Many people see the winter months as a time to curl up indoors by the fireplace and avoid the bitter cold. While this is a great way to relax, the arrival of snow doesn’t have to stop you and your family from fully enjoying your backyard. In fact, if you embrace this colder season, there are many fun opportunities to get some fresh air and spend quality time with your loved ones.
Not sure where to start? I have put together a list of my favorite winter backyard activities for all ages. Whether you’re looking to get out and be active for an afternoon or simply kick back and enjoy the beauty of the freshly fallen snow, I’ve got you covered!
Learn to Identify Animal Tracks
The arrival of fresh snow is a great educational opportunity for children everywhere. How so? It’s the perfect time to get out and learn about the wildlife in your area. Head out in your yard and search for animal tracks. Learn to identify which animals have been visiting based on their tracks and even learn more about each species.
What do they eat? How do they survive the winter cold? The greatest part about this is that it only takes a couple of inches of snow to clearly see what prints are being left behind, making it a great activity for the early winter before it gets too cold.
Build a Snowman (or Snow Family)
I can’t talk about my favorite outdoor winter activities without including the classic building of a snowman. Not only is this a fun activity for kids, but it’s also a great way to tap into their creativity and decorate the yard for the season. Dig out some of your older or unused accessories, including hats, scarves, glasses, and more, to add a little flair to your snow family, or stick with the decorations readily available for free in the yard around you.
There is no right or wrong way to do it! If you’re up for a challenge, why not try creating your family out of snow? If nothing else, the final result will be good for a laugh.
Enjoy a Winter Bonfire
Are you sensitive to cold temperatures? If so, spending time outdoors during the colder months may not be high on your list of fun things to do. What if you could enjoy some quality outdoor time while still staying warm and cozy? On the top of my winter bucket list, every year is to spend time with family and friends around a winter bonfire.
We often make mulled wine and cook our meal over the fire to add to the experience. However, the real magic comes from simply being outdoors and embracing the winter wonderland that surrounds you.
One word of caution, however. You may want to double-check your local bylaws to ensure that a standard firepit is allowed. If not, consider purchasing a propane firepit so that you can still enjoy the warmth and aesthetic of a backyard fire without getting into trouble.
Of course, a winter bonfire isn’t the same without roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. It is a fun activity that can easily be tweaked or customized to fit your needs. Gather during the holiday season and celebrate by the fireside, making s’mores with a festive peppermint twist, or pair more upscale s’more recipes with a bottle of wine for a romantic date night.
If the weather does take a turn for the worst, as it sometimes does during the cold winter months, you can still salvage your plans for the day. Simply shift gears to focus on some fun indoor activities with your loved ones and make your s’mores over your indoor fireplace or oven burner.
Create a Snow Maze
There are many fun activities for kids to consider, but let’s look at something a little outside the box. If you have a large enough fresh snowfall, why not take the opportunity to make a snow maze? The difficulty of your maze will depend on yard space and the age of those navigating their way through. However, even the making of the maze can be a fun activity for the whole family.
If you don’t have enough snow to create a maze that you can stand up and walk through, you can opt for a crawling maze instead. Your backyard space will be the biggest hit in the whole neighborhood as all local children come running to try their hand at finding their way through.
Learn How to Snowshoe
One of the most traditional outdoor activities that have been enjoyed by generations is snowshoeing. Experts believe that the use of snowshoes can be traced back over 10,000 years as a way of moving with ease through the snowy landscapes. For many, the art of using these simple yet effective tools has been lost, but it doesn’t have to be.
Today’s snowshoes are more comfortable and versatile than ever before, and they can be purchased at a relatively low price point. Start by learning to use your new snowshoes in the safety of your backyard. As you become more comfortable using them, you can graduate to local walking trails and bike paths. It will open the door to a whole new way of experiencing the beauty of nature.
Create a Backyard Skating Rink
Whether you enjoy ice skating for fun and recreation or prefer to channel your skating power into a hockey game with your closest friends, this is another activity that can easily be enjoyed in your backyard in many areas.
If you live in an area where the temperatures drop below freezing during the colder winter months, then you are in the ideal location for outdoor ice skating rinks. It can range from a simple DIY ice rink made by flooding a sheet of plastic to more elaborate outdoor rink kits with walls and bumpers.
