Winter

4 Seasons of Outdoor Adventures in Nova Scotia

4 Seasons of Outdoor Adventures in Nova Scotia

After last year’s endless winter I was not looking forward to the snow this year. When the first snowflakes started to fall I sank deeper into my couch and turned the TV up louder to drown out the sounds of snow blowers and spinning tires.

After a couple weeks though I decided enough was enough. Winter wasn’t going anywhere and I needed to embrace it. If you can’t beat the snow, may as well join it, right?

30 Days of Winter Play: Part Two

30 days part 2 (1).jpg

Pretty much a perfect snow angel, right?

The day after I posted Part One of this series last week we had a big storm the next day. Before it started though I pushed myself to get out the door with the kids in the morning. I wanted to get the wreath shaped bird feeder (details below) that we'd made a few weeks back hung up before the weather hit. 

We ended up staying outside for almost an hour until the freezing rain really got going and had a blast. We did several of the activities on the first list and I was inspired to work on Part Two that night as the storm raged outside, promising much more snowy winter fun. I was also reminded that the hardest part of getting outside is just deciding to do it (well, that and when your four year old decides she has to pee ten minutes after you get out there - even though she peed just before you got dressed).

So, without further ado, here are the next eight suggested outside activities to enjoy winter with kids. All of the suggestions are designed to be easy, require little to no prep or money...yeah, basically I'm giving you no excuse not to do it.

Snow Soccer

Who needs snowball making skills when there are real balls. One thing we realized last week when we got the bubbles out was that just because it's a "summer" toy doesn't mean you can't use it in the winter. Grab a bunch of balls and have a game of snow soccer. Make goal lines with sticks or just draw them in the snow and give'r. The added challenge of running with snowsuits on makes this kind of hilarious to watch - kind of like watching the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man play sports.

Beach Day

Okay, you might think I'm stretching it here with the whole "summer fun in winter" schtick but trust me on this one. Head out to your favourite beach and take a family walk along the frozen sand. This is best when it's cold but there's not too much snow (so between one of the snow-slush-melt-snow cycles). Visiting the beach in the winter is a whole other experience. Give the kids some buckets and shovels and make snow/sand castles. Plus I bet you get the place all to yourself! (Tip: Dress warm, those ocean breezes are a wee bit brisker this time of year)

Frozen Treat Wreath for the Birds

You may have seen this come up on the blog this week. We prepped this activity over the holidays and then never got around to hanging it up until this week. Most of this activity is indoors but will give you a good motivator to get outside to hang it up. If you can find somewhere near a window that's the best. The little critters out in the cold will thank you!

The finished wreath - isn't it pretty? (and tasty looking!?)

The finished wreath - isn't it pretty? (and tasty looking!?)

 

Snowflake Catching

This is really fun. Grab a piece of black paper - something fairly heavy, at least construction paper if not cardstock. Stick it in the freezer for a couple hours before you go outside to chill it, then hold it out when it's snowing and "catch" the snowflakes as they fall. Because of the dark paper you'll be able to see the snowflakes and their intricate designs, and because it's already chilled the snowflakes won't melt right away when they land. If you have a kid friendly magnifying glass this would be a great time to break that out and get up close and personal with your catches.

Ice Cube Treasure Hunt

Fill an ice cube tray with water and drop food colouring in each one - do a couple colours if your kids are old enough to understand Susie gets the red cubes, Bobby gets the blue ones. Freeze them, then someday when it's below freezing outside (someday, ha! more like every day lately!), duck outside and hide them around your yard, or go to a playground and hide them while the kids close their eyes. Then give each kid a bucket (remember those beach supplies you already got out for your beach trip?) and tell them to go find the ice cubes. Just a warning that they should wear old mitts as if they hold the ice cubes in their hands they may melt and stain their clothes and that doesn't make any parent happy.

