Gone are the warm summery days of July, the green grass and lush gardens.  In most areas of North America, we’re enduring chilly temperatures, dormant plants, snow and ice.  The outdoors can still be a great opportunity to explore, play and create with kids, though, even in the middle of winter.

Bundle up and take a nature walk.  See what is changing in your neighborhood.  Are there leaves still on the ground?  Are they crunchy or soft?  What will happen to the leaves?  This is a great time to teach children about the natural process of mulching and fertilization.  Or, if you still have a few choice leaves in your area, collect them and bring them home to make leaf creatures.  Glue the leaves on paper to make people, animals, or even to invent your own creature.  Collect sticks and think of ways you can use them.  Make a windchime or a mobile using small sticks, or if you find a large stick, create a walking stick.  Decorate a stick for the season a lead a parade.  Use glitter and ribbons, get other children involved and let them parade around the area.

If you live in an area where snow is commonplace, make your own popsicles outdoors.  Pour Kool Aid into cups and set outside.  After a couple of hours, check on them and add popsicle sticks when the mixture is slushy.  You can create popsicles in a variety of containers, experimenting with shape and color.  Make a layered popsicle by freezing each layer individually.  Make ice lanterns with your children by putting water in a large bucket, then floating a smaller container in the water.  Fill the smaller container with sand or rocks to weigh it down and force it to “sink” somewhat into the larger container.  Once the mold is created, place a votive in the indentation and light your ice lantern.  A safer method is to turn the lantern over like an igloo and drill a hole through the top.  Light the candle and cover with the lantern. 

Collect rocks and have a blast with a new building medium.  Create a snow fort replica indoors with small pebbles glued together.  Or, make a pet rock.  Decorate your rock with markers and other “extras” you have around the house, small ribbon, pipe cleaners, buttons – whatever you can find to add to your rock.  Create a place for your rock to “live” by decorating a small box or container.

In our temperate climate, we have plenty of animals that still hang around through the winter months.  We love to make bird feeders for our feathered friends.  The traditional peanut butter – bird seed  feeder is simple and easy, and there are lots of different objects you can use to set it up.  Try pine cones, bagels or toast, even small sticks that can be tied to a branch.  Birds aren’t picky, but you do have to be sure that your feeder isn’t going to harm them either.

What are some great ways you can think of to keep your child occupied during the short winter days?  Post your ideas in our comments section and share!