It's hard to muster the enthusiasm to get outdoors in winter when the wind is howling and the rain is pattering on the window. The battles with hats, gloves, coats ('Yes, you do need to wear a coat, its -4!') is enough to exhaust most parents before stepping foot outside. However, for us, we find ourselves going mad with squabbles if we're indoors for too long. When we find ourselves climbing the walls, we know it's time to climb some trees. Everyone just seems happier and more relaxed after a stomp outdoors - be it a quick burn in the local park, a visit to see the sea or a day in the woods. We always seem to bond better as a family when adventuring outside - as long as we have a flask of warm drink and a bag of snacks, we're ready for anything!
So here's a list of our favourite games for keeping warm and happy. We often play these at Forest School, but my boys and their friends love playing them (and making up new rules to them) whenever we go for a stomp around the woods.
Hide and seek
To start with the obvious, but this has been a firm favourite since my oldest was 2. The name often changes- sometimes the hiders are spies, sometimes it's a predator/prey game, but the premise is the same. Someone hides and someone seeks. Hours of fun!
Owl & Mouse
This is a game that has evolved at our Baby Bee Forest School sessions and still changes all the time. Generally the adult is the owl and the children are the mice. The owl has a pile of 'nuts' - could be pinecones or sticks next to them and faces a tree. The mice hide in the woods away from the owl. The owl says 'Owls going to sleep' and faces the tree, then the mice have to try to creep up on the owl to steal a nut. Owl will say, 'Owl waking up 3, 2, 1' and turn around and the mice have to quickly hide again. if a mouse is seen, they join the owl. When a mouse manages to get a nut they are the winner.
You're only safe if...
Usually started by an adult, but once they've got the gist of it kids love coming up with ideas themselves. The leader states 'You're only safe if... you're touching something green/soft/wriggly/living/manmade/off the ground...', then it's a game of tag - with the leader trying to catch everyone until they're touching the safe thing. We love playing this on the way to school - it's amazing how many categories you can come up with!
Capture the flag
This is a great way to keep warm in the woods in the winter, when sometimes just walking isn’t quite good enough. Have a ‘flag’ (could be anything - a hat/glove/stick) for each team, which is kept in a 'base'. Your aim is to capture the other team’s flag and get it to your base, before they capture yours. Rules on contact vary, but we play ‘tagging’ people to freeze them until another member of their team unfreezes them. We sometimes attach tags or glow sticks to coats, these can be used as the contact point. This gets everyone warmed up in no time!
Woodland Trackers or Follow that log!
This game started when our dog decide to drag the biggest log he could find through the woods and disappeared with it. The children realised that we could follow the tracks left by the dragged log to find our wayward dog. Since then, we have had various members of the family going ahead dragging a big stick along the ground and the rest of us hunting them down by following the tracks. This game quite nicely leads to...
There are magic trees in the woods of Sussex and funnily enough they seem to fruit when families have been in the woods for a while and little legs need that extra boost to finish the walk! We love looking for
magic trees on woodland walks - sometimes the tree's nooks and crannies hold little pebbles with pictures on - to spark imagination and storytelling, sometimes little gifts (yo-yos, balls, lego cards - if we are prepared enough to have these things to hide!). Or for long walks and cold days when our little ones need a little motivation, we find magic trees that fruit chocolates - like mini Easter Eggs, or golden coins around Christmas (or malt loaf if the tree's are healthier magic trees!). I guess this is our family version of geocaching and sometimes it's a life saver to run ahead and hide a few treats in the trees - as long as our dog doesn't find the magic trees first!
So those are our family favourites to get us outdoors in winter. What are yours?
Bee in the Woods are looking forward to starting our Forest School sessions again in February. With Half Term Holiday Clubs, Family days and Baby Bee's all set to return, check out our What's on page for more information.