As the pandemic continues to impact daily life, with more time at home and increased screen time, many families are seeking new activities to keep their children engaged and active outdoors. While staying indoors is one way to beat the cold, safe outdoor play offers a multitude of physical, mental and social benefits.
A 2021 Maru Voice Canada survey examining the frequency that Canadians and their families are engaging in outdoor recreational activity for at least 30 minutes found:
- 16% are engaging daily
- 52% are engaging once a week or less
- 28% are engaging less than once a month
To inspire families with new ideas to get outside safely, Scouts Canada and Hydro One partnered to launch a free Activity Finder. The searchable database, available at Scouts.ca/ActivityFinder, offers more than 150 thoughtful, educational and fun activities that also help youth of all ages develop well-rounded skills. Each activity provides simple guidelines challenging young people to plan and facilitate the activities themselves and then reflect on how to do it even better the next time.
Research shows outdoor recreation is a fundamental need for children. It not only supports physical development, but also contributes to building greater resilience – essential for navigating uncertainty and change during the pandemic, cognitive functioning, creativity, problem solving, positive self-esteem and more.
With Canadian guidelines recommending children ages five to 17 engage in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily along with several hours of light physical activity, getting outdoors is one way to achieve it. Whether you are a novice explorer or a seasoned adventurer, winter is a great time to challenge the imagination, develop survival skills and explore your capabilities.
Scouts Canada and Hydro One are sharing nine creative ways for households to safely enjoy the winter:
- Compete in a winter Olympics! Challenge your household to participate in events like deep snow races, snowman building, snowball target range, and more. Scout tip: pile and pack snow to create smooth, standing targets and use natural food colouring to make fun designs.
- Engineer the ultimate snowball competition. Put STEM skills to the test by building catapults to launch mini snowballs or bean bags. Make it a competition to see who can launch them the furthest and learn how different design elements will impact the trajectory.
- Practice ice safety drills. Do you know how to tell if a frozen pond is safe to walk on or what to do if someone falls through? Lay down a tarp to simulate ice, and practice safety skills like crawling with your feet spread wide and using items found nearby like a branch or a hockey stick to make a long-assist rescue.
- Create a snow art masterpiece. Mix natural food colouring with water to create environmentally-friendly paintings in the snow. Use foraged materials to build picture frames.
- Chart the winter skies. Stargazing isn’t just for the summer. Bundle up on a clear night to spot constellations that are prominent in the winter like Orion and planets like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Get creative and make up your own constellations from patterns you spot in the sky.
- Search for buried treasure. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt that uses GPS coordinates to find hidden containers. Many caches are still accessible in winter. Test your navigation skills and see how many you can find.
- Save the world with a winter-themed LARP. LARPing (live action role play) is a role playing game that uses imagination to create a scenario – like a quest – and characters to take part.
- Track neighbourhood creatures. Look for footprints in the snow or mud and other evidence of animals. Create a cheat sheet with pictures of tracks to help with identification and see how many you can find.
- A quinzhee – a shelter made from piling snow, letting it settle and then hollowing out the middle with a shovel – is a great way for experienced winter campers to take the adventure to the next level. It’s also a great day activity for kids to build! Making a quinzhee is fairly simple but it takes time and proper steps to build it safely.
Prioritizing safety in all activities is essential for a successful adventure. Follow the COVID-19 safety directives from governments and health agencies, maintain physical distancing and take appropriate winter precautions including checking the forecast; dressing in warm, waterproof layers; planning for any scenario and bringing an emergency kit.
For activity instructions, additional ideas, winter warmth and safety tips, or to join Scouts to learn firsthand, visit www.Scouts.ca.