Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Outdoor Winter Activities

Many people enjoy staying inside during the winter. They are content with their hot cocoa, a good book and a warm blanket. Other people get a little taste of cabin fever during the snowy winter season. Winter is a great time to be outside. The air is crisp, snow is abundant and you can withstand the weather with a little preparation. For those of you looking for opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with your family in winter, try some of these ideas:

1. Skiing/Snowboarding. This has become the great winter classic recreational sport. There are many places to do this activity as a day trip, and most offer rentals and lessons for beginners. If you have never had the opportunity to go, you should plan a trip. You can also cross country ski in areas where hills are less abundant. The Hancock county parks district offers cross country ski rentals at Riverbend Park just outside of Findlay.

2. Ice Skating. Winter is a great time to participate in this long-time favorite. And if you live around a pond, you can participate in this sport outside (make sure that the ice is thick enough first). You can also play hockey on the newly frozen ice. Don't have skates or hockey equipment? Have everyone bring a broom and use a tennis ball to play broomball. The rules are like hockey, but it is played on foot and not skates.

3. Turn your favorite sport into a winter activity. Bundle up and play your favorite sports in the snow. Try replacing white colored balls (like baseballs and golf balls) with colored versions or tennis balls. This may change the game, but so will the snow. Play golf in your neighborhood with designated holes (like a lone tree or fire hydrant) and treat shoveled areas like roads and sidewalks as water traps. Shorten the field in games like football or soccer since the snow will slow you down. The snow also makes for a great workout. Try jogging cross country in the snow, but expect to tire easier and travel shorter distances.

4. Have an organized snowball fight. Give each team a set time to prepare (5 minutes to just make snow balls or a half hour to rig a fort) and then: ready, set, throw! You can organize your games with rules and boundaries, and you can play in rounds. Perhaps getting hit means you're out for that round. You can even set up a dodge-ball size court where everyone has a ball (since you can pick them up and make them).

5. Go sledding. In an area like Findlay that may require a little travel, but it is well worth it. The reservoir is a favorite local sledding hill. The whole family can enjoy sledding, and fresh snow makes it even more fun. Don't want to invest in a sled? Get creative. Trash can lids work great, and even large pieces of cardboard can do in a pinch. Inner tubes are a popular favorite. Perhaps you like to take one swimming and it can double for sledding as well.

6. Nature walks. Don't be afraid to explore nature just because of the weather. Prepare adequately for the weather and hit the trails. Animals are still out to be observed during the winter, you can be too. There are even unique finds in nature during winter, like deer antler sheds. Many people like to feed the local wildlife at feeders over the winter. This is a great way to see birds and other animals up close, and you may get a few surprise visitors to your feeds (like deer or wild turkey showing up at your bird feeders). Just remember that once you start stocking a feeder you need to continue to do so throughout the winter. Animals remember where food is and disrupting their pattern may cost them valuable time that they could spend searching for food elsewhere.

7. Camping. Yes, although a little more extreme, camping is still fun in winter. The weather adds a challenge which many outdoor enthusiasts love to face. If you aren't prepared to face a winter backpacking or tent camping trip, take your RV (or rent one) or find a campground which offers cabins for rent. That way you can avoid the cold of the outdoors by warming up near a fire or a heater. And when you're ready to brave the elements again, you can bundle up and face them on your terms.

8. Yard work. Shoveling is a necessary part of the winter season, but it is also good exercise. Don't hesitate to tackle those few outdoor chores, they may end up being good for you, and they certainly get you out of the house. You can turn chores into games or competitions and involve your children in them. Perhaps give them equal sized lengths of sidewalk to shovel and see who can do it in the least amount of time.

9. Snowmen. Building snowmen is an old favorite. Pushing the balls through the snow until they get big enough to make a snowman or snow woman can be serious work, but the end result is rewarding. Your snowman's style can be as unique as your own. You don't have to dress your snowman in clothes. Try fashioning his nose and other features out of food items for local wildlife to enjoy. You can use grasses and other plants to fashion clothes for your person. Try making a completely green snowman whose melting will benefit the ground he once occupied.

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