We don’t really see winter as ideal for spending time outdoors with our children, do we? The days are shorter, the weather is often less than inviting, and it’s hard to motivate ourselves to leave the comfort of a cosy house. But in my experience, children just don’t think this way. As far as my kids are concerned, when it comes to getting outdoors the season is pretty much irrelevant; as long as they’re dressed to suit the weather they will happily romp around regardless. I think we can learn a lot from their approach.
One easy way to introduce more outdoor time during the winter months is to try some winter nature crafts with your children. Nature crafts often combine outdoor and indoor activity, making them perfect for unpredictable weather and limited daylight. Here are some of our favourite winter nature crafts which we’ve found simple, fun and easy for children to take part in.
This is a lovely nature craft activity that takes advantage of all the twigs lying around at this time of year. A simple trip outdoors to the park can be combined with a stick hunt; explain to children that they need to find a nice variety of shapes and sizes so they can create a winter forest picture when they get home. In my experience you may need to give them an idea of maximum stick size – unless you’d prefer a really big picture!
Once you have your stick haul, you can glue them one by one to a piece of thick paper or card using PVA glue. The aim is to re-create a winter forest of bare branches, children can draw in details such as woodland creatures, toadstools and weather once everything is dry. It’s lots of fun to create a night-time forest scene too, this works well on blue card with white details.
Homemade bird feeders
Providing a winter food source for birds is not only a great way to help your local wildlife, encouraging birds to visit your garden will supply you with plenty of interest during the winter months. Making your own fat cake bird feeders is a simple craft activity that kids can easily get involved with, take a look at my homemade bird feeders blog post for a step-by-step guide.
You can extend this activity by encouraging children to monitor their feeders and make a diary of the variety of birds that visit – we were so surprised at how many species we had on our doorstep!
Winter journey stick
The rangers at our local Wildlife Trusts nature reserve introduced us to journey sticks when we visited last summer, and we’ve been hooked on this craft activity ever since. A journey stick is essentially a memento of a nature walk, featuring fallen items collected whilst on the walk (no picking from plants!); these might be things like leaves, twigs, flowers, berries, feathers or anything else natural that you find along the way.
Younger children can use a rectangular piece of cardboard with double sided tape attached to secure the items to the card. Older children can make a journey stick the traditional way, by choosing a stick and attaching items to it using string or wool. It’s a very simple nature craft requiring very little preparation, and you can build it into any outdoor exploration. I love the idea of making journey sticks from each season and getting children to compare what nature has to offer at different times of year.
Children love sowing seeds and watching them grow, and you can still get them busy planting in winter if you choose the right seeds. Winter salad is a brilliant option for colder weather; it’s easy to plant, quick to grow and also gives you an opportunity to teach children about where food comes from and the importance of healthy eating. You can buy mixed packets of winter-hardy salad seeds from garden centres or online, they usually include varieties such as rocket and mizuna.
For an extra craft activity children can decorate their own plant pot or lolly stick plant labels – this also helps you to keep track of which pot belongs to which child!
This is a lovely way to capture the season in a quick and easy craft. It’s similar to the idea of making a journey stick but instead of winding your treasures onto a stick, you tie them onto a piece of string when you get home and hang it up indoors. We’ve found that berry clusters, twigs, evergreen leaves and feathers all tie on and stay put really well. You can also add in things you have at home, such as cinnamon sticks or dried orange slices, to give your garland a lovely scent.
Winter has so much to offer when it comes to outdoor nature activities. I hope I’ve inspired you to grab your warm clothes and get outdoors with the kids this season. What are your favourite winter nature crafts?