Skip to main content

Cathy Piedra-McKenzie

Welcome to Health Advisor, where experts and advocates share knowledge and advice. Follow us @Globe_Health.

As temperatures hover below zero and snow blankets our driveways and sidewalks, heading outdoors may seem more like a chore than an afternoon of fun. While it's tempting to curl up with a cup of tea until spring hits – likely in front of a TV or tablet – you'll feel refreshed, energized and more fulfilled if you step outside with the kids.

Remember what it's like to be a kid: Did the thermometer ever stop you from slipping on your matching hat, scarf and mitts and skipping out the door? Or were you too excited to toboggan or throw snowballs to worry about a little winter chill? This year, make the most of it and embrace your inner child. You'll all be healthier for it, too, since being sedentary has now joined smoking and obesity as a risk factor for many diseases.

Here are a few winter activity ideas I share with the families I work with:

1. Get the right gear for the kids – and for you.

You've made sure the kids are wearing waterproof mittens, solid boots and snow pants–but what about you? Jeans alone will not do. Save that classic camel-coloured coat for the office, and zip up the warmest parka you can find. For added warmth, invest in hand and boot warmer products (your fingers and toes will thank you).

2. Embrace your inner child and play!

Now that you've bundled up, don't just stand there and watch the kids play. Instead, start a snowball fight. Make a snow angel. Challenge them to a parent vs. kid snowman-building contest. Organize a scavenger hut, hiding fun, bright objects in the backyard (think snow shovels or even dig out the beach toys.) Allow yourself to play right along with them.

You can also create a fun daily routine on the walk to school. Every day, give yourselves an extra five minutes to jump and play in the snow. It will kick-start everyone's morning and set the tone for a good day.

3. Tag-team it! Take turns heading outdoors.

If you really can't stand the great winter outdoors, rotate with your partner. One of you can go outside and play with the kids, while the other can stay in and prepare warm drinks and special snacks for everyone to enjoy afterward.

4. Get involved in the community.

Research and experiment with community activities for the whole family. Find a local conservation area offering sleigh rides or strap on those skates and hit the city's rink together. You'll be glad you did. A favourite of mine is Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. It's the perfect public space for the whole family, offering an open skate, winter hikes, and crafts in The Children's Garden.

You can also invite a few friends or neighbours over for play and a picnic! Outdoor play dates are great, and you can start by imagining a winter picnic. Use your sleeping bag as a blanket, fill your Thermos with hot chocolate, play a few games, and re-energize with lunch.

5. Get a little help with the chores.

Turn your dreaded outdoor chores into a learning experience for the kids. How about picking up pint-sized shovels and asking them to toil alongside you? Teach them about responsibility, and even offer a small reward if they help every week. Is there a neighbour who might need assistance from older kids? Encourage your kids to show kindness and shovel their walkway. What better way to mix exercise, education and community?

Now get outside, and enjoy the fluffy white snow with your family. Feel free to share your favourite winter activities in the comments below – I'd love to hear them.

Cathy Piedra-McKenzie is an entrepreneur, busy mother of two, and president of Kidville Canada, where parents and kids can put creativity, fun and family-time first. Visit the flagship location in Toronto's Yonge Lawrence Village. You can visit her Facebook page at Kidville Canada and follow her on Twitter at @cathy_pm