everyday. winter activities (with young kiddos)

If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we’re going all IN in this Minnesota Winter thing and embracing the outdoors as best we can. And it’s been a BLAST!!

I decided to breakdown each activity for you, complete with grades for the little ones….

FIRST. A few tidbits

  • Evy is (almost) age 2. Ethan is just over age 4. These activities will be much “easier” with older kids. But ignore that. Life doesn’t have to look like something specific. Enjoy the glimpse of what it’s like with younglings.
  • If you’re cold, it’s not fun. so. PROPER winter attire is the only way to survive outdoor activities. Ya’ll. The real real winter stuff is expensive. I know because Matt and I tried to avoid it. We functioned on $10 snowpants from Walmart (ouch) that lasted the first 9 years of our marriage. Until last year when we noticed we had to be outside all the time and we were constantly wet and cold. So we had to get invest in stuff to keep us warm. (and good snowpants makes ALL the difference! We’ve been in our snowpants for >5 hours a day the last 2 days. Totally fine and happy. True story). Invest in good boots and hat and everything in between.
  • Weather matters. Most of this stuff with younglings has to have a 1:1 adult:child ratio which means weekends (because weeknights at 5pm when Matt comes home is dark and cold and an hour before bedtime routine). So what’s the chance a Saturday or Sunday in Minnesota winter isn’t subzero or crazy winds??? RANDOM chance. So if it’s nice we GO FOR IT. All the other days we stay inside with legos and markers and books.
  • A note on cost. First pick stuff that is free, or you have, or can borrow, or is cheap to buy used. Many local activities are at the county level averages <$20 for all of us to do it. We also budget very specifically every month, and say “no” to a lot of good things and instead say “yes” to putting that towards various quality time/wellness/interests as a family. It takes self-discipline, but for us it’s habit.

Let’s get right to it! Here are the winter adventures we have tried out in the last 2 weeks.

Kick-sledding 

  • Grade A+ for toddler and preschoolers and adults
  • It’s like a scooter on snow! Kiddos can sit on the front, or stand with you on the back!
  • It was $5 to rent at our local regional park. Nothing special needed other than winterwear.
  • It’s like going on a snowpath in the beautiful woods on a fancy scooter. WIN. Plus, little little ones would work well on this either wrapped to a parent or even sitting on their own. It’s faster than just a walk, it’s like a “ride” for the kids, and it’s peaceful on those paths.

Ice skating. 

  • Grade A for toddlers and preschoolers. B+ for Adults
  • We had Evy on skates at 10mos old. Yes you gotta zoom them around (and if you’re solo it does a number on your back), but its worth it. Just stretch before hand.
  • Yes you need to have SOME ability to skate yourself, but nothing fancy.
  • Find a cheap indoor local place to rent for a few bucks to try it out. We got our skates all used and can do outdoor rinks for free now. There are some crazy beautiful rinks all over the Twin Cities (Centennial Lakes, Central Park in Maple Grove). We have 2 rinks with warming houses within 5 minutes of our house. (check hours of that warming house though otherwise the car works great). AND I can do it ONE ADULT now that Ethan is independent on skates!

Snowshoeing 

  • C for toddlers, B for preschoolers, A for adults
  • If the kid can walk, they can do the snowshoe. But it’s kinda slow.  (well Ethan was bummed it didn’t “slide”, so he didn’t last too long). The day we did it, the path was compacted snow and icy. This may get a totally different grade on 2 feet of fluffy snow. Who knows! We’ll try it again sometime!

Sledding.

  • Grade B for toddlers and A for preschoolers. B- for adults
  • Both our kids hated sledding prior to about 18 months old (cold wind isn’t fun). Evy just is starting to love it with Matt on the sled with her!
  • It’s cheap to get (or just borrow) a sled. Tons of hills. It’s a lot of work and the kids have a hard time walking up the hills like a marshmallow in all their stuff so be prepared
  • Of all of them, this is my least favorite. I mean it’s the “easiest” and the hardest all in one. It’s still fun. But it is a lot of work on the parent with kids this little.

Alpine Skiing

  • Grade B- for toddlers, B+ for preschoolers, A for adults. 
  • Ethan loved this!! And Evy (just under 2 year old) was super excited to try it with us! We stayed on the bunny hill with tons of fun!
  • The biggest difference with this one is the cost. The cost to ski (big range pending where you go), to rent ($20 each), or buy used. Tips? Find the cheap beginner hill, little kids can’t do much more than the bunny hill anyway. A used winter helment and goggles does help. Maybe take a lesson, or watch some youtube self-teach videos…it’s really all about making it fun at this age! Yes the adult should have a basic understanding of downhill skiing (but nothing fancy needed)

Snowboarding

  • (no grades; technically you’re not supposed to snowboard until 6 years old. And adults either hate or love it. Ethan has the body control for it and I’d give it an A for him and for me because we both LOVE IT!)
  • Same as downhill skiing with cost and rentals and timing.

Cross country skiing

  • No we did not actually do this one. But lots of people do with 3-4 year olds. There are lots of cheap rentals at regional parks. We’ll goal to try it once this year. But honestly it looks a lot like running in the cold (and um, I don’t like to run). And I don’t know if Evy could do it (and she’d be so heavy and hard to hold if not.) However. We have several people in our circle that do this so it’d be good to have a basis for the sake of our friends!

“Go play in the snow in the yard”

  • B for toddlers. A for preschoolers. B for adults
  • Biggest pro is you can go out just for a few minutes in subzero temps and feel like you went outside without much energy (other than the 20 minutes it took for you to get all your stuff on and the kids stuff on, of course)
  • It kinda depends on the mood, the temperament, and the options. We use sandtoys in the snow. We walk into the ravine in the backyard. We walk to a neighbors swingset that we have free use of. We use our wagon to walk around the block. We sled down the deck. We use four-wheelers to race down the driveway. It’s all about making stuff up to have fun!
  • I gave it an A for preschoolers because Ethan can now just go play in the yard by himself with us watching out the window. He knows how to be safe. And when to come in when he’s cold. GAME CHANGER.

It’s crazy you guys.

NEVER NEVER NEVER would I have said two years ago that we’d enjoy winter activities in Minnesota. But it’s really becoming equally as beautiful as those bike rides and kayak adventures in the summer. (plus, no bugs, no humidity).

It helps that we’re not nursing and not dealing with diapers. The difference between age 9months and age 22months is HUGE with activities. But really once we hit 18 months old, we’re really hitting the start of the sweet spot.

It’s more than the activity. It’s quality time. It’s equal parts hard work and fun. It requires preparation and flexibility. It’s a lot of communication and talking.

It’s focusing on the power of the divine found in nature, right where we live.

It’s creating a family culture.

It facilitates Sabbath. it’s enjoying good that Jesus yearns for us to enjoy in His presence. One that other people can join right in with ease. Because, time equals love and builds trust and creates community. And those things bring God glory.

The little moments matter.

So JOIN US!! Try something this winter! Fail or win, on the next 20 degree day, venture to your local regional park. Call a friend to join you. And talk deep things, and funny things. Enjoy. Heal. Bless.