winter outdoor activities - Boston Moms

Having grown up in New England, I had come to expect and accept long, snowy winters. Of course, I knew other people lived in more temperate climates, but I never thought much beyond it. New England with the four seasons was what I knew and loved. Until I didn’t. 

I lived in Northern California for three years and had my first child there. It was typically 65 degrees year round, and I found myself acclimating to the weather with ease. Sure, I missed the changing of seasons, especially in the summer when the weather remained the same and I missed the warm sunny days by the lakes in New Hampshire. But I didn’t miss the shoveling, the loss of power from ice storms, the cold snaps that froze your face as you ran from car to store and from car to house. 

Moving back to New England to be closer to family as I raise my own has been wonderful. The only element I haven’t fully adapted to is the winter. For the first few years of being “home,” I spent each February vacation back in California, feeling the warm sun on my face while escaping the snow and cold.

Last winter felt especially difficult with the loss of many outdoor activities and gatherings due to COVID. When we had our first snowfall, I cried. It all seemed so daunting — to leave behind a spring, summer, and fall where life was limited and head into a long, cold winter. The loss of “normal” winter activities, such as going to the library, museums, and even skiing was a challenge. How would we make it through?

Then I noticed an account on Instagram that was encouraging outdoor play and activities for kids. The goal was to spend 1,000 hours outside each year — around three hours per day giving your children fresh air and creative playtime in nature. For my winter-loathing self, it seemed necessary to use something like this to motivate myself to take the kids outside — to visibly track our time and feel accomplished.

The shift to this lifestyle has made a big difference for our family.

Beyond snowmen and going for walks, my favorite activities from last winter were making ice ornaments and painting snow. The ice ornaments were perfect for the January cold snap, when the air was so brisk it seemed to nip at our faces just going from the house to the car. So we stayed inside and gathered supplies (extra fruit and birdseed) and mixed them together. We added water and put our creations outside to freeze overnight.

Our ice ornament ingredients: water, fruit, and seeds

We hung them up on a tree outside our living room window and were able to observe birds come to enjoy it!

One finished ice ornament!

For snow painting, I found food coloring I already had in the house and mixed it with water. I thought of this activity on a day where my children didn’t seem motivated to get outside for our playtime. I had seen something similar on Busy Toddler, where Susie advised bringing snow inside in a bin and letting your toddler/child paint it. I thought, maybe we can do that outside! As soon as I mentioned it, my children came to the kitchen intrigued and ready to get outside to try.

Homemade snow “paint”

I filled up two spare plastic spray bottles with water and food coloring, and off we went. They loved it! Since we had blue and yellow, they had fun taking turns as we talked about and saw what happened when we mixed the two colors. My older son drew shapes with his “paint” and decorated an older snowman from a previous snowstorm. They had so much fun and used up both bottles. I’m looking forward to trying this again sometime — what an easy and fun way to play outside in the winter. I think this idea might work well using peri bottles if kids are wearing bulky gloves/mittens.

We did our best to stay positive and simply get outside last winter, and you know what? It made all the difference in my feelings toward winter! Here’s to another winter of fun outdoors!

Deborah Anderson
A New Hampshire native, Debbie loves taking advantage of all the state has to offer by being outside on the seacoast or up in the White Mountains with her active husband, energetic toddler son and her new baby. Having lived in Europe, California, and New England, she enjoys the unique perspective each place has brought to her life and tries to incorporate different cultural elements of each into her current daily lifestyle. Passionate about all things French, she is currently teaching her children French at home in the hopes of raising them to be bilingual. She recently traded in her job as a French Teacher to put her keen eye for interior design and renovation to work. Debbie is interested in natural remedies and does her best to keep herself and her family healthy with interesting meals, herbal remedies and a minimalist lifestyle. Believing in the phrase "everything in moderation" Debbie looks forward to the future adventures life will bring her way. You can find her blog and latest property renovation pictures online at