If your winters are anything like ours, chances are you'll have at least one family member who doesn't want to venture outside one day. Or more than one day. Cold temperatures, biting winds, ice and snow can make December days tough to deal with.
That's why I created this free downloadable calendar of a month's worth of outdoor Christmas activities for families. You'll find a link to sign up for it down at the bottom ⬇️ of this post.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Plan Your Outdoor Christmas Activities for Families
Fresh air and physical activity are important to good health. Yet today, many adults and children spend more time indoors than ever before.
According to Yale University, a study of 12,000 children and adults found that more than 50% of Americans spend less than five hours a week outdoors. And once that temperature drops, it can be even more difficult to get inspired to go outdoors.
And if you homeschool and work from home as I do, online lessons, educational though they may be, mean more time sitting in front of a screen.
Plan Outdoor Christmas Activities
So it would help if you had a plan. Start by scheduling at least 45 minutes of outdoor time each day.
If you work from home, this could mean your outdoor Christmas activities for families happen when you break for lunch.
Got younger kids? Head out right after lunch. Forty-five minutes of fresh air will help prepare them for nap time.
Start a Family Hiking Habit
Recently, our family had to self-isolate for a two-week stretch. My husband Dan and I took this opportunity to start a new habit. We head out daily with our 11-year-old and 8-year-old. We try to go around 2:30 pm after their homeschool day was complete.
Whatever your family's situation, introducing regular outdoor activity with a Christmas theme for the month is a fun way to start.
Dress Your Kids for Cold Weather
When you dress appropriately for the outdoors, it's easy for even the youngest children to enjoy the winter days. Take care to make sure their feet and hands are extra warm, and if it's below freezing out, keep an eye out for frostbite.
We sometimes use plastic between two layers of socks to keep little feet warm. Handwarmers in mitts are also helpful. And a quick smear of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly high on the cheeks helps combat frostbite too.
Give your kids something to look forward to when they return. Maybe a hot chocolate and read-aloud time with an old-fashioned Christmas book for kids.
Start a New Tradition with Outdoor Christmas Activities for Families
Although our family lives in the middle of nowhere (literally) and it's easy for us to run outside and get immersed in a snow-filled forest, not everyone has that opportunity. That's why this list includes a variety of outdoor activities.
Check it out, and then sign up to grab your free printable calendar. It includes each of these activities in a grid format to print out and post on the front of your fridge.
(Note: yes, I know there are 31 days in December and only 23 activities listed here. Include 7 "kids choice" days and let your children select their favorite outdoor Christmas activity for your family. You can see how I schedule them on the calendar.)
Bring a basket or cloth bag to collect pinecones big and small. Use them to make Christmas wreaths, paint them for ornaments or just toss them into a festive basket for a simple centerpiece.
Build a Snowman
Got snow? Grab a carrot, a couple of big black buttons, an old floppy hat and a scarf and get rolling! Building a snowman together (or even a snow family) will have the whole family pitching in and building a favorite memory.
In our area, igloo-building workshops happen every year. Get your kids excited by watching a few YouTube videos before building your own igloo in the backyard.
Make Snow Angels
Another traditional but oh-so-fun outdoor Christmas activity for families. Tip: skip this one on days when it is damp out. Packing snow is great for igloos and snowmen, but it makes pretty wet (and grumpy) snow angels.
Night Skies and the North Star
Can you see the stars in the night skies of your neighborhood? We're lucky enough to now live where we can see the Northern Lights on a regular basis. However, when we lived in the suburbs we would look for the North Star and read the Story of Christmas on December 21st each year.
Now, this is just plain fun for families with kids of all ages! Head to your local hill or venture further afield for an afternoon of tobogganing.
With many arenas closed due to social distancing restrictions, why not try outdoor skating for family fun over the Christmas holidays? Better yet, if you have space, flood your own rink. (We have a lake - yes, we're lucky!)
Who else loves the smell of fresh-cut cedar, spruce or pine boughs? Younger children can run ahead and find pretty branches while bigger kids or parents can do the cutting.
