Great winter walks with children allow for exploring after a snowfall and seeing the world in a whole different way. Oh of course it’s great to enjoy a warm fire indoors and peer out the window at the results of a beautiful snowfall, but why not save that experience until after you come back from a great winter walk with your kids. My experience with my own children and grandchildren confirms that there is something refreshing, memorable and special about bundling everyone up with hats, scarves and mittens and setting off on a winter adventure.
Your winter walk with your kids can be as near or far as their age, the temperature and available time allow for. And of course your selection will have something to do with where you live and what walking paths are available. But a few general suggestions can help to get you started.
The simplest place to begin the practice of taking great winter walks with your children, is to explore your own yard or neighborhood after a snowfall. It may sound rather dull and prosaic but the snow covering can make everything look brand new and create an adventure that younger children especially will relish. Spend time following bird and animal footprints in the snow and of course imagining what creature might have left them. Guess what makes up the lumps and bumps all around you but whose source is hidden by the blanket of snow. Create sudden snow showers by walking under branches and then giving them a gentle tug. And finish this easy walk by observing the footprints and other markings you have left behind for other explorers to discover.
For school aged children you will want to extend the adventure and so will they. An excellent place to wander after a snow storm is on a college campus. It really doesn’t matter if it is an Ivy League facility or the area community college, most colleges have some form of campus or at least a courtyard or two that are really something to see after a snow storm. Colleges generally have their walkways and parking areas shoveled off and plowed out quickly and you can enjoy the beauty of a snow covered campus while the walking may be made easy by a few helpful crisscross paths. Large library buildings, dormitories, athletic fields and quadrangles are very impressive when covered in white. Icy evergreens, shrub borders or towering elms bending under the snow can create a fantasy world that may be lost on collegians but not on your children. If your kids are old enough a walk after a snowstorm on any college campus might get a conversation going about choosing a college for the future, always a good thing.
If you live within an easy drive of the ocean, a lake, pond or even a stream include a walk along the shoreline among the great winter walks you take with your kids this year. There is something really eye-popping about watching the water meet the snow line, even if the water is already frozen. This experience can also be a great opportunity to make some really serious points about staying off what appear to be frozen water surfaces until they have been verified by adults. With any luck you can work in some winter shore bird watching along the way.
Any wooded spot is prime location to attempt a winter walk with your kids. Encourage the sense of adventure by having them gather up binoculars, water bottles and maybe some fruit or a granola snack that will be easy to carry. It may be just the woods down the road, but in the snow adventure is around every corner. If you have the time plan a walk that takes you through forest preserves, state monitored woods or Audubon sanctuaries. While these will not necessarily have paths that are plowed out, there will be observable open areas that you can follow. Check before you head out because many preservation areas have great hills that are open for public coasting in the winter. What a nice treat to end one of your winter walks by pulling out the sledding gear from your car trunk and turning the kids loose for a few spins on a totally new and oh so exciting hill.
Animal sounds, bird notes, the occasional crashing of snow coming from branches and the sounds of children really enjoying every second of their winter adventure will be memories you all will treasure for years to come.