Sure, it’s getting a bit colder lately – but that’s no excuse for avoiding the outdoors this winter. Staying indoors deprives us of fresh air and vitamin D from natural sunlight. Not to mention exercise and de-stressing interactions with nature. Even if you have small children, you and your family can make time outside cheerful despite the chilly air. Here are some tips and activities for enjoying your time outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
• Dress in warm layers: As they say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing choices.” Multiple loose layers of clothing help the body stay dry and warm. Add accessories like hats, scarves, and gloves then finish up with an appropriate coat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing children with one more layer of clothing than adults would wear for the same weather conditions.
Wear shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty along with some wool socks. Add a glove liner or a hand warmer to keep hands nice and toasty. If it’s raining take an umbrella or wear a raincoat too. As an added safety measure use, brightly colored clothing which can keep children visible from a distance. Apply sunscreen to protect exposed skin from sunlight, and snow glare.
• Pack some snacks: No matter how long you’ll be outside, it’s always smart to take a bottle of water and a snack with you. While your body may not feel like it’s sweating because of the cool air, you still need to stay hydrated. Be sure to drink up to keep your hydration and energy levels up. Snacks like a granola bar or small apple are especially helpful for children in the group who may get tired sooner than adults.
• Keep moving: Staying active and moving while you’re outside will help keep you warm. A short walk around the neighborhood or a visit to a local hiking trail or park are simple inexpensive ways to stay fit. Visit the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department website at www.mydprd.com or call 706-278-5404 to find a park near you. On their website choose Activities then, Walking Trails to see a list of parks with the length of walking trails. For example, Mount Rachel has a 1.6-mile trail.
• Observe wildlife: It easy to forget that we share our backyard with many birds, insects, and mammals. Next time you're outdoors put your observation skills to the test as you look for signs of wildlife. Look for bird or squirrel nests, do some bird watching, identify animal tracks, and look for elusive rabbits. Record your observations by taking photos with your smartphone or drawing in a nature journal. You can even contribute your sightings to citizen science websites like www.ebird.org, or add them to apps like Bird Journal.
• Go on a scavenger hunt: This is a fun activity that can make walks outside more cheerful while involving the whole family. To get started, make a scavenger hunt list that includes several senses and can be done in your backyard or at your favorite park.
For example, things to see would include an evergreen tree, a pinecone, a feather, a plant with berries, an insect, buds on trees, and animal tracks. Things to hear: a bird chirping. Things to feel: a smooth rock, something wet, a tree with rough bark. Along with natural elements, add other items like benches, water fountains, and bicycles.
It may be easier for younger children, like toddlers, to do a “color hunt” instead of a full scavenger hunt. Having them identify the color green, red, yellow, etc. in the world around them will help increase their observation skills too.
• Have a picnic: Pack a basket full of warm foods to enjoy outside like hot chocolate, apple cider, chili in a thermos, and toasted sandwiches or cookies wrapped in aluminum foil straight out of the oven to keep them warm. Enjoy your picnic sitting on blankets or cushions laid out on the ground during a non-rainy winter day.
Don’t forget to take a small trash bag to collect all your trash and leave no trace. Bonus points if you pick up litter left behind by someone else. Litter free outdoor spaces are more enjoyable to people and animals alike.