There are so many fun things to do during the winter it may actually be our favourite time of year. For this week, we’re going to give you a list of our best winter activities for kids that you can do with your teen as a family activity.
We realise that you may not live in an area that has winter, so bear with us on this post. It’s written mostly from our perspective as being winter people that experience 5 to 6 months of snow, ice and winter temperatures. If you don’t live in this type of climate, there are still a few activities in this list for you. We promise.
If you’re like us, there are time that you may be thinking, it’s too cold to go outside. Or your child or teen may be saying, I don’t want to go outside! You couldn’t be more wrong. The winter is exactly the time to go outside. Nothing will refresh or revive your soul better than breathing in the lovely clean winter air.
So to get you inspired, let’s go down through some of our favourite winter activities and a few others to get you and your pre-university aged children outside.
Well, this one is an obvious one for us because we’re located in the heart of the French Swiss Alps, but skiing is a brilliant past time to do with the entire family and it doesn’t always have to be done at an expensive resort. Yes, it can be expensive, but there are days when your local or semi local ski mountain have discount days, or breaks to go night time skiing. If you are from a warmer climate that doesn’t have skiing, then why not think about booking a ski vacation to somewhere that does. Not all of the ski resorts have to be posh and expensive, there are some great smaller local mountains in places like Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, British Columbia (Whitefish mountain lift ticket in the $60 range) Idaho (Silver Mountain), Utah (Alta – sub $40 lift ticket), Montana (Discovery, Snow Bowl, both have sub $50 lift tickets), Colorado (Wolf Creek), Maine, Vermont (Mad River Glen – $28 lift tickets) New Hampshire and Quebec. That’s just a quick list to give you an idea.
Another activity if you don’t have a ski mountain near by is just making your own ski park in your backyard. My two sons have spent hours entertaining themselves by building rails, small jumps and obstacles in the backyard. This is easy to do, and costs nothing to make. Just grab some boards, plant them in the snow and start sliding. You can be as creative as you want with this one. My boys have created rails that slide to jumps, to other ramps onto PVC pipes that they found at construction sites. Days and days of entertainment for a restless teen during the long winter months.
In Switzerland, we have some mountains that cost less than 40 francs (about $40 USD or £34). Search for some of the off the grid places, and you might be surprised at some of the deals that you can find. Our own Swiss mountain of Verbier, located in Valais canton has over 412 km of skiable terrain. There’d be plenty for your child to do here, and never be bored. A real winter wonder dreamland.
Skiing’s up and coming brother, snowboarding was made popular by skateboarding and surfing enthusiasts back in the early ‘80s. They actually had some wooden prototypes even earlier, but for the most part snowboarding wasn’t accepted at mountain resorts until the boards were modernised and given P Tex bottoms and metal edges. These were to make it so they were actually safe enough to stop and turn on the icy slopes. Snowboarding has a bit of a steep learning curve if you don’t come from a skateboarding childhood, but once you’ve done a few face plants and remember to keep that downhill edge up, some say it’s actually easier to learn than skiing.
The great thing about snowboarding however is that you can do this easily in your backyard, local golf course or in the woods close to your house. If you live in an area that gets snow, but doesn’t have a ski mountain why not think about picking up an old snowboard at a used discount price so you can have it in your repertoire as a standy by winter activity to use for those days when you feel like you’ve been house-bound for a few too many days.
Probably one of the most popular winter olympic sports to watch is some aspect of ice skating. Whether it’s hockey, figure skating or speed skating there’s no denying that ice skating is a fun after school or weekend winter activity for your teen ager. It’s OK if they are just starting to learn to skate. That awkward bent ankle gait won’t last long after a few sessions out on the local pond. Grabbing a hockey stick also makes it easier as you have something to lean on, almost like a crutch to get you off your shaky and wobbly knees.
The other non skate alternative you can do on ice if you don’t have the patience for learning to skate is broomball.
Yes, it is just like it sounds. Brooms, sometimes with the bristles or the brush cut down and taped with duct tape and some type of ball played just like hockey. You don’t need pads, skates or goals. Just good old cold weather and a bit of frozen water. I’ve even heard of people building a rink in their yard by running the hose for a few hours and letting it freeze.
Ok, now that we got the more obvious winter sports out of the way, how about for some of the not so obvious.
Torchlight Walk In The Forest
Generally, we don’t recommend that children and teens start building their own torches, especially with fire. Too many things could go wrong in that type of situation but you can just grab some flashlights and go for a moonlight walk one evening. You’d be surprised at just how quiet the woods can be, and how beautiful and clear the winter stars can be when you turn off the torches.
