Having a list of outdoor winter activities is essential for winter camping. It’s tempting to cuddle up and hibernate in the dreary weather, but this list of fun things to do while camping in a winter wonderland will help you enjoy spending time outdoors!
Here I’ll talk about some of my favorite outdoor winter activities for kids and ways to involve the whole family. You’ll have so much fun in the fresh air, your whole family will start to embrace winter!
Winter Camping Activities
Outdoor activities for kids keep little ones active and engaged in nature during the off-season. Every day may not be as clear and sunny as summer, but there’s still plenty to do.
Start crossing items off your winter bucket list with these creative outdoor activities:
1. Look for Animal Tracks
Teaching kids about animals is interesting and important. If you spend a lot of time hiking and camping as a family you’re bound to stumble across a creature or two.
One way to begin teaching about local animals is to look for tracks. Each animal leaves a unique footprint, and these become all the more evident in the snow.
Depending how near civilization you are, you’re also likely to stumble across cat and dog prints. Be wary if you notice any large predator prints, and steer clear of the area.
If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy and learn about nature in the wintertime, check out this list of awesome ideas!
2. Winter Hiking
There’s nothing more refreshing than getting out for a hike in the winter. The cold crisp air is rejuvenating. Plus, it’s a fun time for kids to practice navigating paths in fresh snow.
Taking children on a winter hike means planning ahead. Even if you only plan on being outside a short time, bring the essentials in case of emergencies and spend time talking about how to stay warm.
If your kids are anything like mine, pack an extra pair or two of warm socks. Even the most waterproof hikers are vulnerable to snow if kids are climbing the snow mounds.
What’s more fun in the winter than sledding? Sledding keeps kids active, and engaged. The downhill portion exhilarates while climbing back up the hill is sure to tick off your daily exercise checkboxes.
4. Snow Cones
This is a favorite in our family. When you say, “snow cone,” people think of summertime. In my opinion, the best snow cones are made with freshly fallen snow. All you need to make snow cones is snow, flavoring, and a cup.
We use flavoring like juice, flavored syrups or chocolate milk!
Natural Snow Cone Recipe
A great way to infuse a few extra vitamins into this fun winter treat is with fresh or frozen fruit. Purchase squeeze bottles from the local dollar store and mix up a batch of the following ingredients.
- 1lb frozen berries (roughly 3 cups)
- ¾ cup honey or pure maple syrup
- 1 cup filtered water
- Wash and dice fruit
- Add fruit, water, and sweetener of your choice to a pan
- Heat mixture on medium heat, mashing together as the fruit softens
- Allow mixture to come to a low boil for 5-6 minutes
- If the mixture hasn’t thickened, continue boiling for another 2-3 minutes
- Strain pan contents into a bowl and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator
- Pour the cooled syrup into a squeeze bottle and enjoy!
This snow cone syrup is tasty and fun to use. Best of all, it stores safely in your fridge for up to 60-days.
5. Hot Chocolate
Who doesn’t love a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter day? I think warm drinks taste better when made over a campfire.
Even when we’re not up for a snowy camping trip, we gather around our backyard fire pit for s’mores and hot cider or chocolate.
6. Snow Spray Painting
Snow spray painting is a fun and safe way to get creative and artsy outdoors. While I’m sure there are products for sale, you can make your own at home.
Simply fill a spray bottle with water and add 3-8 drops of food coloring (Depending on the size of your bottle). For the 12oz spray bottle, 3 drops works great! You don’t want the color to be too concentrated, or it will stain mittens and snow pants.
Bring your spray paint out into a yard with a blanket of white snow and make a masterpiece. My son loves getting messy, especially with color. Our family is a big fan of creating colorful snow people.
GeoCaching is a digital scavenger hunt using GPS to locate active cache sites. Cache sites could contain anything from a guestbook GeoCachers sign upon completing a quest to buried treasures.
To get started, download the GeoCaching app to your mobile device. This tool will help you find local caches, but won’t pinpoint the exact spot for you. Together as a family, you hunt for the precise location and retrieve your treasure.
When heading out for a GeoCache excursion, remember to dress for the weather and bring something to leave behind. The cache site may contain a toy, stickers, or another item your kiddo wants to collect.
It’s fine to take the item you find as long as you replace it with something new for the next GeoCacher.
I think campfires are more fun in the winter. They warm you up and create a space to congregate as a family to tell stories, sing songs, and roast marshmallows.
Be careful when building a fire in the winter. Many people assume that because it’s cold, there’s no danger of the fire spreading to nearby woods and brush.
Winter might be cold, but it’s also dry. This makes trees more vulnerable to igniting should a stray spark get away.
Be prepared with a fire extinguisher and bucket of water if you’re not surrounded by snow when you build a winter campfire.
9. Build a Fort
Snow forts are a huge hit in our family. We usually end up making snow castles and pretending we’re ice dragons.
We also have a good old fashioned snowball fight once the fort is created too! There are many ways to go about building forts in the winter, including:
Tree Branch TeePee
Forming a shelter out of tree trunks, branches and tarps is a fun way to practice survival skills with your kids. It helps older children learn about knife safety, knots, insulation, and surviving in the cold.
