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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 12/27/2011

Staying — and playing — outdoors through winter


Children sled down a hill at the Lee Jordan Athletic Field in Takoma Park. (Sarah L. Voisin - The Washington Post)
Winter break is, in theory, a wonderful time to spend with family. In reality, especially for families who are not traveling, it can be an excruciating week of trying to find things to do for house-bound kids.

It’s also the transition between the hectic event-filled holiday season and The Rest Of Winter.

These long weeks of cold, sometimes messy and often dreary weather stretch longer when active kids are involved.

But we don’t all have to live in uncomfortable hibernation, Kerala Taylor argues. Taylor is a blogger for KaBOOM, the D.C.-based advocacy group that works to build playgrounds and encourage play. She writes frequently about thinking more broadly about what play is and where and when it can be found.

Below, she provides her top five tips to keep kids outdoors and having fun through the next few months:

1. Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Think kids can’t handle cold weather? Apparently some schools in the region do, keeping students indoors for recess at mild temperatures of 35 to 40 degrees.

One Minnesota elementary school principal told USA Today that his policy is, “if it’s 15 below (or warmer), they go out, no matter what... At 20 below, it gets iffy.”

Bundle up, and get outside.

2. Hold a block party.

It’s tough to get your kids outside when all the other kids in the neighborhood are holed up in front of the TV, so use a block party as an excuse to lure nearby families out of their homes. (Free Range Kids posted a story on one such party in February — in MINNESOTA --here.)

Tempt them with the wafting aromas of chili and hot chocolate and the delighted squeals of playing children.

3. Build a fort.

Kids love an outdoor hide-out, and you don’t need nails or construction skills to build one. Kids can build their own with whatever “loose parts” on hand: tablecloths, shower curtains, cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, newspapers.

The best part? The structure isn’t permanent so they can keep themselves busy destroying and rebuilding it over and over again.

4. Freeze things.

Use the weather to explore the properties of matter with your kids and get artistic while you’re at it. Lay out cookie cutters on a baking sheet and fill them with water to create ice sculptures. (See some examples at ActiveKidsClub.com.)

Or, fill a balloon with water, freeze it halfway, puncture it and pour out the water inside. Stick a candle inside when night falls and you’ve got yourself a lantern.

5. Play with fire.

Fire helps stave off cold and darkness, two elements that can bring on the wintertime blues. If space in your backyard permits, teach your kids how to safely build and feed a fire. It’s an amazingly simple way to keep your family entertained outdoors for hours after dusk.

Plus, you can turn winter walks in the park into “treasure hunts” for kindling.

— From Kerala Taylor of KaBOOM

Any other ideas for winter outdoor play?

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 12/27/2011

Tags:  winter play, kids and outdoors

 
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