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Published: Sunday, December 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

18 ways to keep kids happy and active outside in winter

  • Beaches are great for winter explorations. Go after a storm to see what interesting discoveries the waves tossed up on the beach.

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Beaches are great for winter explorations. Go after a storm to see what interesting discoveries the waves tossed up on the beach.

  • Rubbing crayons over leaves is fun for kids and adults. Look for plants that don't lose their leaves over the winter such as strawberries or rhododend...

    Jessi Loerch / The Herald

    Rubbing crayons over leaves is fun for kids and adults. Look for plants that don't lose their leaves over the winter such as strawberries or rhododendrons. Needle bunches from pine or cedar trees also work well.

  • Beaches are great for winter explorations.

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Beaches are great for winter explorations.

  • Framed by the Cascade mountains, the view eastward, from Smith Island, spans hundreds of acres of wetlands, including the northern tip of Spencer Isla...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Framed by the Cascade mountains, the view eastward, from Smith Island, spans hundreds of acres of wetlands, including the northern tip of Spencer Island, along with Steamboat and Ebey Sloughs.

  • Mukilteo's Lighthouse Park beach is a great spot to explore in winter.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Mukilteo's Lighthouse Park beach is a great spot to explore in winter.

How are you surviving winter break? How about your kids? When you combine the excitement of the holidays with lots of sweets and cold weather, tempers can get a bit short.
Getting outside in the winter can be a challenge. But if you can do it, you and your kids will feel better for it. So here are some ideas to help you out. And most of them are either free or extremely cheap.
Take a deep breath, put on your coats and head outside. You'll be glad you did.
Go for a walk: This one is obvious. Put on proper clothing and footwear and head outside. Lord Hill Regional Park, Spencer Island and local beaches are all great spots for kids to explore.
Go for a scavenger hunt: Make a list for your kids. For young children, draw a picture of the item. Hunting for the items gives kids a purpose and will keep them entertained. For those who can read, try an alphabet hunt. Look for one item that starts with every letter of the alphabet.
Paint with leaves: Head outside and gather materials that you can dip in paint and then stamp onto paper.
Look for leaves, such as on rhododendrons or strawberries, that stay green all year. Fern fronds also work well, as do a cluster of pine needles.
Take your leaf, dip it in some paint then put it on your paper and press down with your hand. To get a more distinct print, use a rolling pin on the leaf.
Make rubbings: Go for a walk and gather leaves, bark, pine needles or anything else with a pleasing texture. Take it home and cover it up with a piece of heavy paper and rub a crayon over it to make a rubbing.
The big crayons with their wrappers peeled off work best. Chalk also works nicely.
Color the snow: If we get some snow, or if you can drive to find it, try this fun trick. Fill squirt bottles or water guns with water and food coloring. Let the kids go to town painting the snow.
Fizzy snow: This trick works best on solid snow. Snow that has hardened or been tromped down works best.
Take a large bunch of baking soda outside and dump it on the snow. Send your kids outside with squirt bottles filled with dye and vinegar. Let them spray around.
When they hit baking soda, it will fizz up impressively.
Pinecone creatures: Gather pine cones and natural materials such as stones, twigs, bits of leaves and moss. Use it to make little faces on your pinecones.
Or bring them home and decorate them. Leftover ribbon (from opening gifts) makes a fun decoration.
Go to the mountains: Stevens Pass has lesson programs for kids in downhill skiing or snowboarding. Or give cross-country skiing a try. Snowshoeing is also tons of fun for kids, and it's easy to learn.
Geocaching: Geocaching is like a treasure hunt, and who doesn't like a treasure hunt? Check out geocaching.com to get started.
Make a bird feeder: It's easy to make a simple bird feeder. Start with a pinecone or toilet paper roll. Coat it in peanut butter and then roll it in birdseed. Hang it outside where you can see it from your windows.
Make s'mores: If you have an appropriate place, build a fire, bundle up and let your kids make s'mores.
Go to the playground: Sure, you'll have to put on some extra layers. But it'll be much more peaceful than it is in July. And you won't have to compete with the crowds for the best swings.
Walk the dog: If your kiddos are reluctant to head out, they might be more willing to give it a try for Fido's sake.
Blow bubbles: Give this a try if it's below freezing. Blow a bubble and catch it on the wand. Watch as it freezes and shatters.
Winter picnic: Pack a tarp or waterproof blanket and dress warmly. Bring soup or cocoa in a Thermos and head outside. Beaches are especially good for winter picnics.
Wander the beach: After a storm is an especially interesting time to walk the beach. Poke along and see how many different things you can find washed up. Be sure to leave lots of time for throwing rocks in the water.
Obstacle course: Set up jumps, tunnels, ladders and other challenges for your kids to navigate. A nice bonus is that all the movement should keep them warm, and run off some energy, too.
No-snow snowball fight: You can't count on snow around here, so try this instead. Crumple up newspaper pages and have a make-shift snowball fight.
Jessi Loerch: jloerch@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3046.
Story tags » Family funOutdoors

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