I don’t know where I get these images from, as they are most definitely not from memories. The reality of a British winter is much less romantic. And this winter has been the most unromantic one I think I’ve ever known. The wettest and mildest December on record and January hasn’t been much better.
So when there’s nothing dry about a walk along the beach, and the closest thing to snow is hail — and let’s face it, if it does snow it’ll be brown slush before you even get your ten layers on — I decided to come up with some alternative things you can do with your kids to get outside and keep the winter magic alive.
Winter adventure ideas
- Walking: I know, I know, it’s cold out there and it’s probably raining. But I personally think you can’t beat a good walk in the great outdoors any time of year. And as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Wrap up warm and get out exploring.
- Scooters/bikes: If you do get a dry day, or don’t mind getting a bit wet, get the kids out on their scooters or bikes. You can either walk along with them or jump on your bike too and join in. I know when our kids want to spend the day inside in their pyjamas staring at the screen, the scooter or bike are one of the few things that will entice them outside. That and cake!
- Bird watching: Did you know that only about half of Britain’s birds migrate? This leaves you with a lot of birds still hanging around in the winter months. Get a pair of binoculars, head to the woods, or if you’re lucky enough, a wetlands centre with ready made hides, and go and see what you can spot. The kids will love watching them, and with smart phones, information about the birds you see is literally at your fingertips.
- Beach: I’ve never understood people who only go the beach in the summer. For our family it’s definitely a year round activity. There is still so much fun to be had, even if sunbathing and swimming are out of the question. Take your buckets and go looking for pebbles, shells and even sea glass. We often have competitions to see who can find the rock that most looks like a heart, or only find pebbles with white lines on them and then use them to make a circle or other shape. Simply walking along the beach will give you some lovely fresh air and clear those winter cobwebs right up. (Maybe take some blankets to wrap up warm with though!)
- Castles: We were very lucky this Christmas to receive a years membership to Cadw — an organisation that looks after most of the castles in Wales. We’ve already started to visit the ones closest to us and I’m looking forward to exploring further afield too. A day out at a castle, whatever the season, is a great adventure for all the family. Whether it’s a ruin or an intact castle, exploring, climbing, finding secret hallways and chambers, looking out of the arrow slits to see if you’re under ‘attack’, pretending to be knights, princes and princesses. You can’t beat it!
- Sledging: If you’re lucky enough to get snow or live close to hills that have snow (the Brecon Beacons are a good option for local folk), then you have to take the kids out sledging. A must for creating childhood memories that will give your kids unrealistic expectations of winter for the rest of their lives!
- Scavenger hunts: This is a great way to get your kids outside, and even with bare trees and scarce wildlife, there are still plenty of things you can be searching for. Here’s a blog post I wrote all about scavenger hunts if you want more tips or a few ideas.
- Muddy puddles: Jumping up and down in muddy puddles. We have Peppa Pig to thank for this one! It sounds so simple, but will inevitably give your kids (and you) endless fun. We often tell our kids we’re going on a puddle hunt instead of a walk, and each puddle they find, they see how big a splash they can make. Waterproofs and wellies are a must, fun is guaranteed!
- Botanic gardens: Wales National Botanic Gardens is a mere 20 minute drive from Swansea (where we live) and so worth a visit! They have both indoor and outdoor areas to explore, so if the weather takes a turn for the worse, you can seek shelter. And their huge glass house has the feeling of being in the middle of nature with all the perks of a warm and dry environment. If you’re not local, it’s worth a quick google to see if there’s something similar near you. You’d be surprised how many great opportunities there are to explore nature right on your doorstep!
- The National Trust: Something we love to do all year round is visit National Trust places. Especially in winter these can be a great option for getting out of the house. You’ll often find both indoor and outdoor options, a shop of treats and typically a great café to warm up in after a good bit of exploring. And at just £8 a month for a family membership, even if you only visit one place each month, you’ve already got your money’s worth.
I hope you manage to do some (or all) of these things over this winter season. It’s so important to get kids outside and not just when the sun is shining. So what are you waiting for? Go and have yourselves an adventure!
Words and images by: Rachael Smith (photographer, blogger & lover of all things outdoors)