Playground Adventure

This is almost too easy to include but surprisingly never seems to be done. Playgrounds aren't just for fair weather, friends. Head to your neighbourhood park with a shovel and make big mountains of snow at the bottom of the slide and near the swings then slide down into the pile of snow, or swing high over snow banks, and jump off (if the kids are old enough) into snow. Much giggling will ensue. Here’s our listing of playgrounds to help you find one that looks like fun to you.

Snowshoeing

If you can walk, you can snowshoe (this coming from someone who has zero coordination skills). Many places in the HRM have adult and youth snowshoes for loan or rent so you can try them out before purchasing and you can find a list of some of them at www.hikenovascotia.com or do a search on our site here (like this one for trails) to see several we’ve profiled. Walking on a flat, snowy trail is the best way to start off but don’t hesitate to head off road once you get the hang of it.

Shubenacadie Wildlife Park

Did y'all know they're open in the winter? It's true! They're open on the weekends and even offer snowshoeing (with free snowshoes to borrow if you don't have any) in case you haven't had a chance to try the previous suggestion yet. Imagine walking through the park and checking out the cute little animals frolicking in the snow - awwww.

Have you tried any of these yet? Do you have any suggestions for other kid-friendly winter activities I should include? I'd love to hear your comments!

How to Make a Frozen Treat Wreath for Birds

How to Make a Frozen Treat Wreath for Birds

Each year we like to leave some treats out for the birds and others critters that live in the woods around our house. We see lots of varieties of birds as well as pheasants, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, and the occasional deer or two. This year we decided to make an ice wreath as it was something the little ones could get involved with creating.

30 Days of Winter Play: Part One

I know many Haligonians consider the best kind of winter family fun to be boarding a plane to a tropical destination however that’s not in the cards for this family. On our first date (which was in December 2007) my husband told me he loves winter and believes that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. I managed to keep a straight face and decided to see it as a challenge. Alright, buddy, show me how to make winter fun. And he did. We spent the first few winters of our relationship snow-shoeing, skating, skiing (or, rather, me attempting to ski), hiking, and having tons of fun in the snow. He even did a bike race on a frozen lake. Yep.

Fast forward eight years, two kids, and barely surviving the nightmarish winter of 2015, and when the snow started falling this year I gave it the worst stink eye I could muster up but it doesn't appear to be scared off. Winter is here, my love affair with the season has gone stale, the tropical vacation is not going to happen, and I've got to reignite my love of winter.

To accomplish this, I've decided to take on the challenge of winter fun again with 

30 Days of Winter Play

(did you hear the big announcer voice there too?). The kids are always happy to go outside, it's me that's the problem, and, since they're only two and four they can't exactly go outside without me. Believe it or not, there are only two months left of (technical) winter left so my personal goal is to do something every other day.

If you want to join in I'd love some company. I'll be posting some suggested activities that you can do outside in the winter with itsy bitsy ones that take little, to zero, effort on your part. Here is the first set of suggestions. I'd love to hear if you try any and how they went!

Snowball Toss

Make a pile of snowballs (or snow chunks as we did) then create a target on the snow with a hula hoop or skipping rope - or just outline it with sticks or rocks. Have the kids stand on a marked spot and see how many snowballs they can get in the target. Easy peasy.

The wind-up...

The wind-up...

...and it's good!

...and it's good!

 

Frozen Bubbles

This is one I can't wait to try but I've seen it floating around the interwebs for awhile. Apparently if you blow bubbles outside and then catch them on the wand they will freeze and be pretty sparkly ice bubbles (till your rambunctious two year old likely smashes them). And, if it's not cold enough to freeze, them, there's still something pretty magical about bubbles sparkling atop a pile of snow.

Our first attempt at this it wasn't cold enough for frozen bubbles but turns out it's just as fun to chase them in the winter as it is in the summer!

Snow Art (with old markers)

If you're anything like me you've got piles of old, dried out markers you've been storing away for some day when you have the time to do that Pinterest trick to renew them. Now's the time to drag them out. The water in the snow will revive the dried up ink and make them work again so your kiddos can scribble on a blank piece of snow canvas till their hearts are content (just make sure they don't meander to the house, car or front steps with those things).

