Who among us hasn’t learned the hard way that, when adventuring outside in winter, preparation is worth its weight in gold. Whether you’re suffering a highway shut down or a snap storm that puts you on the side of the road while on a car trip or you’re suffering from cold and wet blue jeans and boots while sledding on a local hillside; cold weather can be miserable. My husband remembers as a child having his dad cut up bicycle inner tubes to tie around the tops of his irrigating boots so his feet would remain dry—it did nothing to alleviate the unforgettable cold and the freezing feeling.
We want children to remember the fun of sledding, skiing, building, the discovery of winter animal tracks, and the joy of successful snow angels and snow forts. The key to remain warm and dry in the midst of wet, cold snow is being prepared.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for cold-weather comfort:
• Clothing: focus on warm outer layers that repel water. Blue jeans, cotton, leather—these are pretty much death fabrics as they absorb water and do not dry out quickly! Instead, go for multiple layers starting with a base layer made of wool or polypropylene to wick moisture away from your skin. Put on a fleece as middle layer, and a wind resistant outer shell. If you’re going out in severe cold, beef up those layers to say toasty and dry underneath.
• Definitely cover head and ears. Any cap that covers well and stays on will work. Microfleece is a good option for warmth and dry coverage.
• Do NOT use irrigation boots—instead go for warm boots and gaiters or a snowsuit that goes over the top of the boots. The goal is warm and dry feet. In a pinch try putting plastic bags over your child’s feet before sliding them into the boot. It definitely helps.
• Use mittens that go up into the jacket and repel melting snow. You’ll want a warm soft inside and a synthetic material on the outside of those mitts.
• Consider a scarf or a jacket that zips up to the chin in case of wind. You could also wear a cap that you can pull down into a facemask if the cold and wind is biting.
• Once again, dress in layers. Active children can warm up quickly and sweat resulting in a case of the shivers from the damp inner layers. Shivering uses lots of calories and will not create good memories.
• Bring an extra set of socks, gloves and even a fleece top for a quick change in the car once the snow fun is over. The ride home will be more comfortable for kids who put it all out there in the snow.
Aside from clothing choices, you should always bring snacks and water. My grandkids now remind me every time we have an outing “DON’T FORGET THE SNACKS” because you guessed it—I have forgotten them. Generally think about carbohydrates that provide quick energy and quick recovery. Kid friendly food bars make this easy, but also a nut or nut free butter and jelly sandwich is perfect. Dried fruit provides quick energy and is healthy too. Water is important. Given the length of time that most kids actually spend playing outdoors in winter it’s okay if they drink water before and after the activity instead of during all the fun. To help increase the quantity you could have a warm thermos of hot cocoa, tea, or soup. Any fluids will help replenish their active selves.
Stuck in the car on the side of the road, or waiting for a road closure to reopen? Tuck all the above in the car before you take off, and include a pack of cards or drawing paper and pencil. Electronics are the entertainment du jour but they may be short lived or out of range in the event of a road closure. There are many interactive games that don’t require electronics. Remember “hangman” and designing your own mazes on paper? How about writing haikus ( 3 line Japanese style poems)starting with a description of the view out their window.
In western Colorado, we have an abundance of sunshine and with a little bit of driving to the Uncompahgre Plateau, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, or the Grand Mesa National Forest, we also have an abundance of snow. The combination invites adventure and fun—so grab your sunscreen, snacks, and the right warm clothing and get out there!
For more winter-specific and general outdoor activities with kids, visit www.friendsofyouthandnature.org
For more fun snow play ideas, search “ snow activities for kids”, or check out these links:
Friends of Youth and Nature is a non-profit that promotes opportunities for youth and families to go outside, experience outdoor activities, and explore nature. For more information visit: friendsofyouthandnature.org