Cold Weather Outdoor Games for Kids

When the temperature drops and the snow starts to fall, you might be tempted to hibernate inside. But these cold weather outdoor games will help you embrace the cold and give your kids the exercise and fresh air they need.

cold weather outdoor games

Don’t fall under the misconception that kids have to stay inside when it’s cold. There’s an old Scandinavian phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Many Scandinavian parents live by this phrase, insisting children spend time outdoors every day.

When Linda Åkeson McGurk, a Swedish woman who married an American and moved to Indiana, she realized the stark differences between the nature-centric parenting philosophies she’d grown up with and the American tendency toward screens and time spent indoors. She wrote a book (filled with research alongside her anecdotes) we highly recommend: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather.

Linda recently answered several questions about outdoor play in the winter on her blog. Here’s her answer to the question we’ve been asked most often:

How long can my child play outside in the winter?

“It just depends – on the weather, how active your child is and what they’re wearing. If your child has rosy cheeks, seems happy and is playing actively, they’re likely comfortable. By the same token, you need to pay attention to your child’s signals and let them warm up inside if they’re complaining of being cold, especially on frigid, windy days.”

“Children’s circulation is not fully developed, which means that their extremities get cold faster than adults’. If your child’s skin is pale and cold, it could be a sign that they’re having trouble staying warm. They may also shiver or stand around and huddle to conserve body heat. At that point you have two options – encourage your child to generate body by moving around, or take a break and go inside for a while.”

Cold Weather Outdoor Games for Kids

The bottom line: kids CAN play outside in rain and cold weather. Make sure they’re dressed properly. And check in with them periodically and come inside when it gets too cold for comfort.

Now, here’s how to bring maximum fun to those days when the temps are minimum.

A little competition and roughhousing is healthy. In the case of siblings, you may have to rely on your gentle parenting skills to make sure all goes smoothly. These games should be all in good fun for everyone.

Snow Tie Dye

Take spray and squirt bottles and fill them with colored water (just add food coloring). Then go in the snow and make art. Make sure to give each kid an area or “canvas” to get creative.

Flag Football

Create two teams with at least two players on each side. Create sides of the field with sticks or food dye in the snow, and put flags or cut up pieces of a t-shirt in each person’s waist band. Then play ball!

Winter Scavenger Hunt

Go on an expedition. Think regular nature scavenger hunt – only winterized. Make a list of 10 things you want to find like an inflatable Santa, a snowman, a menorah, blinking lights, holiday wreath, icicles, an undecorated house – and more. If your crew is feeling competitive, break into teams to see who can tackle the list first.

Basic Quidditch

Let the wizard world inspire you with this tag-soccer hybrid game. Set up hula hoops on opposing sides of the yard. Chasers try to throw a ball through the opposing team’s hula hoops while Keepers defend their hoops like a goalie.

Taggers use soft foam balls to tag Chasers and make them give up the ball. One child acts as the golden snitch and runs as fast as possible while the Seekers try to catch him or her. This game is perfect for any Muggle that wants to add a little magic to playtime.

Pin the Hat on Frosty

Build a snowman and then take turns trying to throw hats on his head. Each person gets a hat (or a turn with one hat). Whoever gets closest to his snow dome wins.

Freeze Tag

Let everyone run around outside while each kid takes a turn being the “freezer.” When the “freezer” tags a runner they have to stop moving and stand as still as a snowman. To keep everyone moving, add some “melters” whose job it is to thaw out frozen runners by tagging them.

Hunger Games Dash

While we don’t suggest reenacting the all-out kids’ battle described in the popular series, you can let your kids channel their inner Tribute with this fast-paced showdown. Mark off a large playing area and gather a cornucopia of pinecones, tennis balls and other small items in the middle of the yard.

Have each child stand in her own corner. On “go” they must all run to the center and retrieve one item to bring back to their corner. If someone is able to tag another player before they bring the gear back to their corner, the tagger gets the goodie.

Sled Races

Kids love races, but it’s hard to run in snow boots and thick pants. Sailing down a snowy hill is a fun way to channel that competition, and the novelty probably won’t wear off before they get cold enough to come in for warm soup.

More Winter Fun for Kids

Winter Activities to Keep Teens Off of Their Screens

Stargazing with Kids

Nature Themed Coloring Pages

How to Observe the Winter Solstice with Kids

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