Family life

6 things to do outdoors with your kids

With only a few days left until school starts up again, Jennifer Pinarski and her kids are making the most of the wintery weather.

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Isaac heads out on his snowshoes. Photo: Jen Pinarski

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

The winter break has flown by! Between Christmas and New Years — and celebrating my son’s seventh birthday — our winter breaks always seem to pass quickly. And this year even moreso. (I’m learning that time really does speed up the older you get. I think even just saying that makes me old.)

With only a few days left of winter break, and despite the recent temperature drop, I’m determined to spend as much time outside as possible. Our family isn’t immune to cabin fever, and a good romp in the outdoors seems to cure sour moods every single time. Unless you’re in Winnipeg, where apparently it’s colder than Mars, you should really try and soak up some vitamin D.

Read more: 50 essential winter activities >

Here are six free outside activities you should do with your kids before school starts next week.

Build a snow fort
This is always the first thing I do with my kids each winter. This year we’ve had enough snow to make a fort big enough for them to put their Muskoka chairs in, which they love. We’ve also built a quinzee, which has the advantage of not needing sticky snow in order to be built.

Have a snowball fight
This year my kids teamed up against me for an epic snowball fight, which also included stealing all my snowballs. I never had a chance.

Go tobogganing
The worst thing about taking young children tobogganing is that usually, after two runs, they’re tired of pulling their sleds up the hill. That means either quitting or pulling the sled for them. On the flip side, young kids don’t care how big the hill is (especially if they’re my Praire-born kids and hills are a novelty). For example, the construction crew left behind a small pile of fill when they built our house. My kids think this hill is the greatest thing ever, and they will slide down and pull up their own sleds for an hour.

Go skating on an outdoor rink
Sure, you can find a rink with artificial ice and heated change rooms, but nothing beats skating on a homemade backyard rink. We’ve been lucky enough this winter to spend hours skating with friends on the most adorable backyard rink ever — complete with benches, lights and painted boards. Despite my aversion to hockey, Isaac seems to be handling a puck well.

Go snowshoeing
I fell in love with snowshoeing last winter when I took a break from running, and it’s worn off on the kids. They think it’s cool to be able to walk on top of the snow, which makes hiking and outdoor exploring easier and more fun.

Track animals
Last week in our yard, my daughter and I found chipmunk tracks and followed them all the way to their burrow — just as one scurried past us with its cheeks full of seeds! We’ve also found tracks for wild turkey, deer, rabbit, moose, our dog and some other critter that lives near our river. The beauty of tracking animals in the winter is that you can tell your kids that, if they’re quiet enough, they might spot an animal. Living in an area with lots of wildlife means that we often come across scat, which my kids find equally fascinating, funny and gross.

Have you spent a lot of time outside so far this winter? Tell me what you’re doing @jenpinarski.