Outdoor Activities For Kids in Winter
By Margaux Dever

Now that we covered all of the serious stuff in part one of our blog take-over, it’s time for some fun! Outdoor adventures in the wintertime are very special. This time of year there are amazing opportunities to learn about animals, birds, fish, and plants in a new and different way. Check out the following activities for a variety of ways to have fun outside in winter!

Try a new way to travel
You may have gone sledding, snowmobiling, or skiing in winter, but have you ever tried snowshoes? Dahlem has snowshoes available for a 2 hour rental at the Nutshell Gift Shop ($12 for adults, $10 for members, $5 for kids). Snowshoe rentals are available Tuesday through Friday between 9 am and 4 pm.

Look for tracks
The snow-covered ground is one of the best places to find animal tracks! Before you go on your adventure, come up with a list of animals that might leave tracks in the area you are planning to visit. You can look up the tracks online, or bring a book to identify the tracks during your adventure. Tracks you might see at Dahlem are squirrel, rabbit, deer, raccoon, muskrat, mink, and bird tracks near our feeders. You might even find a coyote’s tracks up near the cornfield or the prairie.

Colors scavenger hunt
A color scavenger hunt might sound like a surprising thing to do in the winter, but you would be surprised at how many colors are hiding in nature even when you think everything would be brown or white. Mushrooms on trees or hiding under fallen logs often have unusual colors, even pink and yellow! Winter birds can have bright colors, too. See how many different colors you see during your adventure and make a list. Or you can grab some paint chips next time you are at the hardware store and when you go on your adventure, see if you can match the colors on the chips to colors in nature.

Bark rubbing
The winter is a great time to get up-close and personal with trees. During warmer weather, there are lots of other plants growing that can make it difficult (or uncomfortable – watch out for prickles or poison ivy!) to get close to some tree trunks. In winter when there is less undergrowth is a good time to take a good look at tree trunks and maybe take a bark rubbing. You’ll need paper and crayons (old crayons with the wrappers removed are the best, turn them long ways to get the best effect). Press the paper against the tree and rub the crayon over the paper letting the bumps and grooves show up on the paper. Just don’t push so hard that you poke a hole in your paper!  

Playing in the snow
Snow is also just great fun to play with! Different types of snow are good for different kinds of play. Fluffy snow in temperatures above 10 degrees Fahrenheit is good for construction because it compacts well and then stays in shape: making snowmen, building snow sculptures, building snow forts or igloos, making snowballs. Powdery snow in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit is good for snow art because it doesn’t compact well and will fall apart if you try to compact it together, but it will hold a shape pressed onto it: snow angels, making designs with footprints, or drawing in the snow with sticks. 

At Dahlem, our Little Acorns Nature Preschool students often build snowmen around our Natural Playscape. Please be kind to our snowmen and don’t knock them down! You can absolutely make more to join them, though! Use your creativity and make different kinds of snow creations- snow animals, snowbirds, snow fish, snow plants, snow vehicles, or anything else you can come up with! 

Spending time outside with kids in the winter is not only possible, but with a little extra planning and preparation, it can be enjoyable for both parents and kids. Here at Dahlem, you can have an experience that feels like exploring the wilderness without being far from home. Even in the winter, there is so much to see here. We have several ecosystems that are part of our land: wetlands, woodlands, grasslands, and cultivated gardens. These different ecosystems attract different kinds of animals and birds, as well as a variety of plants. If you like looking for birds, winter is a good time to birdwatch because there are fewer leaves and brushes for the birds to hide in, so it is easier to spot them. 

Thanks for reading and we hope that you will remember Dahlem next time you are planning an outdoor adventure. Come spend time at Jackson’s Nature Place and be sure to tag us on social media with #dahlemcenter. See you on the trails!

About The Dahlem Conservancy
The mission of the Dahlem Conservancy is to provide environmental education and outdoor experiences to the residents of South-central Michigan. We have nearly 300 acres of woodland, wetland, grassland, and gardens with five miles of walking trails. Our trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset at no cost, but we would appreciate a donation! Anything you can give makes a difference and the funds help us maintain the trails so you can explore the outdoors and have adventures here. Our small staff of 6 people work very hard to make sure that our land, trails, parking lots, and shelters are open and available every day of the year. The Nutshell Gift Shop, Exhibit areas, and the Conservancy Offices are open Tuesday to Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. We are taking precautions to protect our guests and staff from the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings/masks must be worn indoors at all times. Our restrooms are currently closed, but we do have a temporary portable outhouse located near the Rotary Pavilion. We would be delighted if you would join Dahlem’s work and become a member. Perks of membership are discount tickets to events and summer day camp, a purchase discount at the Nutshell Gift Shop, and our monthly newsletter. Let us know if you have any questions or would like to learn more about Dahlem! 

Carrie Benham, Naturalist Educator cbenham@dahlemcenter.org
Margaux Dever, Development Director mdever@dahlemcenter.org

Outdoor Activities For Kids in Winter – Dahlem Center’s Blog Take-Over

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