5 Winter Outdoor Activities to do with your kids

January 29, 2020

For any regular readers of my blog it won’t come as a surprise that we just love being outdoors.  Having a large family life can be hectic and so we all need somewhere to let off steam and reset for a good balance of school, work and family life.  We find being outdoors helps our family life function better in terms of  health, sleep, bonding and having fun.  That said I know it can be hard in the cold and grey days of Winter to motivate the family to put down screens and get outdoors.  So I’m always thinking of activities to keep them all engaged and motivated even in the cold and this inspired me to get outside and do these 5 winter outdoor activities for kids.

These ideas are also great homeschool / forest school activities.  All of these activities develop children’s understanding of the world which is one of the early years foundation areas of learning and development.  I have also listed some of the other learning and development areas that these activities also achieve to assist home learners and childcare settings.

First off, I thought it helpful to highlight that all of these activities can be made to last a bit longer, especially to help with any children that may have a limited attention span.   It can be frustrating to get them all wrapped in many layers for them to announce they have finished the activity in under 5 minutes and want to go home.

So the best way to make the most of these 5 winter outdoor activities is by planning a walking route where you can do the activity part way through, collecting nature items along the way,  encourage tree / gate climbing and stopping part way through for a snack and a hot chocolate. We find with younger ones you can role play and communicate throughout the walk to keep them engaged. We regularly have walks that involve a bear or a gruffalo hunt.  I also have some inspiration on what is perfect for an Autumn/Winter picnic here.

Favourite Winter Outdoor Activities

Clay Tree Faces

A Winter outdoor activity of clay face sculptures in a tree

This first winter outdoor activity is perfect for the arty ones of the family.  It’s a great way to introduce sculpting without any mess in the house!   We purchased some inexpensive air drying clay which can be found at any well stocked craft shop or through *Amazon. For ease take a knife to cut the clay portions for each child.

Warm the clay up, by rolling into a ball in your hands which is great for fine motor skills. Spread a circle of clay onto the tree and press it firmly onto the bark, shaping out the clay face.  Using a stick you can mould out facial features and then decorate with natural materials that you have found on your walk. Let them be creative or even make some self portraits.   We plan to make a return visit to the area we made our clay faces to see what has happened to them.

EYFS – Physical development- fine motor skills.    Expressive arts and design – enjoys being creative.

Journey Sticks

This second Winter outdoor activity is perfect for budding collectors and storytellers. I’m a believer that every adventure and walk has a story to tell, especially when you’re adventuring with children. Gathering and hunting for nature on your walk is such a great way of documenting your journey, these sticks can often be referred to as nature sticks or storyteller sticks.

For younger children simply take out elastic bands or hair bobbles and for older children taking out string or wool and getting them to wrap bits of nature around the stick also keeps them busy whilst working on knot tying skills.

You simply gather up flowers, leaves, feathers acorns etc  along your walk and wrap them around your stick.  We found nibbled pine cones that we guessed may have been nibbled by badgers, a feather, winter berries and sheeps wool.

Some cardboard with nature stuck on it For really young children taking out a piece of cardboard with double sided sticky tape is an easier way to independently document their journey.

EYFS Physical development – fine motor skills. Communication and language.

For further nature ideas using sticks – see how to make Nature Paintbrushes 

Ice Play

A while yet outdoor activity, nature frozen into an ice sculpture

This third outdoor winter activity is one for an icy day. And is great for introducing younger children to STEM activities.  I looked ahead on the weather forecast for a sub zero start to the day.

The day before we had been for a walk and collected some nature to pop in our trays.  We placed two deepish Tupperware lids onto a tray and put the leaves and berries inside the lids.  I then let my son pour water into the lids using a jug.  Any water spills are contained in the tray and you can easily do the whole activity outside.

Pouring salt on top of ice

The following morning, after some patience we got to see if the water has iced over.  Fortunately our weather forecast was correct and we were left with two lovely nature ice sculptures.  We then extended this activity further to include experimenting melting the ice with salt and then breaking up the ice with tools.

EYFS -Mathematics – Pouring, capacity, recognising and recognising the passing of time. Physical development – fine motor skills.

Winter Bird Feeders

Cheerio bird feeder

Feeding the birds in winter is obviously important and one that you can discuss with your child first or read a bird book and chat about what birds you have found visiting your garden or a local woodland.

We found making this Cheerio bird feeder really fun for busy little fingers.  For this activity we used a pipe cleaner and some Cheerios.  Place a kink in the end of the pipe cleaner or a knot to stop the Cheerios falling off. Then your child is able to simply thread the Cheerios onto the pipe cleaner, perfecting those fine motor skills.  My two little ones really enjoyed this as a threading activity.  Such a simple homemade bird feeder to produce.

Not only were they able to practice fine motor skills but they also got to pinch a Cheerio or two along the way.  We found these feeders made a really pretty addition to the tree in our garden. This previous post also gives you some more easy ideas on making 5 easy bird feeders with kids.

Physical development – fine motor skills.  Understanding the world – nature Communication and language – listens and pays attention

Winter Scavenger Walk or Night Torch Walks.

When we’re needing to let off some steam at the weekend or they’ve been in school all day, it’s great before or after tea, when that witching hour is upon us to get wrapped up and go out exploring your neighbourhood in the dark with torches.  We have seen wildlife such as bats and cats on their night time prowl.  We also get to show them the the night sky and how the moon changes shape.This night explorer book from Nosy Crow is an excellent resource for this activity.

A nighttime explorer book for kids

My kids love a walk where they have to spot things, so they enjoy a scavenger Hunt.  I have made up this handy Winter Scavenger Hunt.  You can download your printable version by clicking here. 

winter scavenger Hunt pinterest pin

I hope that these activities have given you some outdoor play inspiration. I would love to hear how you get on trying these activities and if you have any go to outdoor ideas.

Here is some video footage of us enjoying these activities.

For Indoor Activities to do with your kids this Winter see our blog post
Winter Outdoor Play Activities for Kids

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