Snowfriend (because we like boy AND girl snowpeople in this house)

Well, obviously that's got to be in there. But before you head outside to build it, have the children hunt through the house for items to dress and decorate the snowfriend. Perhaps that gaudy - I mean gorgeous! - rhinestone necklace your child gave you for Christmas from the dollar store along with that feathery, floppy hat in the dress-up box, or a neck tie and old fedora, could take your snowfriend to a new level of style this year.

Snow ice cream

This is an old family favourite dating back to my childhood when my mother ran a nursery school out of our home. We did it last year and I posted the details here (bonus: this is a milk free recipe as Miss M used to have a milk protein allergy). We will do this again this year but plan to take it up a notch by adding some candies or fruit for toppings, and maybe some new flavourings such as a bit of lemon juice or chocolate sauce. Tip: this is best with freshly fallen snow to ensure it's clean (otherwise, ewwww).

Winter Baking

Grab some cake and cupcake pans from your kitchen (if you have character molds, even better), some measuring cups, bowls, spatulas, and spoons and head outside to whip up some snow kitchen creations. If you're really fancy you can build a snow oven too but...yeah, let's just stick with the utensils and pans.

Flashlight Adventures

Since it gets dark so early right now it's a good chance to take advantage of it and get your kids outside after dinner. Give them some flashlights and go exploring in your yard or local playground and notice how different things look and sound in the evening. If you're lucky you'll see the moon and stars. Bonus: After the fresh air and exercise, throw in some post-excursion hot chocolate with milk and a warm bath and they should be passed out in bed before you can say Cheers!

PS You might want to stock up on hot chocolate - it's always a good post-activity bribe if the kids (or you) are a bit wary of going outside one day.

Check out Part Two of the series as well!

Do you love or loathe winter? What is your favourite winter activity?

That'S'no Regular Ice Cream: Snow Ice Cream for Kids (and Grown-Ups)

Has anyone made snow ice cream? When I was a kid I remember whenever we’d get a fresh snowfall my Mom would go out first thing in the morning and scoop some up in a bowl before any kids or dogs could "get" to it (no one wants yellow snow ice cream, amiright?); then later that day she would make snow ice cream as a treat for us.

We were late getting any amount of snow here in Nova Scotia this year but then the weather gods made up for it. We’ve had soooo much snow! I think it has snowed about six thousand times (give or take a bit). That, combined with all of our family being sick at some time or another during these storms, meant that today we deserved a treat.

Our back deck is on the second level of the house with no steps to the ground so it hasn’t been touched at all. We decided to take advantage of the three feet of snow to fill up a big bowl of fresh powder and enjoy some snow ice cream after a little winter fun.

Miss M is allergic to milk so she has never had real ice cream and was very excited about this. 

INGREDIENTS

  • Big bowl of fresh, clean snow (about eight cups)

  • 1 cup of milk

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

  • Sweetener optional: sugar, fruit, ice cream sauces

We whisked unsweetened vanilla almond milk (but any kind will work, some prefer canned condensed for the extra sweetness), and a dash of vanilla extract in a big bowl really well. We added the snow a bit at a time and started mixing.

It was really easy to mix in and the vanilla smelled really yummy. Some people add sugar at this point (maybe 1/4 cup or so) but you could add some cinnamon or fruit like blueberries or strawberries at this step if you wanted to keep the sugar content low. If not, sugar, sprinkles and/or chocolate sauce are also some delicious options!

When it was all mixed up we dished it into bowls and dug in. Delicious!

It melts quick though so be sure to have everyone nearby ready to enjoy their bowl!

This would be a great companion activity to reading Ezra Jack Keats' Caldecott Award winning story, The Snowy Day: “One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.”

Photo credit: www.ezra-jack-keats.or

Photo credit: www.ezra-jack-keats.or

I see this becoming a new family winter tradition - and it gives us all something exciting to look forward to when it snows again!

Have you ever made snow ice cream? Do you use the same recipe?