Winter Nature Play
I love the adage, ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.’ especially this time of year when the winter winds and flakes can make you feel like it’s not worth the fight to get bundled. What’s your strategy for getting the kids geared up before the inner heat you’ve created sends your minds to a boiling point!? Sometimes I don’t get the process down so wisely. I feel like if our coat area was set up more like a firehouse station, we might gear up and get out…it’s always a back and forth with finding gloves, the hat, and which door the snow pants are hanging up at. Keeping myself from getting overheated helps me have more patience in that process. Luckily we have a screened in porch so I can send the bundled baby and big kids out once they have their gear on, and they can wait there until I get winterized.
It was really about commitment the other day when the idea to go outside in the falling snow came over the living room where free play was happening. There was no pressure of schedule to follow, we didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. We knew that the need for physical activity was necessary and that being outside was always welcomed and enjoyed once we got there. Somehow we kept the momentum going even with the resistance voiced by the happily engaged big kids. I think that’s where the commitment came in. We had a vision and we didn’t waver. We wanted to go for a walk in the trails at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. There were plenty of easy trails and a lookout tower that we could climb. It would be fun…
We brought along a sled to pull our 21 month old in as well as a thick wool blanket. The flakes were really fat and falling steadily once we got there, and our 9 year old who had been dragging her feet around the whole idea raced to grab the sled rope from me so she could pull the littlest one. She wore the rope loop around her waist and pulled him up and over the rambling path.The big kids still managed to find walking sticks and we noticed small animal tracks in the snow. Over time as we began walking my 5 year old came up with different hand signs to signal things that were coming up on the path… a hill, a root, a turn, so that the peacefulness of the quiet woods would not be disrupted by a warning holler.
We watched as the trail markers turned from blue to yellow as we crossed paths with other trails. The small bridges that went over the wettest parts were fun signposts on our journey. Sticks were used to break the ice so we could see the water running beneath. My daughter noticed a tiny baby evergreen peeking out from the new snow. When I stopped to take a look I pointed out how there was actually a hole stand of them sprouting up beneath this bigger evergreen we had paused at. There was still a lot happening even with the stillness and apparent ‘pausing’ of nature with this season. I am always amazed at how the kids tend to be the ones to notice the pulse of our natural world through their curiosity. It’s how discovery happens! We just have to bring them to the opportunity and they will certainly find it.
What are some of the ways your family stays connected to nature within the limits of winter?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.
[Photo credit: (cc) Emily Lord]