It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is definitely the hardest time of the year to get outside for my family. Children eager to hike in other seasons turn into curmudgeons at the very mention of going outside, even if the sun is shining. Whining commences and no one moves no matter how enthusiastic I force myself to sound. I weigh how much energy it will take to rally against resistance and then get three children and myself dressed in cold weather gear and out the door, and I give up more often than I’d like to admit. I know I won’t regret it once we’re out there, but still, it’s just hard to get motivated some seasons.

Anyone else in the same boat?

This is the time I like to grab Rebecca Cohen’s book “15 Minutes Outside” for inspiration. Sometimes all we need is variety, a mission or something that sounds more fun than “Let’s walk” to rally the troops and get them moving when it’s cold and gray. I appreciate her creative ideas for getting outside in the heart of winter when I’m at a loss, because while 15 minutes doesn’t sound like much, it can still be just enough.

Ideas for Getting Outside in the Winter

517nfff168l-_sx309_bo1204203200_Here are some of Cohen’s simple yet fun ideas to get out of the house and connect with your kids.

Have a sunrise breakfast

Grab a blanket, bundle the family up and head to the yard for an early morning picnic. The fare should be hot and filling, such as warm muffins, oatmeal, hot chocolate or tea.

Go on a scavenger hunt

Give the kids some magazines and have them cut out five things they think they could find outside this time of year. Glue the pictures into a list, then send them out searching. Check off items as you find them, or take a picture of them, as to leave the nature items in nature.


Early sunsets make stargazing an option for even the littlest family members. If no stars are visible, saving a family walk for after dark can be exotic enough to entice them out – especially with flashlights or glowsticks!

Create with pinecones

If your kids love crafts, then give them a mission. The purpose of this walk is to find and collect different kinds of pinecones. Bring your finds inside and use them to decorate with, make pine cone critters, make a mobile, or dip them in paint to make interesting art designs. (Just make sure to follow Leave No Trace guidelines and collect pinecones from your yard, etc.)

Related: 4 Easy Winter Crafts for Kids

Play tag

Here’s a chance to get crazy with your kids and eliminate time for thinking about whether you really want to go outside or not. Shout “Let’s play tag!” and race for the door, seeing how fast everyone can get outdoors and start chasing each other around the yard.

Set up an indoor campsite

When all else fails, and the day is really just too crummy, bring the outside in. Make a tent out of blankets or set up your own, make a campfire with blocks, and bring in microwave S’mores (put the assembled S’mores in for 10 seconds on high). Talk about places you’d like to camp next summer, or bring out the photos and relive a trip from the previous one.

Need more inspiration? Check out all 365 ideas in “15 Minutes Outside.”

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What are your tips for getting outside with your kids in the winter? Leave a comment or question below!


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