A recent article in my local paper touted a few local shopping malls as great destinations to get exercise in the winter. It claimed one could get a good workout by walking their sprawling real estate. Uh, non merci. Even though I happen to live ten minutes from the largest mall in the province, you could never convince me to go there for any other reason than a quick one-stop-shop and that is it.
Whatever happened to getting fresh air? Exercising and window shopping may appeal to some, but I’m guessing a couple times around my mall would only leave me hankering for a Starbucks, — and six new pairs of shoes.
We’ve had a mild winter so far, and if you dress for it, the cold does much more help than harm. Brilliant sunlight, crisp cool air, and a peaceful blanket of white snow – now that is the mix for an invigorating, yet calming work out. We’ve been getting outdoors every day out of sheer necessity; it’s far too easy to go bonkers when you’re snowed in! Sometimes we go sledding, sometimes skating, but all the kids really need is a snow bank to have fun.
Try a Winter Picnic for a change
In summer we practically eat everything outdoors, but winter confines us to the dining room table three times a day, and quite frankly, that gets old. Why not plan a winter picnic to change things up?
With proper planning and an adventurous spirit, a snow picnic can be easily executed and every bit of fun -if not more- than a summer picnic! You’ll see, it will be one meal of the season that your children will remember for years to come.
Here are my tips to keep everyone happy on a winter picnic in the snow – both parents and children!
Tips for a Picnic in the Snow
A thermos of hot cocoa and homemade cookies are a good place to start. Don’t attempt an entire meal on the first try, lest you get discouraged. Instead, pack some cookies or other favorite treats in a waterproof container, fill a thermos (I like the Kids Konserve Insulated Stainless-Steel Thermos because it’s BPA-free, portable, and keeps food hot for hours) with hot chocolate, and be on your way.
We probably do this 2-3x a week when Noah gets home from school. An afternoon snack enjoyed in the quiet of the forest after a long day in a classroom is my idea of letting my five-year-old unwind.
Dress the Part
You wouldn’t show up at a pool party wearing a parka, would you? In order to enjoy the winter picnic experience, dress to the nines. When we head out, everyone is outfitted from head to toe in warm gear, and while it may not be matching or brand name, it keeps us snug and that’s enough. Don’t forget to wear an extra pair of socks!
Tip: If it is a particularly sunny day, and you’re planning on being out for a few hours, you may want to apply a thin layer of sunscreen on little faces before you get bundled up. The snow reflects the sun’s rays and sunburn in winter is a possibility.
Watch the weather
Make sure you have a good idea of where the weather is headed. Gently falling snow makes for a fun setting, but much more can be trouble. If there is a chance it may turn into freezing rain, then either stay very close to home, or wait for another day.
Grab the Gear
This is one picnic you can leave the bug spray at home! We don’t bring much more than food (the essentials!), but here are a few items you may want to toss in a backpack to be prepared.
- Camera. Snap a few photos and share them with us on our Flickr group!
- Blanket. We sit right in the snow or on a fallen log in our snow pants, but you may want a woolen blanket to spread out.
- Flashlight. Bring a small one if you are going far from home. Night falls quickly!
- Kleenex. Inevitably, someone’s nose always needs a wipe.
- Matches. If you’re rural enough to be able to build a fire.
- Small plastic trash bag. You know the motto, right? Leave no trace.
Get out of town
The winter slush in a city is no fun. If you can, hop into a car and make tracks to a local orchard, farmer’s field, or even a golf course.
If staying in town is the only option, try and head for the biggest park near you and bushwhack off the trail. Find a nice perch with a view and ideally some sunshine.
No matter where you are, make the outing more of an adventure for the kids by pretending you’re in a favorite storybook. My boys like to play Royal and Almanzo from ‘Farmer Boy’. We hunt a lot of ‘panthers’ when we’re tromping through the snow.
Grub that’s Good
Yes, the word ‘picnic’ generally conjures up images of watermelon, egg salad sandwiches and cupcakes, but I don’t recommend any of those for a winter outing. Instead pack non-messy, easy to eat foods that warm the tummy and don’t require any on-site assembly.
- Thermos. Ideal items for a thermos would be Chili, stew, lentil soup, or macaroni & cheese.
- Foil-wrapped. Many summer camping foods can be adapted to suit a winter picnic. Simply prepare and cook the food at home, keep well wrapped and warm in aluminum foil, and bring them along for the picnic. Try Beef Stew Packets, Campfire Burritos or even just easy baked potatoes.
- Cold. Wraps, sandwiches, and simple finger foods are another easy route for keeping little tummies happy. Homemade granola bars are sure to please, and no one can turn down a freshly baked muffin. Don’t forget a thermos of hot apple cider to help warm the hands up.
As opposite to a summer picnic, food tends to take a back seat in a winter picnic. Eating is secondary when there are snow forts to build and tunnels to dig. PBJ’s we will have with us always, but the snow? It will be gone by April.
Have you picnicked in winter before? Would you?