Spring fever
February 24, 2014 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Help my little family enjoy spending time outside with two feet of snow on the ground.

I feel silly asking this, but here it is anyhow: I'm in Maine, I grew up with snow and winter weather, so I feel like I should know this, but maybe it's the urban vs. rural thing.

For much of this year it's been far too cold to spend any quality time outside, but now it's warming up (to, like, 35) and the sun is shining and I'd like to find things to do with my kid (and husband) outside...

... but ...

... our 'yard' (such as it is) is too small for romping in the snow for more than about 5 minutes, plus we have already built a big snowman and he's taking up about a third of the limited available space. We could drive (with sled and child we'd have to drive) but child doesn't like to sled (I know, I know). We don't ski or snowshoe -- no money, no interest, no equipment, too hard for motor-challenged kiddo and my limited-mobility knee. We tried to go for a walk on Saturday (it was so beautiful) on the local trail system, but it was still too treacherous (icy and wet) and wasn't much fun.

Is there a snowy equivalent of "going to the park" that I'm just missing? Some easy way for us to spend low-impact, no-equipment time outside while there is still a deep snowpack (I'm not kidding about 18 inches or more of snow in our yard) and ice, but with some melting going on? We have plenty of winter-appropriate clothing (boots, snow pants, hats, mittens, coats of varying levels of insulation) but I just can't find anything for us to do, here in the middle of the city (such as it is). I'm really tired of being inside, and would like to be out in the bright sun, but everything we do quickly stops being fun once someone (not always me) has fallen down a couple of times.

posted by anastasiav to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: One counter-intuitive thing to do is going to the beach. Go at low tide and you'll have plenty of clear area to walk around and kids can run around and explore, find shells, and do all the usual beach stuff except for taking a swim. Just dress for a bit of extra wind and pack a thermos of hot chocolate to sip in the car as you warm up afterwards.

Better get out there today before it dips back into the 20s for the rest of the week!
posted by mikepop at 11:11 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

How old is your kid?
posted by rockindata at 11:15 AM on February 24, 2014

Hmm... could you drill down into the snow-related activities that involve sitting in one place and using snow as material? Stuff like find a vacant clearing in the snow--> build snow/ice fort. Mini toy animals into backyard--> build mini snow palace/zoo for them. Bring old squirt bottles full of food coloring and paint in the snow in random locations. Visit bridges/creeks and throw bits of snow and ice off/into them. Find side-streets with melting runoff and try to dam the flow using other bits of snow and ice. Etc., etc.-- I'm guessing Pinterest would be your friend here.
posted by Bardolph at 11:15 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Does he like nature? What about birds? Gilsland Farm might have some activity within your time frame and budget (Saturday morning walks down at the bottom right of the main page, other activities geared toward families).

Or, you could get a birding book and take short walks around the neighborhood. One day on chickadees, another on cardinals, crows are always fascinating.... red squirrels vs. grey squirrels. And then a hot drink and a snack after and some coloring of said bird or animal?

And get on a list for spotting the first hummingbird (which won't be until May) but maybe future events like that... first robin, etc., would be kind of cool?

Then you could carry it into summer with monarchs and dragonflies.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Snowball fight. Snow angels. One thing my 3 year old likes is for me to drag him around on his sled, rather than take it down a hill. I haven't tried it yet, but I've been meaning to hook his sled up to my bike (which has studded snow tires) and take to the local park trails.

To add to mikepop's answer, if you have a local frozen lake it can be fun to throw rocks onto the ice. If the ice is large in surface area, but thin, a rock thrown high into the air will break through and make an amazing almost metallic "bloop" sound.
posted by Poldo at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: rockindata (and everyone). My son is 7 1/2. It's probably pertinent to say that he's ADHD (not managed with medication), Autism spectrum (very mild, did not meet the former criteria), and has a few other issues. He loves to splash and stomp and run (and run and run and run). He dislikes being wet. He wants to be a paleontologist, and is very interested in nature, and all growing things. He does best in places where he can run free-form vs. having to stay on a path or risk bumping into people. He just learned to ride his bike (sorta) last summer.
posted by anastasiav at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2014

Oh, and for a curious 7-1/2-year-old, putting a sciencey/inquiry-based spin on things might be a good way of adding structure and suspense. Stuff like, "So if we built a really tall thin tower out of snow, how tall do you think it'd get before it fell over? Really? Let's find out!" Or guess how much salt it would take to melt a basin full of snow, then test your hypotheses. Or drop heavy/light things from an upper window of your house and see how far they sink into the snow. Or time how much faster/slower he can run on a bare street vs. through an equivalent distance of deep snow, then encourage him to break his record. If he's at all reluctant to be outside, then the experimental format also offers a nice opportunity to provide incentive in the form of a "prize" for the closest guess, etc.
posted by Bardolph at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Magnifiers. Snow crystals.
posted by Namlit at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sugar bushes are opening up -- go out and get some pancakes and a sleigh ride somewhere?
posted by kmennie at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tough one. We are still buried here too. Kite flying can be good if you have a windy day. We go to the playground and the kids slide and climb in snowsuits. And. Confession. Yesterday in desperation I let my eldest buy a Nerf gun with his savings and told him the only place he could shoot it was in the backyard. Amazing how the power of shooting imaginary zombies with Nerf bullets draws him outside despite the cold. Of course this only works because he finally has the coveted toy I've been evilly denying him so long.
posted by Cuke at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2014

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