Updated: Jun 9, 2021
Tobogganing is a great way to get outside, and have some fun with your kids on the hills.
No sled...no problem! There are so many ways to make your own sled on the cheap, like making one with cardboard, a garbage bag and duck tape, or repurpose something from your home to use as a sled like a garbage pail lid (which is exactly what we did haha). I have even heard of people using cookie trays, pool toys, shower curtains, tarps, etc. And depending on the speed of the hill, sleds may not even be necessary. Just be sure to wear your safety gear, and avoid any and all obstacles on your journey downhill.
2. Build a Snow Person, Build a Snow Fort and/or Have a Snow Ball Fight
We have had so much snow fall that we have had lots of opportunities to build snow people, and even a snow shelter. To make our snow shelter we simply used old shoe boxes to make "bricks". We filled the shoeboxes with packing snow, popped the snow "bricks" out and layered them just like a brick layer would. And before long we had the perfect little snow shelter.
We created a snow person from sticks found on our property, ferns for its hair, stones for its buttons and of course a carrot nose from the fridge.
3. Go for a Nature Hike
Nothing is better than hiking in the winter. It is a fun time for us to create a winter nature scavenger hunt, or to take time to seek out animal tracks in the snow and listen for animal sounds in the woods. We often spend time on our hikes collecting items from nature that we can bring back home with us to experiment with (more about this in the "Experiment with Water and Ice" #5). And nothing is better than exercise, nature and fresh air to de-stress.
4. Paint in the Snow
One of our favourite winter activities is to grab a bunch of glass spray bottles, fill them with water and natural food colouring (we use Color Garden Pure Natural Food Colour) and turn the snow into all sorts of rainbow colours. We spend time looking at how when two colours spread together, what colours they make. It is fun and learning all combined into one activity.
5. Experiment with Water and Ice
We have grabbed a bunch of our paper plates and cups, nature items we have found on our hikes and water to make several outdoor experiments. We have created ice lanterns, ice wreaths, ice suncatchers, rainbow coloured ice cubes and more! We have timed how long it takes for ice to freeze, as well as how long it melts with warm water and heat.
To create an ice lantern, all you need are two paper cups or containers - one just has to be smaller than the other, water, and nature items if you would like. Place the smaller cup inside the large cup and pour the water in-between the two cups (you can add decorative nature items to water if you would like). Leave the cups outside until frozen. Once frozen, remove cups, and voila you have your lantern. We used a small soy tea light to light the lantern, and timed how long it took to melt. It was surprisingly longer than we had expected.
6. Make Bird Feeders
There are so many great ideas out there on how to make your own bird feeders. We used large pinecones that we collected from our yard (you could even use toilet paper rolls instead of pinecones), dipped them in organic natural peanut butter (you could use suet too), then we dipped them in an all breed bird seed and hung them with string.
We have also tried using fallen branches to make bird feeders, but this one requires a drill. We used a fallen branch that was approximately 1-2 feet long and 4-6 inches in diameter. Using a large drill bit, we drilled holes every inch or two along the length of the branch. We then filled the holes with a mixture of peanut butter and bird seed, and hung it for our feathery friends to enjoy.
7. Track the Winter Birds
Bird feeders bring birds, so we decided to find a way to track the winter birds that were visiting us. We found this amazing bird identification app called Picture Bird: Bird Identifier that we downloaded to help us determine what different species of birds were visiting us, and munching on our DIY bird feeders. We also found this handy little "Bird Tally" created by the CBC on the Wye Marsh website, that was super fun to do over the holidays, but which could really be done at any time! (The Wye Marsh has many other amazing outdoor activity ideas and resources too).
8. Cook Around the Bonfire
A long day of outdoor play requires fuel. One of our favourite things to do is to build a bonfire, or start a fire in our outdoor wood burning stove, so that we can cook over it. We have made everything from chilli to soups to pizzas, and so much more. But our favourite treat is to cook bannock. I learned how to make bannock as a kid camping, so I am so excited to be able to share the recipe with our little girl, and to you!
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cold butter (you can use vegan butter)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 reusable/sealable freezer bag
Clean sticks for roasting over the fire
Add all ingredients to the bag, except the water. Seal, shake and squish the bag around mixing all of the ingredients, until the butter appears crumbly.
Store in cool temperature, either fridge, outdoors or in cooler.
When you are ready to make bannock, add 1/4 cup water to bag, seal, and squish ingredients together until a ball of dough is formed.
Remove from bag, and divide into 2-6 equal sized balls.
Roll or stretch dough and wrap dough around clean sticks.
Roast over fire carefully for 10-20 minutes until bannock is cooked (it will be slightly brown on outside and puffed up).
*And if you want to turn your bannock into desert, we sometimes use a mixture of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to the bannock afterwards, or we dip it in maple syrup!