Many close-knit neighborhoods will come together to build a community rink either on a public lot that is shared by everyone or in the yard of a willing homeowner. It is a great way to cut the costs associated with building a fancier or more upscale rink, as well as the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together.
Plan a Winter Photo Scavenger Hunt
Growing up, one of our favorite ways to pass time outdoors was through doing a quick makeshift scavenger hunt. Our parents would hand us a small bucket and a list of items to look for in the area. It is a little more challenging during the winter months. However, it can still be done.
You may still be able to plan a more traditional winter scavenger hunt if you live in an area with a variety of different trees or plant life that can be discovered, but it only takes a few inches of snow to make it difficult to find many of the items that would usually be included on a list.
Instead, why not plan a photo scavenger hunt? With cameras readily available on our smartphones and tablets, most people have access to an easy way to capture images. Make a list of different sights or items that they may find around your yard and send your kids out on the hunt.
You can add to the fun by requiring a selfie with each item or giving points for the most creative pictures. If you have a large group of people at a family gathering, split everyone into teams. Don’t forget to come up with some fun prizes to provide a little incentive and competition.
Build a Snow Fort
Few backyard winter activities are as widely known and loved as building a snow fort. It is one of the few activities for kids that simply never get old. Why? Every snow fort is different from the next, providing unlimited potential for creativity and imagination.
Whether you are interested in quickly building a basic snow fort to provide cover during a snowball fight or a more elaborate snow castle, the options are endless. The best part? All of your building materials are free and readily available, just waiting to create your personal fortress.
Go Winter Camping in the Backyard
If a snow castle isn’t quite your style, you may be more interested in spending your time outdoors after pitching your tent. The idea of winter camping can be intimidating to some, especially those that have never tried camping outside of the warmer summer months. The secret to a successful winter camping trip is preparation and the right gear.
Start by purchasing a 4-season tent designed for use during the cold months of winter. These tents are constructed with fewer windows and screened spaces. It allows them to retain heat for better sleep. Pair this with a high R-value sleeping pad and a sleeping bag that is rated for cold temperatures. You can take your winter camping experience to the next level by pairing it with a backyard bonfire, cooking your meals outdoors as if you are spending time at a campground.
Paint the Snow with Colored Water
Do you share your home with a budding artist? Fill a few water bottles with colored water, poking a hole in the cap, and let the kids paint your yard in a sea of color. They can try writing their name in the snow, painting creative pictures, creating fun designs, or even decorating for the holidays season. They may even want to make their unique colors by mixing food coloring and experimenting. It’s a great opportunity to teach the color wheel and the way that different colors interact with one another.
The best part? It is an activity for kids with very little clean-up. Outside of recycling your empty water bottles when everyone is finished, their colored water creations will simply wash away as the snow melts or be covered up with the next big snowfall.
Hang Birdfeeders for Your Winter Friends
We aren’t the only ones that are feeling the impact of the cold winter months. Local birds and wildlife are faced with colder temperatures and a greater challenge in their search for food. If you are interested in giving a helping hand to your local wildlife, try hanging some bird feeders around your yard.
You can purchase bird feeders at a relatively low cost at your local big box store or tap into your crafty side and make your own. Fill the feeder with a mixture of different seeds to ensure that there is something for everyone. If you’re also looking to feed your local squirrels or chipmunks, consider adding some peanuts to the mix.
Make Homemade Hot Cocoa
The autumn months may be the time of pumpkin spice, but winter is all about hot cocoa! You can take the easier route, picking up hot cocoa from your favorite local coffee shop or using an easy-to-make mix, but why not try your hand at making this sweet treat from scratch? Stick with the basic chocolatey recipe or add your twist with fun flavors and additions, including red wine, peppermint, espresso, or even peanut butter.
If you’re enjoying a winter bonfire, try your hand at making hot chocolate over the fire. Enjoy the heat of the mug on your hands as you hold it while the hot chocolate warms you up from the inside.
It is an option that may not work in all yards, but if you’re lucky enough to have a small hill or slope, that’s a sign! No winter is complete without pulling out your go-to sled, and who wouldn’t love the opportunity to go sledding without ever having to leave home.
No sled? No problem! There are many alternatives to enjoy your sledding adventure, including a lid off a large plastic tote, a baby pool, a laundry basket, or even a cookie sheet. Experiment with the options available and discover your solutions.
