By Holly Priestley
The winter holidays are known for their ability to bring people together around a table to enjoy a good meal or share cookies in a living room with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. There might be sledding or ice skating, skiing or snow angels.
When all these typical seasonal outings are exhausted, how do you keep your family active and engaged, away from their electronic devices and the never-ending onslaught of holiday television programs?
We’re going to share seven of our favorite unique ways to get your family outdoors this season - perhaps they’ll even inspire a new tradition!
Go for an I-Spy Scavenger Hunt
This one is a family favorite no matter where you find yourself this winter. Whether you have ample access to nature or are planted squarely in a metropolitan area, you can participate in a self-determined I-Spy Scavenger Hunt.
Before you leave the house, put on a beanie and make a list of things you want to look for. Some examples include:
- Find something red.
- Hug a tree.
- Identify three different types of birds.
- Say Hello to at least one critter.
- Count as many different snowflake decorations as you can find.
Your list may vary depending on where you are and what can be found on your exploration. It’s a perfect way to engage the entire family from the very young to the more seasoned and it’s endlessly customizable.
Take the Family Out for a Photo Walk
Whether you’re going out for a traipse through the woods or a walk around the neighborhood, giving your family a new lens with which to see the world will shift the energy of the adventure.
Cell phone cameras have come a long way so go ahead and use those or perhaps some of you have digital cameras to bring along. It might also be fun to give everyone an old-school disposable camera to carry with them throughout the season to capture their own candid memories!
Sharing photos after the walk is a loving way to see what details your cousin saw that you overlooked, or to see what decorations your niece thought were the most sparkly while you were enamored with the figurines in the windows.
Play Tourist in Your Own Town
Especially if you’re not going anywhere exotic, the holidays may seem a bit more boring and not so exciting. When was the last time you went to the little history museum down on the mainstreet of your town? Have you ever driven the neighborhoods with the explicit intention of enjoying everyone’s holiday decorations?
Retraining your eye to see your hometown as a new adventure will give you more things to fall in love with and to appreciate about a familiar space.
Find Your Holiday Decorations in Nature
Depending on where you are, you may be able to snag a permit and go wander around the woods in search of your own Christmas tree rather than going to the back of the parking lot at the grocery store. The trees you find in the woods may more closely resemble Charlie Brown’s infamous twig than the farmed ones but the experience is inimitable and sure to create new memories for your family.
You might also be able to find pinecones or other dried seed pods to place in the middle of the table, on the mantle or bookshelf. You could even take your nature pieces and paint them, add glitter, and string or ribbon to add to the pizzazz of your decor.
Decorate Nature with Eco-Friendly Creations
Give a little gift to the outdoor spaces near your home by decorating the outside as well as the inside.
You can make birdseed-covered pinecones, corn cobs, or apples to hang in nearby trees. You could collect fallen leaves and create designs at the base of the trees from which they came. You could make wreaths out of fallen limbs to hang on branches or prop against stones.
Use what you find in nature to create beautiful, natural art pieces in that same area that’ll surprise and delight all who come across it in the future.
Organize a Litter Pick-Up & Give Your Town the Gift of Clean
If your family likes fun and games, make it a mini competition to see which person or team can pick up the most trash in your neighborhood, town, or favorite hiking trail in just one hour!
Not only is this going to get you out and about and active, it will lead to a cleaner neighborhood and may even inspire others to join you in the efforts. (Pro Tip: This would be a good one to make into an annual tradition.)
Participate in Local Events
Seasonal 5k races are popular no matter which big city or small town you live in. Sign up for one as a family and run, walk, waddle, and gobble your way to the finish line.
Some towns host parades. Go to them. Bring your folding chairs, a thermos of hot chocolate, maybe a blanket, and enjoy the lights and the floats and the enthusiasm of the local creators.
Go to and buy from local maker markets. Art shows, galleries, shops, and farmers markets often have a ton of locally-made goods for sale this time of year and this would be an excellent way to show your family AND your community that you love and support them.
No matter what your family looks like, where you live, or what your favorite activities are, there are ways to get outside and enjoy nature this holiday season.