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Dec 8

How to Make An Outdoor Holiday Work for Your Family

by Meghan Fitzgerald

This year, holidays will be like no other, and so many people are foregoing the travel and traditional get togethers in order to keep the people we love safe. If you are lucky enough to live near to those dear to you, though, you do have a safe way to get together—move your gathering outdoors! 

As many of us prepare to move holiday celebrations outside, we’ve been asking ourselves the same question—how can we make an outdoor version of our holiday safe, comfortable and as magic as the old indoor festivities? And, how can we get the various generations to interact with one another safely, especially in the wintery weather?

Help Kids Keep Distance

First, if you are worried about how to help kids learn to keep a safe distance, we’ve got you covered. Check out winter-friendly mask options in our Winter Accessory Guide and tips to help kids embrace masks, too. 

Keep Loved Ones Comfy

Next, try to stay flexible about which day you’ll gather. People’s social calendars are often quite flexible these days, and it’s well worth watching the weather to pick the day with the most sunshine and least wind. Encourage everyone to dress in layers and bring blankets for when they are seated or just need to feel a little extra warmth. 

If it’s really chilly, consider giving out a goodie bag with hand warmers (or my old-school favorite, baked potatoes wrapped in tinfoil). Just feeling prepared and being able to add or shed layers helps people of all ages feel more confident and comfortable in a wintery outdoor setting. Or, trade the family photo of everyone in their holiday pajamas for a shot of everyone wearing the same color scarf!

You can also provide ways to warm loved ones from the inside like warm cider, tea or hot chocolate, but be really careful about how you serve and eat it. Eating and drinking are the activities that put us at highest risk, so be sure that you bring a separate batch of whatever you are serving for each “pod” and space pods out by at least 6 feet of more when masks are down and eating and drinking are happening.

What to Do While You're Outside Together

Wondering how to help relatives of all ages, especially grandparents, engage with young kids outdoors? Try any of these ideas for sweet activities:

  • Scavenger Hunt/I Spy—For kids age 3 and up, print out a copy of our Winter Scavenger Hunt for each “pod” of people in your get together. Then, team up to find as many things as you can. Follow kids’ lead, use all of your senses and enjoy the adventure as long as it lasts! View our DIY Activity here.
  • Take a Listening Walk—No matter where you live, there are special sounds you can only hear in winter Whether it’s cracking ice or the chirp of birds visiting from the north you’re listening for, take a walk together to take in all of the sounds of the season! View our DIY Activity here.

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  • Star Pose! Teach kids to teach others how to do a star pose. Inspired by the yoga tradition, whether seated or standing, each of you can envision a string pulling from the top of your head upwards. Then, stretch out arms and legs to form a star. While you are stretching, envision light and joy flowing out through each point of your star. If you want, y you can each share something that brings you joy as well.
  • Play Ball—As long as hands are clean or mittens are on, nearly all kids can kick or roll balls back and forth from a safe distance. Even babies can delight in a ball rolling back and forth along the ground. Plus, round objects just happen to naturally trigger feelings of joy—bonus!
  • Hide and Seek—Hide and seek has never lost its appeal—even though it dates back to ancient times! And, hurrah, it’s even COVID-proof, offering a socially distant way to play together outdoors. Enjoy playing the classic game with whomever you’ve gathered outside. If you have wee ones, or if the adults are not comfortable hiding, play a variation on hide and seek. Just hide a stuffie or special object (e.g. a holiday elf) for kids to find in different spots around your outdoor space. Kids can even take turns hiding it for the elders to find!
  • Hide the Presents—If you are exchanging gifts, consider making a simple treasure hunt outside. Kids can either follow simple clues or just use their senses to find presents. Squirrels love to cache (or hide) away their treasures for winter. As you hunt, pretend to be squirrels scurrying about in search of hidden goodies! You can also hide yummy things like holiday sweets, too. Just pack them in tight containers that the real squirrels can’t open, and remember to separate pods of guests by at least 6 feet in order to nibble them up safely!

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  • Make Bird Feeders—Engage everyone in a sweet and simple DIY bird feeder project using bird seed and either oranges or pine cones and nut butter. Enjoy doing a simple craft together, then place your feeders out for the birds (or squirrels) to enjoy. You can sit for a while to observe who comes to nibble or keep track in the days that follow your gathering and get kids to report back to loved ones about who visits the feeders you make.

Outdoor Fires with the Whole Family

If you have access to a fire pit, warming and watching the fire can keep all ages cozy and engaged for longer outdoors in winter. Plus, fires and light have featured in early winter festivities for centuries, adding joyful light to any gathering. But, it can feel tricky to introduce young kids to fire. We’ve really enjoyed this simple, playful and effective way to teach fire safety helpful on the summer campsite and in our winter warming fires.

Make a Circle of Safety:

Before you start your fire, use rope, string or even a series of colorful stones to lay out what we call a “circle of safety—such that there is 4 feet between the string and the fire all the way around. If your kids are old enough to help, let them contribute. Otherwise, you can narrate to wee ones about what you are doing as you set it up. 

Once the circle is in place, play a bit around the circle, reinforcing that the circle is an area no one except a grown up should step inside. For example, you can play tag for a bit with the added rule that you become “it” if you step in the circle. 

Once the fire is lit, the clearly visible safety zone helps kids learn to keep themselves safe and helps you and other grown ups know when to prompt kids to back up a bit when you gather around the fire.

Happy Outdoor Holiday!

However you set up your outdoor gathering, and no matter how long everyone lasts, we celebrate with you your chance to see one another and to share in a moment together outdoors and all of the goodness that brings for the heart, body and mind. Happy outdoor holidays to all!

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Meghan Fitzgerald

Founder

After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, Meghan has her dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including hers, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, Meghan worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. She earned a BA with majors in English and Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. When she is with her kids, Meghan is that unapologetic mom who plays along with them in mud, dances in the pouring rain, and builds a darn good snow igloo with her bare hands.

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