Check out your local parks, churches, or public areas websites to find the closest Christmas Lights display. Or simply go for a stroll through your neighborhood one evening to find the ones you like best.
Find The Red Things
This is a simple yet fun outdoor activity that even toddlers can enjoy. Just start counting all the red things you see. Whoever finds the most gets to pick the night's dinner, movie, or dessert.
Outdoor Christmas Scavenger Hunt
Now here's another family favorite with oh-so-many variations! Scavenger hunts are fun all year - especially when you get to head outside. Head over to Pinterest to find a few options best suited to your location and your kids' ages.
If you've followed me for any length of time you know we forage as part of our regular homeschooling, homesteading, and self-reliance lifestyle. Yet you might be surprised to discover that you can forage in the winter too! Search online before for winter foraging in your area before heading out. In our neck of the woods we can gather Labrador Tea, rosehips, a variety of frozen berries, pine and spruce needles for Christmas crafts too.
Scrape Pine Gum
Our older kids have enjoyed spotting pine gum when we've been out for winter walks, and even used their utility knives to scrape the gum off the bark. While some people chew it as-is, I'm happy to use it to add a pretty, Christmasy scent to a pot of water on the wood stove.
Count the Winter Birds
What winter birds do you see in your area? We get crows, ptarmigans, and grouse through the winter, and occasionally even see an eagle or two. Take your binoculars and show your children how to watch for pigeons, or other winter birds. Another option? Look out for adventurous squirrels, mice, or chipmunks. We've seen them - even in December!
Choose a Christmas Tree
Even city families likely have the option to visit an outdoor Christmas tree market, so bundle up your gang and head out!
Make Maple Syrup Snow Candy
Even though this is usually reserved for a March maple-tree-tapping treat, we have indeed made maple syrup snow candy on a stick in December.
Look for Animal Tracks
Here's another fun outdoor Christmas activity for the whole family - looking for animal tracks. In particular, look out for reindeer tracks - after all, they do have to practice before their big night. This is a good opportunity for kids to learn about other animal tracks. We used our tracking sheets from our Think Outside Boxes Nature Box one year - it was a hit!
Examine Snow Flakes Up Close
Head outdoors for a science lesson disguised as a fun family Christmas activity. That's right - you're going to use a magnifying glass to examine snowflakes up close. Use these as inspiration for making paper snowflakes if you're looking for a 15-minute Christmas activity too.
Winter Wiener Roast
One of my favorite Christmas memories as a child was when my dad would let us roast wieners over an open fire on a snowy day back in our woods. Such great memories - even the tweens and teens in our family always loved doing this.
Practice Fire Starting
If your family is anything like ours, you want your children to not only enjoy the outdoors but know how to take care of themselves. That's why our kids have wilderness survival kits with age-appropriate tools, such as firestarters. However, you could always make a homemade fire starter then use it outdoors to get that Christmas wiener roast happening!
Navigate to a Christmas Gift
Get your kids practicing their outdoor navigation skills by using a compass and coordinates to find their early Christmas present. (Note: start this outdoors but you could actually have the present in your house. As in under the tree. So gifts don't get damaged. Or eaten by wildlife.)
Decorate an Outdoor Tree or Shrub
Do your kids have chores? Ours do, but they always seem to prefer doing chores together as a family rather than independently. Decorating an outdoor tree or shrub on your front porch, balcony, or your front yard is a fun seasonal outdoor "chore" and an outdoor Christmas family activity too.
Hang Your Christmas Lights!
Kids of all ages have helped us organize and hang Christmas lights outdoors. Even our preschoolers could shout instructions from the ground! Yes, it might be faster for mom or dad to hang those lights on their own. But when kids "help" they're really learning about outdoor Christmas traditions and activities that matter to your family - and making memories to carry for a lifetime.
Want More Ideas for Christmas Activities?
Head over to our sister site, Thrive at Home, for our newly updated 2021 12 Days of Christmas series!
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This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop #314!