Encouraging Outdoor Time In Winter + Another Giveaway!

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's still February, despite the 55-degree weather we were graced with today. And as the winter comes to a close, I've been meaning to talk about wintertime and trying to shift my mindset about time spent outside even in chilly temperatures.

The thing is, I've been musing on that idea for two or three winters now, and I really like it. I like the idea of encouraging my children (and myself) to get outside and learn to find magic in nature, even when it is grey, dreary, chilly, and wet. There are adventures to be had if you look for them, even if we'd all rather they happen in 75-degree sunshiney days in fields of rich green grass. I want my kids to experience nature in all its incarnations.

So it's been a goal of mine to get outside, even in the winter. There's a book I got as a gift this year that has been lovely to read because it has validated all the above ideas I'd already been having, and helped flesh out the concept a bit further. Called, 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids by Rebecca P. Cohen, this book is EXACTLY what I've been trying to get my head around-- the idea that encouraging my kids to connect with the outdoors will be something that stays with them, shapes them, for their entire lives.


And so--- this winter my children and I have been on dozens of walks... Explored parks... Talked about North, South, East and West while Noah chooses which way we'll turn next.

We've learned about milkweed pods and seen their magic when they dry out all throughout the late fall and prepare to crack open and let their fluffy confetti go in the late winter.

We've trekked through puddles, mud, snow, and rain.

Noah and I each got a new pair of rain boots, compliments of Grandma Vicki. And we've worn them lots.

Lucy got two snowsuits for Christmas and Noah got snow pants.

When asked what we might want for Christmas this year, I encouraged outdoor equipment, and Noah got a fantastic set of portable soccer goals and a pair of roller skates.

During Noah's November birthday party, we made all the kids spend the majority of the party outside, running and playing.

And through books and with the help of his preschool, Noah has been learning about hibernation, migration, and what animals do in the wintertime.

Which brings me to my little crafty project, and the subject of my next blog giveaway contest.

The one animal around our house that we've come to depend upon for nonstop action, even in the dead of winter, is the hardy, stubborn, brave SQUIRREL.

 (not my image! Thanks, Google.)

I know--- he's not the most romanticized animal in the world... He's pesky, he's a scavenger, and he's noisy when he runs along our rain gutters in the morning. But he is here. And he is the epitome of a creature unafraid to embrace winter and be outside in the worst of it.

So I decided to make a pair of squirrel ears for Noah. And a sock acorn. I figured we could get outside and play imagination games and pretend to be winter animals. I figured he could learn a bit about the squirrels and come to relate a bit with them. At the very least, I thought he'd be stinkin' cute in a pair of fuzzy grey-brown squirrel ears.

Confession: This idea came to me TWO YEARS AGO. And I made the squirrel ears TWO YEARS AGO. And I intended to blog them and do a giveaway TWO YEAR AGO. Oops. Ha. Here, as evidence, is Noah, TWO YEARS AGO, in his new squirrel ears:


And here, just yesterday, using my dinky cell phone, is Noah in the same squirrel ears...Just him, his Old Mai, a sock acorn, and a random woodsy pine tree leftover from Christmas.


Showing that a good idea can stay a good idea for a good long while, and it's never too late to follow through on a brainstorm that hatched TWO YEARS AGO. It's also evidence that this idea of embracing winter with my kids has been brewing for a good long while.

And sidenote: I love my Noah. Just had to throw that out there. Even in rinky-dink cell phone photos, his amazing soul shines through. He is my sweet love.


The time is now, and I still have a darn cute pair of squirrel ears, sized for a kiddo from about 2 years of age to about 4-5 years of age, and a sock acorn with a wool felt top.


Along with the squirrel ears and acorn, I'll include a little note that gives you some fun ideas on how to play games with the acorn--- just simple twists on old classics like "Hot Potato" and  "Boolah Boolah"... games like that.

I'm going to tuck all of this into the mail to one random blog commenter at the end of the day on Monday, February 20, so that gives you all weekend to remember to get over here and post a comment. I'll stop counting comments after 10:00pm CST on Monday, and will let Joe pick a number between 1 and whatever comment we make it to, and that will be the winner.

To grease up your dusty brains as to what to post in your comment, riddle me this: what is one of your favorite "make-believe" games you played as a kid? My siblings and I played My Little Ponies, He-Man, and many other imagination games based off of Saturday morning cartoons. I could go on for hours about the minutiae of those old games, but.... I've been writing this post forEVER and I really just want to sign off and go snuggle with my hubby in front of a TV show. So ha. No more. 

