It can be just as hard to be active outdoors in gross weather as it is to stick to your diet goals during the holidays. The great news is that Gore-Tex has now been invented, and warm inner layers are far more stylish than the long-johns of old. Living in the Pacific Northwest, my family is very lucky to have hiking and ski hills at our doorstep, but getting outside still takes motivation when the weather isn’t co-operating.
I’ve been part of a four-phase outdoor activity experiment with Nature Valley. They have been encouraging Canadian families to rediscover nature; to step away from their screens and create childhood memories outside. It’s a perfect partnership, because UrbanMommies is also dedicated to making the outdoors a bigger part of childhood – to give kids a chance to use their imaginations, get dirty, feel the grass in their toes and wind through their hair—to enjoy time outside, just like mom and dad, grandpa and grandma.
But it’s cold out. And wet. Dark. And slippery. Don’t worry – I get it, and it takes an extra push to create those winter memories.
Here are our tips for braving the elements and coming up with a few motivators to stay active as a family and ensure your active memories don’t just happen in the summer months.
- Love Your Gear. Whether it’s ‘scratchy’ labels that throw the kids into a fit before a tobogganing expedition or the ‘water resistant’ jacket that should have newer earned that designation, be happy with your gear. It doesn’t have to be expensive – just well chosen. Companies like MEC have exchanges, and often you can pick up next year’s snow pants on sale after the season ends. Giving the kids a choice has been a huge hit for me, as has been shopping on ebay for rain gear. My inner layers from Icebreaker last wash after wash, and have now been handed down to the older son.
- Think outside the sports. Many proper sports require tons of equipment, cash or planning, but this needn’t restrict your outdoor adventures. I’ve had picnics in the rain that were far more satisfying than on the perfect beach day. Rain suits while doing spring garden prep or snow suits while building ice castles stimulate the creativity in the kids, and give you an excuse to make crockpot hot chocolate afterwards.
- Spend Wisely. In Canada, we receive a tax credit for kids’ sports, and the Canadian Ski Council offers a grade 4 and 5 snow pass that enables kids to ski inexpensively.
- Revisit the bucket list. I’ve always wanted to fish well, and didn’t think my dream could come true during the frosty winter months. But then I went ice fishing, caught my first trout and there’s no turning back! (Plus have you ever used a HUGE drill?..) What other traditional summer activities can be flipped on their head?
- Make it routine. For the past five years our kids have been enrolled in winter ski club for 14 weeks straight. Every year. Along with the ‘I hate those socks!! My helmet is tight!’ protests every single week. I can’t lie – the first weeks were hard and we almost gave up. But now there is a true routine, and just like Barack Obama and Steve Jobs wearing the same outfit daily to save time and thought, we’ve got a habit. There is no searching for gear, because we bring it home, wash it and put it back in the same bag. There’s rarely a thought to not showing up, because it’s scheduled.
- Keep the Memories. Sure, one of the main reasons for this initiative is to get the kids away from their technology, but we all know that it’s not fully realistic to go cold-turkey. So use the inclement weather to your advantage. Invest in a GoPro and snap a Lifeproof case onto your iPad and take the photos and movies you never get in the summer. Make a film! Bring the outdoors in and teach a few tech skills while you’re at it. (Also, the grandparents’ Christmas present is now complete…).
- Be safe. I mentioned that it’s dark – almost when the kids come home from school the dusk is nearing. Again back to gear – the headlamp is a favourite of my kids, and giving them mini-snowshoes or heavy-duty boots to mitigate danger can be a novelty. The other day we had a power outage during a playdate. I gave all of the kids headlamps and made them collect sticks around the property and then asked them to build me a fire… as you can see from the photo above, they were very productive. The mom later reported that it was her child’s best playdate EVER. Next time I’ll come up with an excuse to get them to rub my feet!
However you get motivated, remember that family memories are created every month of the year, and winter is no time to avoid our beautiful natural treasures.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored campaign through Nature Valley, who is taking a stand, encouraging Canadian families to #RediscoverNature.