Discover: 50 Outdoor Winter Play Activities for Kids

Over the years I’ve shared quite a few winter projects and activities, but while reviewing my posts last week I noticed a gaping hole in my collection – where were the outdoor winter play ideas?! I grew up in Ohio where winters can be fairly snowy and cold, and most of our free time was spent playing outside – no matter the temperature. When winter hit, my sister and I would jump at the chance to bundle up for nearly any outside diversion, whether it was shoveling the driveway with dad or plodding over to the sledding hill at the end of the block.

From fresh air and Vitamin D to risk-taking assessment and better sleep, the benefits of outdoor play are undeniable. From my own lifetime of experience, I can confirm that the physical challenges of moving through snow reawaken a unique set of muscles and a new awareness of balance. And when I think back, some of my very best winter play memories include activities that were also helping to develop my social skills, creativity, empathy, and self-confidence.

Though quite a few of the activities involve snow or ice, I made sure to include just as many seasonal play suggestions for our warmer-winter readers. And even if you don’t think of your family as the outdoor types, consider trying a few…you might just become outdoor winter regulars!

Kids Outdoor Winter Play Activities by Category

Use these quick links to jump straight to a category…

HOW TO PREP FOR SAFE OUTDOOR WINTER PLAY WITH KIDS

Winter play outside comes with its own specific challenges. Here are a few ideas to help you make your kids’ outdoor winter playtime safe and enjoyable for everyone…

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Especially during winter, its a good idea to be aware of the forecast, keep your eye to the sky, and watch for changing conditions or winter temperature drops.
  • Dress for the temps. The number one rule for dressing in winter (no matter the age)? Layer up! Waterproof outer layers and boots are best if playing in snow, and remember to keep extremities covered up too – hand warmers can be an especially helpful accessory (you can DIY your own stet from scrap fabric!).
  • Play near home and stay out of streets. Though not necessarily always a reason to stay inside, heavy snowfall, deteriorating conditions, and icy water or roads can present winter play hazards. When in doubt, keep the fun relegated to your own backyard or neighborhood.
  • Check in on warmth regularly. When kids are distracted by play, they can easily loose track of how cold they feel. Teach little ones to become aware of their bodies and their surroundings with a quick warmth check-in every now and then.
  • Take warm-up breaks. Chattering teach or frost-nipped cheeks are good signs its time for an indoor break. Who can resist a warm mug of hot cocoa!
  • Hydrate. Cold dry winds and heated rooms mean hydration is just as important in the winter months as the summer. Filling a kid-sized water bottle with the days’ water and letting kids sip throughout the day will keep them hydrated with water that’s warmed to room temperature.
A collection of over 40 of our favorite kids winter outdoor play activities! | via barley & birch

BACKYARD SNOW AND ICE PLAY

Snow day! When the flakes start flying, try one of these fantastic activities for snow play...

OUTSIDE WINTER SCIENCE PLAY

When exploring science concepts, I’ve always been a fan of hands-on learning, and I can’t think of anything more fun than taking the experiments outside! Here are a few of my favorite backyard winter STEAM suggestions

OUTDOOR WINTER NATURE OBSERVATION

The winter season presents a unique seasonal nature experience for kids. In addition to being a wonderful time opportunity to slow down, observe, and reflect, these ideas foster a deep appreciation for winter wildlife. And a plus for those of you in warmer environments: none of these winter nature play ideas require snow!

NEIGHBORHOOD WINTER GAMES

Winter: the season for reindeer games! Keep kids outdoor winter play fun with one of these game ideas, guaranteed to warm up your kiddos and keep them moving all winter long…


For more kids’ outdoor activity ideas, learn about Shinrin-Yoku and simple ways to start practicing with your kids, grab a free printable bug scavenger hunt, or make a DIY nature explorer kit from a shoebox and recycled supplies.

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Amanda E.
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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