We love outdoor learning. We are all born with an innate curiosity and therefore learning comes naturally. It even comes more easily to all of us when we are enjoying it. I even dare say that we learn best when we are having fun while doing it.
Just remember that subject in school you enjoyed the most, it isn’t necessarily the subject that was easiest for you, right?!
Winter in Colorado
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
When I shared with my friends in the Netherlands that we were moving to Colorado, the most common remark I got was ‘Oh my, the winters will be cold and long there! What will you do?’
To be honest, I did my due diligence, but I did not worry about the winters in Colorado at all. First of all, I knew we wouldn’t be living somewhere remote in the mountains. And secondly, I had read that we would be exposed to approximately 300+ days of sunshine per year. So I figured winter season would be similar to experiencing winter at a ski resort.
I have been here for 5 years now and I have learned that winters are nothing to be afraid of. However, you do need to be prepared. Always have your winter gear in the trunk of the car and a couple of blankets. Because you never know what you will encounter. Maybe you want to bring your sleds too. Nah, I leave those at home.
If it snows and that can be any day starting from October till May (mostly we’re done with the snowy season after Mother’s Day), the snow will last a couple of days. And then the sun will come out and melts everything away. Depending on your altitude of course. My son will go back to wearing shorts as soon as the sun comes out. It’s not uncommon to see people walking around in shorts in Colorado, all year round.
My kids enjoy being outside. If we could do all the learning activities outside all day, every day, they would be in paradise. Previously we wrote about ‘The Benefits of Natural Learning’, if you haven’t read that yet, you can find it here.
In wintertime, we still spend a lot of our time outside. Since Colorado has so many days of sunshine there is no need to hide inside. Most of the days we don’t even need to wear a coat. Maybe not what you expected, right?!! I for sure didn’t.
Our Top 5 Favorite Wintertime Learning Activities
In the end it is all about spending time together and creating memories.
1. Walks by Moonlight & Stargazing
After the time change and when the days are short, we like to take advantage of the early darkness that sets in and take evening strolls outside. We enjoy a family walk together and the kids are still in bed at a reasonable time. During these walk we observe our surroundings, we see how the moon changes during a monthly cycle and we might spot an animal like a raccoon or even a deer if we are quiet.
An evening walk is a perfect time to study the night sky and the constellations. At home, we have different types of books about the moon, stars, and planets. A favorite among the boys is LeapReader Interactive Solar System and Star Stuff from Carl Sagan. And they like to watch Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, also from Carl Sagan. It used to be on Netflix.
2. Animal Track Spotting in the Snow
At home, we read books about spotting tracks in the snow. We like ‘Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks‘ for the little ones. It is a great way to prepare before starting an outside walk. Keeping an eye out for animal tracks will come naturally.
Going outside and spotting animal tracks is exciting. First of all, there is the joy of finding one and secondly the fun of figuring out to which animal the track belongs to. We have a foldable animal track pocket guide that is waterproof and slips easily in our backpacks. We were lucky to spot moose prints on our walk. After spotting moose prints and following them for a while, we spotted two moose. We kept our save distance because moose can be dangerous because they are huge and they have poor eyesight.
If you have read our previous Outdoor Learning post, you might know that we are outside a lot. Sunday is our dedicated Family Hike Day and wintertime does not change that. Hiking throughout the seasons presents a great learning opportunity. If you have a favorite area, you can see it change throughout the year. You might even be able to observe really small changes!
Especially in the wintertime, we like to do quiet hikes. We like to take moments where we enjoy the stillness. With four children that is a huge challenge, along with being a great exercise. It is such a treasure to experience silence. And it is rare. No birds singing in winter, no cell phones, no people chattering. Just us and nature. Being.
4. Lots of Skiing and Snowboarding
As a child, my parents started to take me skiing when I was three and I was hooked. When I met my husband, I learned he didn’t ski or snowboard. That didn’t necessarily present a deal breaker to our relationship. He would either love or hate it and I hoped it wouldn’t be the latter. I was in luck, after taking him to the slopes and teaching him how to snowboard he fell in love with it as well.
Fast forward to today. Our kids grow up in Colorado with multiple ski slopes within reach. We tried a couple and we love Keystone. It is really child-friendly. They have free family parking, the availability of free wagons to haul your kids and all your stuff, free resort buses, accessible bunny slopes, a great ski school with wonderful teachers, a children center (daycare) and friendly people who will answer all your questions. So if you are in Colorado for skiing, this is where you want to go! And no, I am not getting paid to write this. I just love Keystone. We go here multiple times during the winter season.
Our kids start on skis around 2 years old. Actually, they start with walking in ski boots. They start skiing when they want to, and for each of our kids, that was at a different time. And that is totally fine. Skiing and snowboarding should be fun.
You can find great tips on skiing with little kids here.
5. Snow Fun
Snow equals fun, right?!
Playing in the snow, there are so many possibilities. Of course, you can build a snowman, have a snowball fight. My kids love to do those things. Unless a snowball hits a face or a neck. Then we have a lot of crying.
We like to go sledding and make vegan hot chocolate after. Or be creative and build an igloo or make snow art and paint the snow. We also like to bring the snow inside and incorporate snow in our sensory bins with arctic animals and see it melt. Whole stories are being played out, while the snow is melting.
Whatever you do, do NOT eat yellow snow! Ever!
Fresh snow is great for tasting. It can be used to make snow cones as a fun treat. Just add a little bit of syrup on the top.
One year we tried to build the biggest snowman. The three snowballs were so big, we were not able to lift them on top of each other. But we had so much fun! Great memories were created that day. And I guess, in the end, it is all about spending time together and creating memories.
What is your favorite way to learn together, to spend time together and to create memories? I love to hear about it! Share your stories in the comments.