Simple and cost free tips and ideas for playing outdoors with the kids this midwinter.
After a year of huge difficulty and uncertainty, when children lost the freedom to simply see friends, play outside and have fun, there are good reasons to hang on to that freedom now in winter. The cold and the dark are a challenge of course, but they don’t have to keep you indoors. And there’s a lot to be said for simpler, more outdoorsy winter play that doesn’t cost anything.
Here are a few suggestions and practical tips we’ve gathered in that make a big difference to hanging around outside.
Being warm and dry makes a HUGE difference to how long you can stay outside and how much you enjoy it. You don’t have to buy more kit – just layer up as much as you can and be inventive (socks for gloves anyone?!). Adults tend to stand around more than children, so chances are you’ll need the most layers. And hats do seem to make a big difference.
Keep moving, play games
As we know, being active generates heat, and outdoor games are a great way to get you moving. Most can even be played with just one adult, one child. You know the classics – tig/tag, hide and seek, chase. But we also love the different local games, names and versions of things. A good Nottingham one was always Dobby Off Ground: you can’t be caught ‘out’ if your feet aren’t touching the ground. Really good in playgrounds or where there are bits of wood or drains or anything that is not pavement to stand on. Tell us your favourites!
Take snacks/hot drinks
It’s a pretty good feeling being the one to get out the hidden hot chocolate flask, or whatever hot drink and snacks you favour. Just at the right moment when everyone is cold and fed up. It can give an extra burst of play, and it’s very nice for adults too as you stand and chat.
Go for a Christmas wander…
Most years, we only see lights and decorations in flats and houses near to us as we rush past on the way somewhere. But why not go for a walk at dusk or early evening just to look at the beautiful things people have put up? Maybe take a different route each time and see what you can spot. Last year it felt like there was extra special effort, in the midst of huge restrictions, a bit like the rainbow movement. How will it be this year?
These are a more community organised version of the above, where residents in a street or block of flats have decided to light their windows in a special way to passers-by and promote the trail to the whole community. See the St Alban’s Festive Trail organised by residents, Living Advent Calendars like this one in Cambridge last year or browse other ideas on the Window Wanderland website. If you’re lucky, you might have one near you to visit. Or it could give you ideas for other things to do over the holidays.
Hunt winter greenery
Children often like hunting or spotting things, so if you can get to a green space, launch a search for evergreen leaves or other midwinter treasures to take home (small bits we mean!). Holly with berries? Ivy? Laurel? Pinecones? You can make them into decorations back home and enjoy a bit of nature inside during the dark nights.
When you’re not outside, or can’t be for any reason, you could have fun decorating your own window with pictures, snowflakes, messages, lights or coloured paper. All these can give pleasure or hope to those passing by outside at the coldest, darkest time of year.
And worth remembering: December 21, the winter solstice, is the shortest day of the year. From then on, there is a shift and these darker days slowly start to get lighter and longer again. We won’t feel it for quite a while, but it’s happening…and playing outside in the warm and the light will be back.