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6 Winter activities to do with your kids outdoors

When the light closes in and the chance of rainy and cold evenings and weekends goes up, there are many alternatives to reverting back to soft-play centres, indoor sports, or swimming pools. It's great to get as much light as possible during the winter months so the whole family can benefit from the fresh air, enjoying the smells of the countryside in the rain and gaining an appreciation of the seasons.

1. Outdoor Holidays.
  It may seem strange to consider this, but there are numerous toddler/young children specific holiday choices during the winter school-term, and if yours isn't attending then you have the chance to take a break right now. Plenty of work colleagues wouldn't have this time booked off, and whether you head for a cabin in the woods with a wood-burner, a holiday camp or a hotel in a city with unfamiliar puddles to jump in; take the opportunity and try it out. Perhaps it's time to take your three-year old to learn to ski if that is within your budget? What age do you think the Swiss or the Norwegians buy their kids their first set of skis?
2. Storm-Season weather-watching.  While your memories of heavy rain may be endless car-journeys gazing at droplets on the window while travelling to a cold caravan for half-term, inclement weather needn't be seen like this. With your all-in-one kids rain-gear, wellingtons and good hiking waterproofs for you why not head out somewhere by the sea, or in the hills for an exciting drive in the heaviest of rain. If you feel like getting out and roaring with your kids into the storm, go right ahead. Your kids will have great memories and appreciation of nature unlike anything else and may learn to not worry about the weather. Take with you some hot-chocolate for afterwards or enjoy a babyccino in a cafe in the warm when you are done.

3. Cycling.
  When there is less likelihood of meeting walkers, families and others who may usually only venture out in the sun, then cycling with a kid-seat, or them following you on their balance or pedal bike is a great option whatever the weather. Kids will usually ask to go out on their bike, and if getting them into their wet weather gear before even discussing the conditions is done then they are less likely to feel uncomfortable in the rain. Of course speaking about the rain with love and enthusiasm always helps. See how much water you can splash through on your nearest secluded cycle path or country park. It's a great opportunity to teach your kids about cleaning their bikes afterwards too and preventing rust.

4. Nature trails.  Whether you are foraging for the last of the autumn blackberries, enjoying a forest-school or toddler group, or making shelters in the woods then colder and wetter weather is a great opportunity and motivator to learning about keeping dry, well fed and warm. It may be time to teach them about camp-fires, keeping wood dry and how that after a storm the trees provide lots of new branches on the woodland floor to make den's and places to rest out of the rain. If you are following an organised trail in a country park why not spice it up with a made-up story as you do-so, or walk back home afterwards. Think of all the adventures that take place in the woods and the wilds and fire your kids imagination especially if they are tired or asking to be carried the rest of the way.

5. Long distance treks.
Whether your planned route will take you over an hour or two to walk or a day or two to walk, then you may need to think about how you will handle the logistics of carrying gear and your kids at the same time. I'll make a more detailed post about how to figure out what to take with you another time, but it's safe to say your buggy even if designed for off-road won't cut it if you are going to need real hiking boots to walk yourself. Try borrowing a well equipped backpack kids carrier, a simple or day-to-day sling or baby-carrier, or travel in larger family and with groups of friends who don't have kids so they can take a turn when they are tired.

6. Outdoor sports. What is better than playing a spontaneous game of football with too many players in the torrential rain? Football boots come into their own, and perhaps you can hold it on a beach whether there is just the family or if you can find more like-minded outdoor types to make a truly epic match. Watching outdoor sports is also a close second as although the fitness benefits isn't there it may inspire participation among your family. The benefits of a meat pie or discussing the result on the way home with a car-full of excited kids can't be undervalued.

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