So here are a few things you might consider doing outside this winter.
1. Put up a bird feeder and, better yet, add a wildlife cam. See the wonders of nature up close, through the eyes of children and the camera lens. Make it fun by keeping a diary of all the birds and animals you see. Maybe start a scrap booking project, where you encourage the kids to either draw the animals they see or find a picture of each one and glue it in the book, and add a fun fact about each. Maybe you can help them download a photo from the animal cam and use that in their scrapbook?
2. Build a snow castle or fort. It can be as big or as little as you like, as fancy or as plain as you want, but make sure it’s safe and won’t collapse on them. Help them design and build it, but let their own creativity lead, you might be surprised how great their ideas are! Making ones with open tops are much safer than ones with roofs.
Build a slide from the top of the fort out onto the lawn, by spraying the slide with water. If you have some leftover cardboard lying around, use that to make the slide or add features to the fort, won’t that be fun?
3. And while you’re building snow forts, maybe add a snow sculpture, like a deer, a rabbit, a frog or a bird made out of snow. This will teach kids about art and nature at the same time. Encourage them to make the feature as scientifically accurate as possible. Make it last even longer by freezing it with some water after it’s completed.
4. Make snow bubbles: Every kid has a bottle of bubble making fluid. Go outside and blow bubbles. They’ll freeze solid in no time if it’s cold enough, and can be picked up and studied. See how the light changes as you look through them at different angles!
5. Visit an Animal Shelter or, better yet, volunteer to walk a dog when you’re there. Do this for a day, a week or all year. The animals will love it and you’ll be helping the staff, animals and your kids immensely. But be careful puppies can be addictive!
6. Visit a nature exhibit at a local museum, or go to an aquarium or zoo. While you’re there, try to learn something about each animal you see. Take notes in your diary (see #1 above) and learn even more when you get home.
7. Take a nature hike. Collect pine cones, twigs and sticks, and learn how they look in comparison to what they look like in other seasons, and then use them to make crafts later on. Maybe you will find a used bird nest as they’re much easier to spot at this time of year. It’s okay to bring it home and then try to identify what bird made it and learn something about that bird.
8. Study animal tracks in the snow and see if you can figure out what made them. Was it a mouse, rabbit, squirrel, deer, or something even more exciting? Learn something about each animal you identify.
9. Help others. Volunteer to help kids learn something about nature or give a talk to a local nature club, Beavers, Scouts, Girl Guides, etc., if you have the expertise. Make sure you take your kids along so they can learn and share the adventure with you.
10. Go on an outing with North Durham Nature and learn from the experts about birds, mammals, insects, plants and so much more. (www.northdurhamnature.com)
So there you have it. Make this winter the best ever for you, your kids and your grandkids!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.