As a parent, there’s no denying the annual daydream: a carefree vacation away from winter and the chaos of getting our kids outside. A week of relaxation at the beach is one solution to the cabin fever that sets in during the dark months of winter, but there are other options closer to home too. Why not bundle up the whole family and be active this winter? Try out skiing, skating or snowshoeing. Here are a few simple tips garnered from a decade of family adventures in the white stuff:
Age 0: timing is everything
If changing a diaper or breastfeeding outside on a frosty day isn’t your idea of fun, make sure you start your adventure with a clean, fed and sleepy tot. Nap time can be a great time for a winter walk or snowshoe. Babies are most comfortable snuggled next to a parent, so leave behind the stroller and opt for a sling. Hold your baby in a soft, snuggly baby carrier, and zip up an MEC Tremblant Jacket or a similar insulated jacket with a relaxed fit, so you and baby will be comfortably wrapped in warmth.
Age 1: snuggled in comfort
Toddlers can be a bit hard to fit inside a baby carrier under your jacket, so a stroller on skis may be your ticket to winter exploration. Be aware that kids get cold fast, so build them a plush cocoon inside your favourite stroller or sled. A kids’ sleeping bag will allow you extra time cross-country skiing in the cold, especially if you put a few hot water bottles in the bottom.
Ages 2–3: patience pays off
Once your toddler is off on their own adventures, be prepared to play games within sight of the ski lodge. We enjoyed a few seasons learning balance on skis and socializing in the staging area at the bottom of the lifts. Our kids lived in their bunting and MEC Toaster Suits, and kept on trying to squeeze themselves into them for sledding trips so they didn’t get snow in their pants.
Since young ones don’t have much endurance, make short forays outside and then warm up inside with a snack and hot drink before heading back out. Know that the time you put in at this age will make a huge difference teaching gross motor skills and instilling a love of winter in the years to come.
Ages 4–5: mini-athletes
Once kids start moving on skis, skates and snowshoes, there’s no limit to the fun you can have as a family. Keep in mind that kids still need a little help at this age. We continued to use our stroller as an option for a tired child, which allowed us to go further afield and explore places beyond the range of travelling entirely under their own power. Kids that are working hard often get too warm in traditional snowsuits, so midweight insulated jackets are a good compromise for many active winter sports.
Ages 6+: try to keep up
Kids that are six and older quickly become capable athletes. Once ours reached this age, they were off on their own, usually seeking out jumps and consistently pushing our comfort level. However, they still need to regulate their temperature to stay comfortable in the colder months. Learn how to layer outdoor clothing and bring along a backpack (get tips on how to choose kids’ backpacks so they can have one that fits them properly). This way you can teach them how to remove layers as they warm up and quickly put those clothes back on when they stop. This will make it more fun for everyone.
It is never too early to get kids outside in winter – they’re up for almost any adventure, especially if it means spending some quality time with their parents. They will be happier for the time outside in the white stuff, and so will you!
- How to enjoy winter activities with kids
- Science says: getting kids outdoors is a game changer
- Gift ideas for adventurous kids
Originally published December 2016. Updated in 2019.