Leave a comment. Enter to win. And GET OUTSIDE even when its crappy. Your soul still needs it, even if its NOT sunny and 75 degrees. 

That's all for tonight.


P.S. Would anyone be interested in a tutorial on either of the above items? I can do one, but only if there's interest. Lemme know...


  1. How adorable! We live in California and love to hit the outdoors too. The beach, trails, and such. It's good to start them young about nature. That book sounds wonderful!

  2. Okay, you are super. This post is just what I needed. The book looks great, I am going to have to check it out. I love to be outdoors, but alas I live in Wisconsin, and although it is not as cold this winter as it could be, I still whine and complain about it, even if I try to keep the whining to myself...So thanks for the encouragement. I just need some rainboots, etc like you mentioned.
    And yes, a tutorial would be fun if you have a chance. Those animal ears and the acorn hat are great, and I know my boys would love them. =)

  3. So, Mason really really NEEDS a squirrel hat!! If I don't win the contest, I will definitely HAVE to make him one! I would love a tutorial!

    I love the first picture of Noah in the collage. Such an adorable little squirrel!

    As kids, my cousin and I always "designed" new toys. :) We had a whole line of Barbie type dolls created, and we just knew once a "toy maker" made the dolls that they would send us one of each! ;)

  4. Your creativity always amazes me! You are so talented...I love when you share your treats!

  5. I am all for a tutorial of these. They are way cute. It is such a good idea. Brig gets so excited watching the squirrels run across the telephone wires out in the alley, and he loves hats. So a squirrel hat would be awesome.

    I spent most of my time outside as a kid. I can't really remember playing inside much at all. We had 10+ acres to play in when we were little and we had all sorts of huts, tree houses and barns to play in. We would pretend we were on secret missions and had rigged the barn with homemade can telephones so we could speak to each other from stall to stall. We would pretend all the trucks, tractors and other equipment were there for our secret missions and would travel through time and to different places. Oh how I miss those days.

  6. I have been eyeing this book like crazy, because I have a heck of a time making myself get the kids out even when the weather is bad.

    Squirrel hat and acorn = ADORABLE!!!

  7. It brings my heart JOY that you are doing this! Getting outdoors! That is EXACTLY what everyone in the world needs to try to be doing with their kids. The rich and interactive experiences kids can have outside is an important part to development! You are being an amazing mama. Keep it up!

  8. All right, all right, I'll go outside tomorrow and go for a walk. Today, I may just make it as far as my balcony :)

    Love the squirrel ears, but I don't really need them, so if Joe picks my number, go ahead and have him pick another one...

    An as a personal "pretend" game, the Dark Crystal was one of my inspirations... (which probably didn't help my overall reputation in elementary school :P)

  9. I need that book, too. We're great in the other 3 seasons, but the winter is tough. It's so dark in the evenings, and so cold, and bundling up the baby, ugh. Difficult to motivate. But 15 minutes is doable, even in super cold.

    We used to play tornado all the time. We'd go set our sleeping bags and flashlights up in the basement and eat snacks. One time we were playing tornado when the sirens went off and had to actually hide in the basement.

  10. p.s. the ears and the acorn are super cute and I would love a tutorial!

  11. My favourite make believe game... hmm we had lots, including cops and robbers on bikes, Sailor-Moon, and of course basic playing "house" making food out of sand, and houses in the playground. :)

    I'd love to have this set! We have a woodland theme going on over here, and the hubby loves being out in the mountains, so playing squirrels will be a fun game I'm sure, since it's about the only wildlife we run into usually :)


  12. Favorite make believe of all time... Runaway orphans from the orphan train.

  13. When I was little I was OBSESSED with horses. So my parents got me a saddle and I would put it on the fence and pretend to ride. Then I took lessons and finally got a horse! It was a glorious time in my life.

  14. Ok this is weird but when I was little I spent summers at my cousin's house in NJ and they had a swimming pool. My brother and I and our two cousins would get in the pool and play a game of "prune". Whoever got shriveled first would be the "prune" and try and chase the rest of us around inside the pool and whoever got tagged was the next "prune" and we'd play again. Yes weird but lots of fun!

    Adorable squirrel hat and acorn by the way! You're so clever and crafty! I know two kiddos very similar to yours who would love them! Fun times!!

  15. Does house and school count? We played a lot of school and house!

  16. Whoa! That is super-cute. And such a cute squirrel dude, too. Does the baby girl get the squirrel treatment too?

  17. I commented on Saturday, but my comment isn't here!! That is rather sad :/


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