Of course, you can play torchlight tag as well (flashlight tag for Canadians and Americans).
This is a game where one person stands as a guards at the base with a torch, while the others in the group are given a time to sneak out of distance and try and get into the base without the guarding shining a light on them. I have even heard this game called prison break, because you can imagine a prisoner trying to sneak out of the prison yard without the search lights shining on him. Of course, the stakes aren’t nearly as high, but the fun they can have playing this game will keep them out of the house for hours.
And that’s what we want.
Yes, we have campfires all the time in the winter as part of our winter camp activity. It sounds cold, but if you dress right, you’d be surprised at how pleasant it is sitting by a campfire in the winter months. The fire warms you, and you can have fun quizzes, tell stories or roast different types of food in the fire. We call it the outdoor TV, as the group always sits around the fire mesmerised staring into the licking flames.
Sorry, we’re dipping back into the obvious but have you thought about making this a bit more organised. You can build forts with teams, and make a pyramid of pre-made snowballs that are ready to be hurled at the opposing team. Just like our post from last week, where we separated into teams for capture the flag, you can play a similar version but with snowballs.
Snow Tubing or Sledging
Snow tubing is just like it sounds. Go to the local gas/petrol station and buy a large inner tube. If they have large truck or lorry tubes, they’re the best. Inflate, and find a hill to slide down. The best thing about tubes is that they are much softer when you get thrown into the air off of a big jump. You can land and bounce off of the tubes, unlike the hard plastic sledges that often end up leaving bruises. To get more serious about it, you can build lanes for your tubes with berms and corners to ramp up on and get going really fast. This adds an exciting element to the tubing, and it’ll create hours of entertainment making the lanes. With any luck the lanes should last most of the winter if you keep using them after each snowfall. As long as the snow lasts a few weeks at least!
Our campers love using the local hills to slide down in tubes and wooden and plastic sledges.
Build a snow fort or snow man
Building a snow fort or snow cave can be a lot of fun too. Just be careful not to make the roof too thick. If the snow falls on your or your child during the excavation, it could be just as dangerous as being covered with snow in an avalanche. Not to be an alarmist, just keep it in mind if you start building a deep snow cave that the snow above you doesn’t get too thick that it will entrap you while building it.
On the much safer side, you can build a snowman complete with carrot, stick arms and coal eyes. Frosty would be proud.
Host A Snow Sculpture Competition
If you want to move past the snowman building and get really creative you can host a snow sculpture competition complete with prizes for the best sculpture with bragging rights to last for years to come. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to shape the snow as compared to other sculpting materials. All you’ll need is a shovel to build the base, and a kitchen knife to do some of finer shaping.
How about having them outside building a pretend TV scene? A lot better than the other way around.
Make Ice, Salt and Food Colouring Decorations
If you’re from a colder climate, you’ve probably heard or seen people salting their driveways, sidewalks or streets. That’s because salt, when added to ice, has a lower melting point If the temperature is just a little below freezing, the salt will help that snow or ice melt. Well, you can use salt, ice and food colouring to make your own fun ice decorations.
Here is what you’ll need.
Ice, or snow. You can even take bowls of water and freeze them in the fridge overnight.
Salt. Rock salt, or just the plain inexpensive table salt.
Food Colouring. Try and get a few colours.
Once you have a block of ice, that you either froze or chipped away from piece outside, just sprinkle the salt on the ice. You’ll see that small rivets are formed in the ice giving it a pocked appearance. Then, drip small amounts of food colouring into the meted sections that the salt formed to create a beautiful looking piece of snow art.
As you can see, these were made in a place that wasn’t exactly experiencing winter. So you can do this in one of those winter climates that doesn’t have ice outside.
Well, we had to have one in door activity. But you can have a movie night, invite friends, and then watch a movie about playing, skiing or snowboarding outside. This will get your teen excited about going out the next day.
You can also host a disco night, have in door games with prizes to keep your teenagers having fun when it just is too cold, too rainy, or they’ve already been outside enough.
Our campers love these types of activities, as it gets them socially active and meeting new people, or bonding with their friends.
These are just a few of our most preferred winter activities for teen agers and pre university youngsters. We hope it gives you some ideas during a dark winter day, when you’re just fed up seeing or hearing your child say that there isn’t anything to do outside. If you quickly go through this list, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to do even if you don’t live in a place where a snowflake has ever hit the ground.
If you have any questions about some of the activities that keep our children and campers busy, just feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please send us your own ideas for your favourite winter activities. We’d love to update this list ourselves.