Thursday, December 13, 2012

Toddler Bootcamp - Operation Learn to LOVE snow!

Do you have a toddler or preschooler that doesn't exactly love snow, cold weather, or winter in general?  You aren't alone!  Say it with me - I.Am.Not.Alone.  As the leader of the Calgary Outdoor Playgroups, a year-round group dedicated to getting young'uns outside, I've seen my share of tantrums and tears this winter as our kids have had to reboot so to speak and remember what to do with all this white fluffy stuff.  We have snow here for a good 8 months of the year, but all it takes is 4 nice months without snow for a young child to completely forget how to deal with it, how to walk in it, and apparently how to stand up when you've fallen down and god forbid - touched it!!  That was my son's first experience this winter.  He fell down and wouldn't get up.  He wouldn't touch the snow to push himself to standing.  He would have stayed on his face in the snow all day had I not picked him up.  Then I tried to encourage him to climb up a slide - something  fun, right?  Oh no!  His hands were broken.  His legs didn't work.  He couldn't possibly climb up a simple set of stairs in snow pants, his feet touching the snowy steps, using his hands covered in mittens to hold on to the railing.  There was snow on the ground and he was NOT impressed.

Why is there SNOW on my swing?!!
Can I just sit here and pout until spring??

Most of the other children in our playgroups have adapted to winter slightly better than this, but we still had battles with cold hands and feet, and I wouldn't say the kids were exactly rolling around in the snow, laughing, and declaring - yay, winter!!  What to do?  Enter:  Bootcamp - Operation Learn to LOVE snow!  I knew I had to go big, go bold, and do something amazingly fun if I was  going to remind or teach a bunch of small children that winter could actually be FUN.  What followed next was a long research project on my part, reading every website I could find on outdoor winter games.  I also put my own creativity to use and created several new games that I'm pretty sure are original ideas unless somebody else out there is making their kids do burpies in the snow while reading story books to them.

Story Book Burpies (Original Game from Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)

Below are some of the most successful games we played in our two toddler bootcamps this winter.  I'd love to hear your favourites after so leave a comment if you've tried any of these or plan to try some of the new ones.

Having Fun in the Snow

Story book Burpies

A classic bootcamp "favourite!"  Children sit on the ground as you read them a story from a picture book about winter.  The book needs to feature the word snow a LOT.  Every time you read the word snow, the kids jump up in the air yelling SNOW!  They then fall down on the ground on their stomachs, and return to sitting as you continue the story. 

Objective:  Kids will be on the ground, in the snow, touching it, faces inches from it, and embracing  it.  They will also have to get up off the ground to play the game - good practice for times when they slip and fall down in the snow.  This game teaches them to get up when they fall down.  It teaches them that they can touch the snow and that yes, their hands are not broken!

Reading a book on SNOW to the kids as they prepare to jump up in the air.

Classic Children's Games

  •  Red Light Green Light - normal rules apply. For an extra challenge, play it on hands and knees
  • Simon Says - Simon says:  Make a snow angel.  Simon Says:  Jump up and down like a frog.  Simon Says:  Slither in the snow like a snake.  (lots of opportunities to get them intimate with the snowy ground)
  • What Time is it Mr. Wolf - I alter this game so instead of saying it's One O'clock, I say it's one giant bunny hop, two slithering snake moves, three frog hops, four baby crawls, etc.
Objective:  Get the kids having fun with games they already know and love.  My son had learned these games in preschool and was excited to play them outside, snow and all.  Thanks to Simon Says,  we now have a whole group of kids unafraid to get down in the snow, to crawl, slither, jump, roll, and play around in the snow!!  My son willingly makes snow angels now - even when not playing the game.  Then he gets up!  Hands most definitely not broken anymore.  And definitely not scared to touch the snow.

Simon Says:  Make a Snow Angel
Snow Babes

Snow Soccer

Everybody loves soccer so why not play it outside in the snow.  The twist?  I brought a big exercise ball out and that was our soccer ball.  The kids were falling down all over the place in the snow as they tried to kick and push it around the field.  It was awesome watching them fall down, get up, and laugh!  Actually laughing instead of crying.  We did discover though that with preschoolers, it's best to set up a giant circle and just take turns kicking or pushing the ball across the circle to the other children.  There were too many fights over the ball when we tried to make an actual game of it.

Objective:  Another fun game that will get the kids running through the snow and give them opportunities to practice falling and getting up again.

Snow Soccer with a Giant Fitness Ball

Sled Races

This was a fun one and gave the parents a bit of a bootcamp workout of their own!  We all brought sleds and had races pulling our kids up a small hill, around a tree, and then back down to the finish line.  The kids loved the game, had a blast racing down the hill against their friends, and the moms were all laughing!  Everybody had fun with this one.  My son even let another girl ride on his sled with him - major victory!  (this is where I'd hash tag #HatesToShareSled.)

Objective:  Fun.  Pure and simple fun.  Who doesn't love a good sled ride?  To modify the game for older kids, you could also have them pull each other or try to pull the adults.  I think that would be a riot to watch!

Sled Racing

Run, Run, Run
Learning to share his sled

Snowball fights

While not a part of our bootcamp, we did try this one day on another outdoor play date as a diversion from cross country skiing.  I thought preschoolers would get upset at getting hit by snowballs but the kids had a lot of fun trying to make snowballs and trying to aim them at their friends (or parents.)  We built little snow forts and it was a great way to get the kids down in the snow on their knees, crawling around, playing, and having fun.  As prep for this one, read books about snowball fights.  We did this a few times before we took it outside.

Objective:  Learning to play with snow, build with snow, and have fun with it.

Snowball Fights

Who doesn't love a good snowball fight?

We had a lot of fun learning to love snow with our children and I hope these games will be a hit with your children too, whether they already love snow or need a bit of encouragement as my child did.  I still have another 20+ games on my list that we hope to try out over the winter so watch for sequels to this post.  I've also been working on another list of ski, snowshoe, and skating games.  Watch for those games to find their way to my website soon too.   I've got a great story coming in the next couple weeks on DIY - Teach Your Child to Skate. 

Winter is Fun - Embrace It!

Happy Winter Everybody!


  1. We don't have snow in part of the world, but these ideas make me wish we did. Love your creativity. What a great mama! :-)

    1. Thanks Debi. I had two choices when I realized that for the second winter, my son was less than enthusiastic about the snow. It was either stay inside all winter and cry, or fight to turn him into a winter-lover. I'm a fighter and don't give up! :)

  2. Great ideas!
    This makes me want to have an outdoor kids party :)

    Do you have any ideas on keeping a barely walking baby-toddler happy outside while the bigger kids love playing in the snow. My girl has just learned how to walk but the winter gear just makes her unable to do much, grab things, get up... and frustrated - and the cold.

    1. That's always the challenge Hanna. We have plenty of younger siblings come out each week and the parents do struggle with entertaining them while playing with the older kids. They are able to join in sledding sometimes and otherwise, many of them spend playgroup in their chariots, sleds, or backpacks. I wish we had an outdoor playgroup just for that age but currently our leaders are all focusing on the toddler/preschool age more.

  3. GREAT ideas! I may have to use some of these! :) Thanks, Tanya!