding and snow painting with a colored water bottles.
  • Use a magnifying glass to look at snowflakes or nearby dirt.
  • Take a short walk around the neighborhood to see what animals you can spot.
  • Gather weathered pine cones, acorns, sticks and rocks. Then make a craft with collected items. It's amazing how much stuff kids can gather even during the cold winter months.
  • Winter is a great time to study about animal scat and tracks; a great opportunity for them to play "nature detective" and figure out what animal did what.
Plus a few more fun winter outdoors ideas from

Reward Your Efforts

From AKontheGO

Have warm drinks and food available, even if outside for just a little while. Our kids do better when they are full and warm from the inside out.

(And here’s a recipe for hot chocolate you might like.)

Thanks to all the awesome contributors whom I hope inspire you to head outside no matter what the temperature!


  1. What a great list of tips. So glad we are past the cold weather (keeping my fingers crossed for no fluke snow storm in April or MAY!).
    Thanks so much for including me in this! I feel honored to be among these other educators and mamas.

  2. that is a great list book marking it for next winter. we love to blow frozen bubbles

  3. @Abbie: Thanks for sharing your ideas. Here's to warmer days ahead!

    @nature trails and tails: Frozen bubbles sound fun to me, too!


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