Outdoor Activities for Kids to Enjoy Even When It’s Chilly

In the cooler months, we are likely to hear our kids say that most dreaded of phrases: “I’m BORED,” often followed by “there’s NOTHING to do!”

Barring the rare ice storm or extreme cold snap, the response “go play outside” is almost always an option. While East Tennessee weather is notoriously fickle, you can usually expect temperatures in the upper 40s or low 50s during the day and 27° or up at night.

It’s tempting to let them zone out in front of a screen, but it’s important for kids (and adults) to get some outdoor time even when it’s chilly out. When Vitamin D from sunlight absorbs into our skin, it helps prevent several diseases and may improve depression. It may even increase creativity and focus.

As long as a few safety precautions are taken, there’s no reason kids can’t have a great time outside while burning off some of that excess winter energy! Make sure they wear light layers, shoes or boots that keep their feet dry, and, if necessary, waterproof gloves and a hat that protects their ears from the cold. Don’t forget sunscreen and water – kids can get sunburned and dehydrated any time of year.

Scavenger Hunt Walk

Kids will enjoy working as a team or competing against each other to spot things like pinecones, acorns, hanging planters, bird houses, and more as they walk around the neighborhood. Some items like squirrel nests are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare. Make your own list or find one online and print out a copy for each participant.

Icy Building Blocks

Collect a few cardboard milk cartons and freeze water in them. Take the ice blocks outside for the kids to stack them, rearrange them, or build a fort.

Bird Feeder Garland

String together popcorn, cheerios, cranberries, pretzels, dried fruits, or any other animal-friendly foods and hang them up where your family can watch the birds enjoy their snacks. Pinecones dipped in peanut butter and coated in birdseed are also fun to make and can be added to your bird feeder garland.

Hide and Seek

Get out the plastic Easter eggs early or gather up leftover holiday candy canes and hide them in the snow. Kids love to hunt for colorful items hidden in fluffy white snow, and it’s a great physical activity that encourages competition!

Sidewalk Chalk Art

Give the kids a bucket of sidewalk chalk and let them write messages and create art on the driveway or sidewalk. Stencils add even more fun.

Nature Ice Art

Create a nature-inspired masterpiece by collecting pine needles, seeds, fallen leaves, and other natural objects from the yard. Fill a plastic lid, pie plate, or paper plate with water, add the treasures that have been collected, and leave outside to freeze. Pop your creation loose from the mold and enjoy the natural winter beauty.

Visit Bays Mountain

Bays Mountain Park offers nature programs all year. During the winter, check out programs like “Brrr, It’s Cold Outside,” where you’ll learn how mammals keep warm during the changing seasons, and “Shhhh … I’m Sleeping,” focused on which animals hibernate in winter and how they survive the cold weather.

Snow Day Fun

Of course, classic snow-related activities are great for fun and exercise. Sledding, building a snowman, and making snow angels are activities that never get old. If you don’t have a safe place to sled downhill, consider having a horizontal sled race in the yard or at a park. Just mark start and finish lines in the snow and divide up kids into pairs. With one child on a sled and the other pulling, the pairs will race each other to the finish line.

Hiking, Biking, and More

With Kingsport’s relatively mild winter weather, the things kids would do during the summer can usually be done in winter as well.

“I think it’s best to take advantage of the warm days that we have and try to play outside, whether it’s riding bikes, going hiking, or playing ball,” says Madelline Hensley, coordinator of Youth and Teen Programs at YMCA Kingsport. “Then on days when we have snow, sled riding and just playing in the snow can be fun as well as great exercise!”

The abundance of green spaces in Kingsport makes it easy to enjoy the outdoors without straying far from home.

Regan Pierce, senior director of Youth Development at YMCA Kingsport, says, “I would suggest parents utilize the many parks we have – Warriors’ Path, Bays Mountain, Borden Park, and more.”

After-Dark Activities

Until the time changes in March, it will continue to get dark early – but that doesn’t mean kids have to stay inside. Try these fun after-dark activities:

  • Clear winter skies allow for great stargazing. Kids will enjoy learning the constellations they can see from their own yard and spotting shooting stars.
  • Have a campfire dinner night. A laid-back evening by the fire is a great way to enjoy time with family. Roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, make s’mores, and tell spooky stories.
  • Play catch with a glow-in-the-dark football or have an outdoor dance party with lots of glow sticks and jewelry.
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