For Christmas this year, I want gifts that will inspire children to play outdoors more regularly. In this cold NH weather, it’s easy to fall into this routine of getting off the bus, warming up a cup of hot cocoa, and curling up to something on TV. I think I need to make a New Years resolution to:
STOP THAT RIGHT NOW
I am a pediatric occupational therapist, which means that I work with children that have sensory difficulties, among other diagnoses. In addition to my work as an OT, I also work for an outdoor education company. I have seen amazing changes in my own children, clients, and in children in general when they get outside regularly in nature.
Nature is calming and organizing to the mind and body. It’s where we as human beings are meant to be. Children with special needs – autism, sensory processing disorder or ADHD – are more successful and better regulated in an outdoor setting. Nature-based programs like TimberNook, White Pine, Tinkergarten and Merrowhawke are popping up all around us on the Seacoast. Parents are taking notice. In this amazing area with some like-minded individuals, children are getting outdoors a little bit more. Homeschool families are getting their math and science credits outside. Public school families are pulling their kids one day per week, to immerse them in a forest classroom setting. After-school programming is even becoming outdoor-focused.
I want my kids outside more, too. It’s better for their immune system, their mental health, and their physical well-being. And I can learn a thing or two as well!
So, here’s my list of Outdoor toys for winter that will get your kids playing in the snow!
- Snow shovel – Usually my kids are motivated to help me shovel the driveway for at least a few minutes each time it snows. I make sure to have child-size tools on hand when I’m “working” so that they follow suit. I challenge my boys to see who can make a bigger pile with their shovel efforts.
- Snow Shoes – Check your local consignment store or gear swap for kids snow shoes. I have found several pair for close to free. We make sure to visit some Seacoast recreation areas, or even just be the first to make some tracks in our yard or at the playground.
- Downhill – sled, ski scooter, luge, flying saucer – you name it. I love those baby sleds for going out for a walk when they can safely sit upright as babes, and a toboggan to ride down with a toddler in my lap. What I am dying to see in person is a ski bike – it converts a traditional balance bike to a winter sport – amazing!
- Snow Ball Supplies – snow castle molds, ball forms – buy a set with multiple pieces so that the whole family can pitch in.
- Snowman Kit – While a carrot, sticks and some rocks will do, this snowman kit is fun!
- Slackline, Zip line– Since they are all bundled up, and the snow naturally forms a landing zone in between trees, why not think vertical?
- Art Supplies – even though some pretty sweet kits are on the market, we have some trusty spray bottles with paint/water combinations to decorate the snow.
- Gift certificates – Don’t we all appreciate an “experience gift” for our kiddos? How about a gift card to one of the outdoor education or nature based organizations in the area? Or give them a dollar amount towards summer camp for next year? Better yet, some have year-round programming, so they might not even have to wait long to cash it in.