GoMunkee’s top 10 outdoor winter activities (when there’s no snow)

Who said the word ‘snow’?  Although we had the Beast from the East in March 2018, bringing snow a-plenty, the sad fact is that with climate change, some children may grow up without ever playing in the snow in this country.

In 2019, a number of retailers displayed sledges, de-icer and ice shovels implying ‘don’t get caught out by the blizzards’. But the snow didn’t come and these wintery items remained largely unsold, basking in the unseasonly warm sunshine.  This winter, the retailers didn’t even bother and skipped snow and ice merchandising altogether.  However, here in the UK, we can always rely on rain to try to spoil the day.

Being housebound, families can go stir crazy over the winter months. The antidote to cabin fever and being stuck indoors is to go outside, but, as children are quick to point out, it’s cold, often wet and it still gets dark early.  Not nearly as appealing as snug, indoor screen time.  And with children, there’s a perception that outside in winter, there’s nothing to do…

Not so, says GoMunkee.  If you can ease them outside, children will quickly enjoy the fresh air and running about.  Next, you just need to steer them to take in some fun, winter activities then it’ll be win win all round.

Key to this is obviously making sure the kids are warm and wearing the right clothing.  You’re parents, so you’ll know all this anyway, just as you’ll know about dealing with mud, wet clothes, icy water in wellies and lost gloves etc.

So here are GoMunkee’s suggestions for winter fun (when there’s no snow and the rain has temporarily stopped).

1. Make dino ice eggs

It may not be Easter yet, but winter is the ideal time for an egg hunt with a difference. Blow up balloons, pop a small dinosaur inside each balloon and then add water with a little food colouring and a bit of glitter.  Let them freeze outside overnight or in the freezer.  When they are fully frozen, cut away the balloon and hide the ice eggs around the garden.  The children can put them in a nest where the small dinosaurs are revealed through ‘hatching’ (defrosting).  Although children will insist, this is obviously an activity which needs to take place outside.  Imagine the carnage of food colouring and water over the carpet…

2. Hit the slopes

You don’t have to go abroad and you don’t need snow to go skiing.  There are several dry slopes around, with the options of tubing and tobogganing. Check out Folkestone Sports Centre for snowsports, Chatham Snowsports Centre, The Snow Centre (with real indoor snow) round the M25 at Hemel Hempsted, and Knockhatch Ski and Snowboard Centre (Hailsham, East Sussex).

3. Go star-gazing

What’s not to like about stargazing? It’s a definite up-side to the darker winter evenings and if there’s no cloud cover, the winter sky can be amazingly clear.  Invest in a relatively cheap astronomical telescope (£27) for some fascinating close-ups on the moon, the planets and the stars.

The kids will love one of the many apps for identifying heavenly bodies in the night sky.  Just point your device at the sky and all will be revealed.  Try SkyView free for starters.

4. Try ice-skating

Yeah, technically it’s indoor not outdoor, but Kent’s big permanent rink is at Planet Ice in Gillingham where it’s always winter inside.

5. Go on a winter scavenger hunt

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Liven up a visit to the countryside in winter with a scavenger hunt.  The Woodland Trust has a number of useful pages to download which will keep the kids busy and interested.  It’s refreshing to go back to good old fashioned paper for family fun and learning.  No need to wave the phone around in the middle of a forest trying to get a signal so you can use an app.

6. Follow family bike trails

Kent has some great cycle trails for families: the Crab and Winkle way from Canterbury to Whitstable.  The kids will love the big outdoors of Bedgebury with cycle routes through its pine forests and around lakes, stumbling across the occasional pirate-themed sand play area. There are no hills along the tranquil Royal Military Canal at Hythe. The Perry Wood cycle trail near Faversham boasts some of the most beautiful countryside in Kent (warning: this is mud city, so be prepared). The Viking Coastal trail runs around the Isle of Thanet.  Then there’s Betteshanger Park near Dover for a perfect family cycling adventure.

7. A walk in the woods

There may be bluebells in April and wonderful coloured leaves in autumn, but winter in the woods?  Check out GoMunkee’s guide to fun, family–friendly walks in Kent for year–round adventures and discovery.  King’s Wood at Challock is full of stick dens which people have made.  Have fun creating some home improvements by adding more sticks.

8. Feed the birds and count the visitors

Garden, bird table, balcony or window sill, feathered friends need feeding up at this time of year and they aren’t fussy where their food is.  Check out the RSPBs website for all information garden bird.

9. Geocaching

Geocaching is a brilliant way to get the children outside and set them on an adventure to discover hidden treasure.  This can be done year-round and becomes highly addictive.  I bet you never thought you’d hear them begging to go on another Geocaching treasure hunt when it’s cloudy, raining and only just above freezing.  Check out GoMunkee’s guide to Geocaching.

10. Winter picnics

(Yes, there is snow in this picture, but try to imagine it without).  Family picnics are usually a fair-weather activity – there’s always a wasp or two creating mayhem, and if you’re in the woods you’l need to look out for nettles and biting wood ants.  Winter picnics are just as fun and can add a nice dimension to a family walk, cycle ride or foray into geocaching.  How about a flask of warming soup, still warm foil-wrapped cooked sausages, baked potatoes mulled apple juice or hot chocolate?

11. Freezing bubbles

Ok. So we did say 10 things to do in the Winter when there’s little or no snow, but who’s going to object to one more?! When it’s icy cold outside, get the children blowing bubbles.  They’ll love watching them freeze before they pop.

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