Build an Ice Castle
If you love building snow forts but are looking for something new, ice castles and structures are a fun challenge. Made from blocks and formations of ice, these creations generally last longer than those made by snow, giving you a good reason to put a little more time and energy into their construction.
When the outside temperatures have dropped low enough that the daily highs are below freezing, it’s the perfect time to get to work. To make your ice blocks, you can purchase commercial ice block molds or simply freeze water in any Tupperware-style container that you have available.
The number of different sized containers will determine your overall look, be it a uniform ‘brick wall’ or a more varied creation. To build your wall, simply spray water on the surface where you are looking to place your brick and then set it in place, allowing the water to freeze it in place.
The fun in building an ice castle comes in the decoration stage. The snow paint approach referenced above isn’t going to be as effective on an ice wall. However, you can add food coloring to your bricks before freezing to create a beautiful pop of color. Additional decorations can be made by using ice sculptures or even creating your frozen waterfall. The options are endless. Let your creativity loose, and you may surprise yourself.
Create a Winter Obstacle Course
Are you on the search for a fun way to encourage your children to be active at a time when many are hiding indoors enjoying screen time? Why not set up your own official ‘Family Outdoor Games’ by creating a winter obstacle course. Your course can include obstacles such as snow hurdles and balance bars made from a balanced board or add in some tasks required to move through to the next obstacle.
Ideas for tasks include throwing a snowball at a set target, making a snow angel, or pulling a weighted sled across the finish line. Make this an annual tradition, and you’ll have all the local neighborhood kids looking forward to the cold winter months!
Do A Winter Photoshoot
Most people focus on the higher energy items on their outdoor winter activities bucket list, like snowshoeing and building an elaborate ice castle. However, this is also a great time to memories that you are creating with your loved ones, memories that you can hold close for years to come.
One great way to do this is to plan a winter photo shoot with your favorite local photographer. You can stage your yard with elaborate props and decorations to create a winter wonderland scene. You can also make it look as you are enjoying a romantic sleigh ride or stick with a more simplistic backdrop with a few holiday lights and the natural beauty of the snow around you.
You can print and frame your holiday photos, hanging them around your house, or use these images to create personalized cards to celebrate the holiday season. Photo cards are a beautiful way to share the joy of the season with your family and friends.
No winter is complete without a good, old-fashioned snowball fight. It is one winter outdoor activity that may even convince your tech-obsessed child to step away from the video game and get outside. After all, who doesn’t love this seasonal favorite? Create a secure fort or snow wall to hide behind and load up on snowballs in your arsenal to prepare for battle.
You can speed up the snowball-making process and spare your hands by using a commercial snowball maker. Just be careful to only include snow, leaving the ice and rocks safely on the ground. After all, no one is interested in ending their snowball fight with a trip to the emergency room.
Make Snow Angels
No list of backyard winter activities is complete without including the making of snow angels! It is an easy and free activity that can be used to keep the kids busy for a short time or incorporated into your bigger winter plans. All you need is a few inches of snow.
You can take your snow angels to the next level by adding accessories and decorations, bringing life to your snowy design. Don’t forget to take pictures! As quick as they are to create, they are also quick to disappear again as fresh snowfalls, temperatures rise or wildlife tracks across your yard disturbing the snow.
Create Your Own Ice Sculptures
While most of the activities on this list are meant for entertaining families and children, this one is better suited for the adults among us. We have all seen the elaborate ice sculptures that decorate weddings, galas, and winter festivals, either in person or on television.
It is your opportunity to try your expertise and make an ice sculpture to decorate your yard. It can be done on a small scale using hand tools or go all out, pull out the chainsaw and tackle a large block of ice. With enough practice, you may find yourself being hired to craft your sculptures for local events.
Embrace the Fun and Joy this Winter Season
This winter, embrace the fun and enjoyment that the season brings. There are so many ways to get out and enjoy the weather, depending on your personal preferences. The key is to find activities that speak to the interests of your family.
Are you a high-energy family that likes to explore or a creative family interested in crafting whenever possible? Make this a season of quality time with friends and family and exploring new adventures together. You may just discover your new favorite hobby!
Are you a winter lover? If so, what activities do you most enjoy during this time of year? Did I miss anything important? If so, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below and inspire others.