There’s No Place Like Outside for the Holidays

Hi Readers — As a week of no school looms, here are some ideas for outdoor fun from Heidi Ahrens, a Colorado mom of two very active Free-Range girls. Heidi runs the website and social network community OutdoorBabyNetwork. You may also find traces of Heidi on NYC streets where she once played.

Me? I love Idea #4: How fun would it be to give out hot cider on a cold day? Fun! — L

Top Six Holiday fun Outdoor Activities by Heidi Ahrens

Don’t stay cooped up inside during the holiday season. Get some fresh air, play with the kids and introduce them to a new way of exploring their world:

1. Long Route: Go outside and walk to a local park or coffee shop but travel a different route then you are used to.

2. Do a transportation puzzle: This is an activity that families can do together to compare distances between two points. Your child selects a destination that she will go to using two different modes of transportation. Then she compares the two.

3. Giving and Collecting: Talk to your child about helping out and being generous. Go for a walk and have your child collect leaves, pebbles or recyclables. Go back home and have your child decorate these findings by, say, painting on the stones. Then have your child return these items in special spots outdoors for other children to find. [Sez Lenore: I love the idea of other kids finding hand-painted stones!]

4. Hot apple cider stand: This can be set up outside your house one day over the holidays to warm people up. No need to charge any money. The cider can stay warm in an insulated cooler or coffee urn.

5. Giving Tree: Have your child create little gifts to hang from a tree near your house. Then visit the tree every day to see what items were taken, or to observe people while they inspect the tree.

6. Races: The weather has been strange all around the country. Take inspiration from a blog post on OutdoorBabyNetwork and let your children go outside and explore even if the weather if frightful. If they need encouragement to stay engaged, have them try out funny contests, like who can bounce a ball in the rain the longest, or float the most cork boats in a puddle, or make the most snow angels.

Offering time in a natural setting where your child can have time to be free will make your holiday so much more enjoyable and meaningful. Head out in a park, a forest, a bike trail, a backyard or even a city street. — Heidi

17 Responses to There’s No Place Like Outside for the Holidays

  1. Kris December 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    It’s been 8 degrees here, highest around 15. That throws a wrench into outdoor play a bit :) But, trying to get out as much as we can.

  2. octobermom December 26, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    Great ideas! Thanks!

  3. Hi, I'm Natalie. December 27, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Yesterday, we went skiing, then hooked the dog up to my daughter’s new sled. (He has a pulling harness. And she should’ve been wearing a helmet. It was awesome. ;>)

  4. Larry Harrison December 27, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Free-Range is back. Sorry I wasn’t feeling the carols, but that’s okay–your site, your prerogative, love you through all of it.

    But yes, it was a thing–many in the family weren’t wanting to kids to play outside “it’s too cold” (it was about 50’F for a high) but my kids especially would not be denied, they kept peeping out of the windows. Needless to say, I let them play, and they loved it.

    As it should be.

    Heck I even pushed them in the tire swing at NIGHT-TIME, with it DARK (there are porch lights).


  5. Cheryl W December 27, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    My kids went out and got an archery lesson this morning. Some are rollerblading on the porch right now. The boys were flying paper airplanes earlier. They also went out and picked up tumble weeds to burn, but then it got windy so we couldn’t burn.

    Oh, and I forgot, they rode bikes to the top of the hill and waited to see if they could hear the dinner (triangle) bell that my husband made as a gift so that I don’t have to yell all over the neighborhood for them. That bell will be very handy when the days get longer and the ground is thawed as they will be out in the mulch pile digging holes.

  6. Nanci December 27, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    My kids did go out and play in the snow today. I felt a bit un-free-range when I told them they could not go to the woody area to sled. Last time it snowed they disappeared and I found them later sledding in the woody area (which got it’s name due to the trees and the fact that neighbors stack their firewood there). They still had fun anyway, but they were back in a lot quicker today :) They did have a very free-range Christmas though, they got a giant tub full of 2 foot sections of PVC piping and connectors and sheets so they can built forts and tunnels without the couch cushions! My 7 year old son also got a real tool set and some wood so he can saw and hammer stuff now! Finally they did get a cell phone, but for the right reasons. We have no home phone and I want to let them stay home alone for short amounts of time and felt they needed some way to contact me or 911 in an emergency.