Snow forts are a classic, and there are so many fun tools out there to enhance the experience.
I’m a personal fan of using our Snow Brick Maker. It makes perfectly formed snow bricks to create your winter mansion.
Ice forts take a little more planning, but are beautiful when finished. To create one of your own, either gently spray your premade snow fort in colored water or begin making ice bricks to stack.
I recommend using 2L milk cartons for this. Add a few drops of food coloring for rainbow bricks. Allow it to freeze overnight and start creating your ice fort the next morning!
This is probably an activity that will be accomplished easier if you’re camping in your backyard.
You can also freeze water in ice cube trays to create gems or decorations for your snow fort.
10. Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts give little ones a sense of purpose while exploring the great outdoors. There are plenty of winter scavenger hunt checklists to be found and printed online, but you can also make your own.
11. Building Snow People
I’m not an artist, but every winter my family gets outside and tries our hand at snow sculptures. This is a tactile experience for little ones, and one of the best outdoor winter activities. It engages their imagination and motor skills simultaneously.
Get inventive with your snow people by thinking outside of the box for faces and accessories. The carrot nose is classic, but using pine cones for a nose is much more fun.
You can also make animal snow sculptures!
Remember to bring out your snow spray paint spritzers once your snow family is assembled.
12. Star Gazing
Star gazing is a fantastic way to encourage togetherness with your children, while sneaking in a bit of education.
There are plenty of apps, websites, and printable sheets to show you which stars shine above you in the winter.
Sky Map Online is a free tool for interactive star gazing. Select location and type in your city and state to see which constellations are in your area.
The best part about doing this in winter is that night time comes earlier in most parts of the world.
13. Bird Watching
Bird watching teaches young people about nature and local birds. Like star gazing, you’re bound to see a few differences between summer bird watching to winter bird watching.
In Minnesota, some of the birds we watch for in winter include:
- Black-capped Chickadees
- Northern Cardinals
- Red Bellied Woodpeckers
- White Breasted Nuthatches
- American Goldfinches
Your state birds might be different, but the fun is all the same! All you need to birdwatch is a little patience and a pair of binoculars.
These binoculars make an excellent camping toy for young kids.
We like to keep track of all the birds we see and look them up together when we get home. If you have a telescopic camera lens, it’s fun to snap photos of the birds you view.
Bird watching can be very different if Winter means rainy season where you live. Take note of birds that seem to come out to hunt for bugs and worms right after a rain!
14. Play Tag
I know you guys can figure this one out. Run around, play tag!
15. Snowball Fight
Snowball fights are a classic winter sport, and one we love in our family.
For young children, forming snowballs isn’t always an easy task. When my son was young, we tried a few different tools to make this easier for him. This is the one we bought and used:
These snowball makers come in a four-pack. Each device makes two snowballs at a time. Simply scoop snow into one side and pinch the handles together to compress the snow into balls.
16. Maple Syrup Snow Candy
Maple syrup candy is one of the most fun ways I know of to satiate a sweet tooth in the snow.
Snow candy dates back to the indigenous tribes of North America, who boiled tree sap to make candy in the snow. The process was learned by settlers and is a tradition in Canada and the New England states.
To make your own maple syrup snow candy, all you need is:
- Maple syrup
- Cookie tray
- Candy thermometer
- Popsicle sticks
Follow these steps to make your candy:
- Collect fresh clean snow on a clean baking sheet and pack it down
- Heat maple syrup in a pot to 235ºF
- Remove the syrup from the heat
- Pour the hot liquid into strips over the snow.
- Press the end of a popsicle stick into the end of a syrup strip
- Begin rolling it onto the stick (the syrup should form a little ball and harden in the cold)
- Voila, one maple syrup snow candy!
The hot part of this process gets very hot, so be sure to keep little fingers well away until the candy has been poured into the snow.
17. Winter Picnic
If you’re camping you already have the supplies to have a winter picnic. Grab a thick blanket and some snacks and find a nice spot to sit and eat outside.
Many campgrounds have a picnic area if there isn’t a picnic table at your site.
18. Ice Fishing
If you’re near a lake or pond, ice fishing is a great outdoor winter activity. All you need is a small rod and a lure, even corn works!
Use an auger to drill a hole and you’re all set to catch some fish and make some memories!
19. Ice Skating
If drilling holes in the ice isn’t your comfort level, then ice skating is a fun activity for the winter months.
Grab some ice skates and find an outdoor rink or a clear pond and have a great time! In our state it’s not unheard of for people to make a rink in their own backyard!
Ice skating can also be a romantic couple’s activity if you can find a sitter and leave the kids at home.
Be safe and have fun!
I’m Molly Foss, aka Momma Critter. I’ve been camping since I was 9 years old and I always wanted to be Robin Hood and live in the forest when I grew up. I’m excited to share my love of camping with my son as he grows up. My favorite thing to do while camping is roast marshmallows over the fire.