Family can be a lot to cope with especially during the festive season but a brilliant way to let off steam is to take the family outdoors. Read on to find some of our top tips for getting outdoors with the family this Christmas.
It’s tempting to think of Christmas as taking place primarily indoors – with the season conjuring images of roaring fires (or cranked up central heating) presents under the tree, Christmas TV and grandparents dozing in the front room!
However, if you can wrap up warm for the seasonal cold, there’s a lot of fun to be had exploring the winter wonderland both before and after dark.
Get out for a family walk
This idea sounds almost ludicrously simple, but then the best ideas usually are! When you consider our busy, often lonely lives many of us would have to concede that we can’t remember the last time we left our phones, cars etc. at home and simply went for a walk with our family.
Such walks can be particularly rewarding for families who live in different places and get back together at Christmas, as it gives you the perfect chance to catch up and share the smaller details in your lives, which sometimes get missed in the hustle and bustle of more organised events. As one sibling told us: “When we were kids, my brothers and I spent hours whiling the days away doing not much at all. It’s what you do as kids and sometimes I wish I could still do that now I’m an adult!” “It’s nice to force yourselves to pack your to-do list away for a while and enjoy their company”.
To stay with the theme of simplicity there’s no requirement for you to go anywhere in particular but if it’s in the daytime getting back to nature can be particularly rewarding at this time of year, and a brisk walk in the local park can really get you in the mood for the season’s celebrations (and the food!)
Though the work of our projects like Active Families and Family Monsters we know that getting outdoors and getting some exercise is vital for both your energy levels as a parent and for your family’s general physical and mental health, with the NHS advising that there’s a link between physical activity and mental wellbeing.
On the hunt
Getting out and about is the best way to spark your child’s interest in nature and the outdoors and spicing your walk up with a themed scavenger hunt is a great way to get them interested – with the added benefit of being particularly engaging for younger, more easily bored children.
How in-depth you want to go is up to you. At your local park or woods, you could consider leaving clues and signs for children and adults to find, or alternatively, a visit beforehand can give you some local landmarks which you can write on special clue cards.
Here’s some inspiring ideas for potential sights you can try and find with a festive feel:
- Spot a robin
- Find red berries (and check they aren’t poisonous)
- Find a holly bush or ivy leaf
- Take a picture of a frost pattern (you can even sketch it when you get home as an additional fun activity)
Remember that, as an adult, you will often dictate the route you take, so it’s easy to ensure children see the landmarks you’ve picked out. If you’re short on time you could follow the advice of one ill-prepared father we spoke to:
“I told them the Christmas elves had hidden chocolates in the woods“
“I’d promised we’d go for a scavenger hunt in the woods but completely forgot, so on the way I picked up a pack of fun-size chocolate bars from the shops.
“I told them the Christmas elves had hidden chocolates in the woods and then walked around with them slyly tossing the chocolate bars out behind trees etc. when they weren’t looking.
“Occasionally I had to point them in the right direction, but they never suspected that I was making it up on the spot, and had a great time foraging in the wood”.
Scavenger hunts get a lot easier if you’re visiting a town or city, as the amount of recognisable landmarks increases but, otherwise, the principal is the same. If you’ve put some money aside for a day out can event make the final destination on the trip a café or restaurant, and the “reward” a family meal!
Finally, there’s no reason you can’t combine a scavenger hunt or walk with a trip to see the Christmas lights (see below).
Visit some Christmas lights
One cheap way to generate some festive sprit is to get out and see the Christmas lights in your local area. These days the seasonal celebrations kick off earlier and earlier, so it’s likely the celebrations around switching them on took place in November. Go out and make a night of it! Here are a few pointers about doing so:
By foot or by car?
Either approach can be useful for seeing the lights, but be aware a visit by car may not be appropriate to city centre lights, which are often in pedestrianised areas. Don’t rule out a trip by car though as this gives you more freedom to visit lights on local high streets and neighbouring towns and villages (if applicable). It also means you can take better advantage of our next point…
Don’t neglect individual houses
The spirit of Christmas affects some individuals in a profound way and some people’s houses are easily the equal of council-run light displays. What’s more, these are often local talking points so a quick chat with family, neighbours or community figures combined with a brief trip out a few nights before can give you your own “Hollywood map of the stars”! A sneaky trip out on your own without children or family beforehand can also help with our next point.
Younger children and competitive adults alike will love it if you put together a competition relating to what you see. This is largely driven by where you live and the scale of the decorations you will be viewing – maybe you can count the number of snowmen or Christmas tree lights, or merely count the number of red or green lights etc. (top tip for perfectionist parents – it doesn’t matter if younger children miscount!)
Wrap up warm and take snacks and warm drinks
Your toes and your wallet with thank you later!
Let it Snow
No Christmas list focusing on the outdoors would be complete with a discussion of fun things that can be done in the snow.
Granted, in the UK the weather can’t be trusted to behave, but it’s best to be prepared just in case fortune shines (or snows) upon us!
Here’s a list of great snow-themed activities that you can try out should you wake up in a winter wonderland:
- Take a picture of your footprints in the show
- Lie down in the snow and make snow angels by waving your arms and legs
- Have a snowball fight – but make sure everyone knows not to aim at faces.
- Build a snow family
- Video the pets playing in the snow – the results can often be hilarious!
- Make a big pattern in the snow with your boots – this is a great suggestion for older children or those with a creative nature.
- Make an igloo (okay, we know it’s ambitious, but you never know….)
After going outside to explore you might feel in need of some refreshments, then why not take a look at our guide to making festive treats.