  7. Ali December 27, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    Or sledding, or snowshoeing, or skating, or skiing -cross or alpine, or building a snowman, or throwing snowballs, or building a snow fort….

  8. Louise December 27, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Hi from Sydney, Australia – we have the opposite – some very hot days, and occasionally a cool and very rainy day, this season. But I love my toddlers being out jumping in puddles and playing with mud, smelling the rain and feeling it on their skins – some Aussie kids are to molly-coddled too! So thank you for your website. Louise

  9. Colleen O'Connor December 27, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    My son was just outside with the neighboorhood kids shoveling and haveing a great time.

    He also has to come to work with me a few days next week, he is 9. Last time he had to come to work with me he brought his scooter with him. I work in a a city and I got more calls from the other office people in my area who saw him riding his scooter up an down my street. They not only loved seeing him riding by but they were jealous that they did not have a scooter.

    I not only felt that Ray was safe but that he was the luckiest boy in the area.

  10. Cheryl W December 27, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Nanci, that was probably good to keep them out of the woods. When I was about 8, I had a friend over on a snowy day. My mom always said that we had to do what the guest wanted. She wanted to sled on a small hill that had a bush at the bottom. I tried to convince her to go to another small hill, farther away, but she didn’t want to, so I was polite and we sledded there. I ran into the bush and ended up with a sliver in my eye, and a few weeks later (in what seemed like months later) I had to be put under and had an operation to have it removed. (It was in the white of the eye.) But, I did have the coolest stitches ever, and I also learned to stand up to friends when it was a matter of safety.

  11. Jen Connelly December 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I wish we had some snow. I could probably convince my kids to go out and play in the snow. But we don’t get snow here…just rain and for some reason playing in the rain just isn’t as fun. They were throwing a little mini nerf football around today and I don’t know how many times I told them to go do that outside but only my 9yo son wanted to go. I twas 44F and drizzling. The girls said it was “too cold”.

    I swear if they don’t find something to do tomorrow I’m kicking them all out and locking the door.

  12. Claire December 27, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    I like number 5 because it instils the importance of giving, something that todays children do not get exposed to enough.

    I like the name of this blog too. Freerange Children LOL.

  13. Cheryl W December 28, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    Jen, when we lived in CA, we would take all the present wrappings, ball it up and put it in a box. Then we would go outside and have a “snow ball” fight. It was a lot of fun for the adults and kids. It had the added bonus that you could pick up balls already thrown and throw them back. Still, may not be much fun if it is raining, but if there is a break….

    I must say, I did kick mine out at times during the rainy season. Playing in the rain was actually fun for them – finding a bit of a “stream” along side the road, blocking it, rerouting it, floating little bits of paper or tin foil boats.

  14. Heidi Ahrens December 28, 2010 at 4:27 am #

    So glad everyone is getting out in the snow, rain and sunny weather for fun.

    When I was a teen I hooked up my dog to a sled and he pulled my baby sister around. It was fun.

    Funny thing is I am the owner of outdoorbabynetwork and we mostly have been doing indoor projects and this week we are visitng friends in Denver.

  15. Hineata December 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    Hi, greetings from NZ, we too are supposed to be having fun in the sun this time of year, but in copious rain and 100kph winds at 4am this morning, my boy and his friends were trying to tie their big canvas tent down…It finally blew down about 11am, so they didn’t do too bad a job….My younger girls, (9 and 11) and their friend slept through most of the storm, and woke up soaking wet, whereupon they dragged their stuff into someone else’s tent, much to his joy, I’m sure :-) .That tent survived another couple of hours before it collapsed on the friend’s teenage sister….(Should probably sue someone, I guess, LOL, but it was a good lesson to the kid to wake up on time, especially in a storm!). Hubby and I were sleeping about a hundred metres up the road, closer to the loo! In a dome tent, so it stood up better to the wind, but a bit useless rainwise…

    Welcome to summer in New Zealand! I think we’d like a bit of your snow…!

  16. Celeste December 31, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    We handed out both candy and hot apple cider on Halloween both this year and last. Last year, only a few kids tried it. But word seemed to spread and this year, we had kids coming to the door and specifically requesting the cider, sometimes even declining the candy! We were shocked and thrilled! Next year, we may have to make an extra batch.

  17. Sky December 31, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Just last week my daughter asked to do a hot chocolate stand…I said okay, but only if she gives it away.