Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Enjoying Shoulder Season in the Rockies - Get Creative!

I look out my window and see a sandbox full of snow, the sand buried somewhere underneath, and there's a toy lawn mower sitting on what was once visible grass a couple days ago. Welcome to fall in the Canadian Rockies where you can be riding your bike one day and sledding the next!  Despite the fact that we had a full week's notice that this recent storm was coming in, it's still obvious by the toys littering the backyard that we weren't entirely prepared for it.  How does one prepare for winter?  How do you adjust to the sudden drop in temperature that seems to scream at you to stay indoors and hibernate?!  Maybe you love winter like I do, but struggle with this in-between season when you can't skate, ski, snowshoe, or do anything fun yet.  These are just some of the questions and topics I hope to discuss over the next few weeks.  I don't profess to be an expert by any means but I have learned to find happiness in every season and I'd love to share the few lessons I've learned over the years.

You don't need much snow to go sledding

Lesson One - Get Creative with Games

When those first cold days arrive in autumn, it can be very hard to motivate yourself and the kids to get outside.  I know!  I wasn't outside all weekend for more than 2 minutes.  And while I don't feel guilty about that for one weekend, you eventually have to suck it up, pull out the winter clothes, and get creative about having fun outside.  Below are some of my favourite games that will transform a normal playground visit or hike into something a bit more magical.  These games and activities can be played all year long but will be especially helpful when it's winter and you want your children to play outside for more than five minutes.  My son played the ABC game below for over half an hour last winter when it was well below -25C. 

ABC Scavenger Hunt

Find the simple directions for this playground game by following the previous link on the title to a post I did early this spring.  All you'll need for the game is a set of foam bathtub letters. 

Lions, Tigers and Dinosaurs

Any hike or walk will be more interesting if you run down the trail roaring like a dinosaur, lion or tiger, flapping your wings like a dragon or a bird, hopping like a rabbit, or jumping like a frog.  If you have at least two or three children in your group they can chase after each other roaring, and laughing or even pretend to be the cars on a train with a loud chugga chugga choo-choo!

A summer game that's just as much fun in winter

Football, Singing, Car Races, Running and other Trail Games 

Follow the link to a post I wrote this summer called "Hike" is Not a Four Letter Word, featuring many of my favourite outdoor games for young children.  These games can be played year round and will definitely improve the mood of your crew the next time you go outside. 

Follow the Leader - great in any season

Lesson Two - Get Creative with Nature and the Elements

Paint a pumpkin, collect leaves for a collage, go on a photography scavenger hunt or make a bird house for the cold little birds left for the winter.  There are lots of ways to get creative with nature in any season.

Check out this fabulous post by our friends at Adventure Tykes, 10 Ways to Enjoy the Cooler Weather. Melissa has some really fun ideas that will help you blend nature, art, photography, and play.

For more ideas, check out the amazing resource we have here in Canada at the Active Kid's Club.  Kari has written 10 Outdoor Play Ideas for Winter and each one is wonderfully creative!  

How can you incorporate art into your outdoor play?

Plan a Halloween Hike!  

It doesn't matter if there's snow on the ground or not.  You'll still get adorable photos of your child running, jumping and climbing in an actual tiger costume.  Want to stay closer to home?  Dress up and head to the zoo!  The Calgary Zoo has an annual event called Boo at the Zoo where little ghouls and goblins can run around the zoo and participate in Halloween themed games while they're there.  The daytime event is included with your regular season's pass.  For more information on Boo at the Zoo follow the link to the Zoo's website. 

Tiger on the loose at the Zoo

Cookie Monster goes hiking

Learn to Like Rain and Snow

Jumping in puddles has to be the best shoulder season activity out there!  In autumn puddles will freeze over making morning walks even more fun as you try to crack the ice without sinking ankle deep in to the freezing cold water.  Feeling brave?  Take a bike ride (when it's not icy) and see how many puddles you can ride through.  For other creative ideas visit the Active Kid's Club again for their 10 Fun Rainy Day Activities.

A rainy bike ride with lots of puddles!
Can you believe my son's feet were dry at the end of this?

Meanwhile, snow is easy!  Make a snowman, go sledding (even if there's grass poking through the sow), make a snow tunnel, dig in the snow with sand toys, have a snow ball fight, play snow tag, or make a snow angel.  Kids are usually more excited than you will be when that first snowfall hits so grab your thermos filled with hot chocolate and get out there.  Your children likely won't even notice the cold. 

First snow fall this season in Calgary

The best snow tunnel ever!

Have a favourite game or activity that you love when the temperature drops?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  


  1. We don't get snow here in Los Angeles, but my boys do look forward to rainy days. We're anxious to host our first snail race of the season. :-)