By Julie Monahan, creative director
Playing outside in the snow, sledding, building a snowman, and making a snow fort brings such joy to my children’s faces, and let’s be honest, my husband’s and mine too. We are a family that loves being outside no matter the temperature — always looking for an adventure and a campfire!
During February, fun cold days often become sub-zero artic days that can last for weeks, and going outside to play seems impossible, but necessary. As children attend school virtually, in-person, or at a virtual school day program, it’s important they get outside for some much-needed fresh air. Don’t let the frigid temperatures become an excuse to stay indoors. In our house, we get outside even if it’s just 15-30 minutes a day; the key is to keep moving and dress for the weather.
As creative director for Wisconsin Youth Company, my work keeps me busy inside and mostly out of our After School programs. When I did get the opportunity to fill in at program (pre-COVID-19 pandemic) I looked forward seeing the kids and getting outside to play. Being outside during these very cold Wisconsin days can be just as fun as those warm summer days, you just have to be prepared.
We follow a weather chart at Wisconsin Youth Company where 40-50 degrees pants and a light jacket are needed for going outside, and when it’s 5 degrees, snow pants, winter jacket, boots, mittens, and a hat are necessary, even a scarf is an extra bonus to help stay warm. As long as the kids are bundled up, they’re happy to be out playing on the playground, throwing the football around, or making snow angels. Just being in the moment with them, it’s almost like being a kid again; reminds me why I love doing what we do and it recharges me for my normal day-to-day work.
Some of my family’s favorite winter activities are (aside from mom’s favorite, shoveling, no joke) building a snowman or two, digging a fort out of a snow pile, creating our neighborhood-famous front yard sledding track, hiking the frozen creek bed in the park, and downhill skiing.
We also like to make snow art. Grab a few squirt bottles, warm water and food coloring. Fill your bottles with warm water (another great way to keep hands warm), add some food coloring and squirt away; your white, snow-covered yard is your canvas. You can keep it abstract, play tick-tac-toe, or even draw a hop-scotch board on your driveway. No rocks, because they get buried in the snow; just grab a small ice chunk to toss square to square.
We also like to play “I Spy With My Little Eye” when we go on our daily neighborhood walks. We take different paths and visit different parks to switch it up. Some great parks in Madison include: Governor Nelson State Park, Owen Conservancy, Kettle Pond Park, Elver Park, Elvehjem Sanctuary, and more!
Winter is cold, snowy, and can be frigid, but getting outside and being active is fun, full of new adventures, and absolutely necessary for children. It just takes a bit longer to get dressed for the occasion.
Oh, I almost forgot, enjoy that yummy cup of hot chocolate when it’s time to come back inside. After all, we are Wisconsinites, we are made for this, so get out and enjoy it!