December - Winter in the Park
Winter in the Park
Brrr! It’s cold outside, so that means one thing: winter is officially here!
The short days and cold weather usually mean that we aren’t spending as much time outside, but we’re hoping to change that! There are always plenty of things to do and discover in the winter – just make sure you are prepared and wrap up warm before you head out.
Why we should spend more time outside this winter
We all need time outside in the winter, just as much as we do in the summer. Time spent outdoors during the winter helps our immune system, gets our blood flowing and helps us get essential nutrients.
While it may sound warm and cosy to spend the winter months inside your house, you might be surprised at the multitude of mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors in the cold. It is a common misconception that being outside in cold weather can bring on illness - however, research has shown that this is not true. As long as we bundle up and stay safe, being outside in the cold is more beneficial than staying inside.
One of the biggest health benefits from spending time outside during the winter is the Vitamin D our skin absorbs from the sun. We require Vitamin D for bone health and disease prevention, and it helps protect against a range of diseases.
Spending time outdoors in the winter can also help with mental health (for example, by preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder) and help improve our creativity and focus.
Keep scrolling down for lots of activities that you can do by yourself or with your family and friends over the festive period. Also look out for activities and events that we will be running, including Chesterfield's lantern parade.
Wintry activities - to try when at home or out and about!
Get active outside with Santa's reindeer
If you need some ideas for activities when out and about across our borough this festive season, look no further! Click on each of Santa's reindeer below for an activity idea.
Craft some natural confetti
Start your year (or celebration) by being conscious of the environment.
We’ve all heard the dangers of glitter and want to use less plastic. One way we can incorporate natural elements into our winter celebrations is by making natural confetti from leaves.
All you need to do is use a hole-punch to punch out shapes from colourful leaves. Use the punched out shapes (circles, hearts, stars, etc.) to throw into your celebration! If your celebration is outside, there’s no need to clean up. The little pieces of hole-punched leaves will simply biodegrade. One day you’ll see them scattered all around the grass and then a few days later, they’re gone.
Make a sun catcher
Sun catchers made from ice are not only beautiful, but super easy to make!
Spend some time outside gathering natural items to use in your sun catchers. The more colourful, the better; examples include:
Lay out a plastic lid, paper plate, pie plate or silicone mould to use as the mould for your sun catcher. Fill the mould with water and add your natural elements to the water in any design of your choosing. Leave outside for a few hours or overnight to freeze. Then gently remove the ice sun catcher from the mould and hang from a tree branch or windowsill.
Pro tip: rumour has it that if you want your ice to be crystal clear, boil the water first!
Identifying evergreen trees
Winter is a great time to learn about evergreen trees and how to identify them. Knowing the conifers common to your area is a great educational skill to possess.
Kids can learn to identify conifers by their shape and by their needles. While you may think that all evergreens look alike, upon inspection each of these trees looks very different. Go on a hike and try to collect as many different varieties as you can, and maybe take a photo of the shape of the tree.
Need some more tips? The Woodland Trust has a simple guide to identifying trees, or you can use the handy checklist below to use when out and about.
Blowing a bubble and watching it turn to ice is such a fascinating activity. If it’s very cold outside (below freezing), try making frozen bubbles!
This is a great science experiment for kids in freezing temperatures. It might take a few different attempts to get a bubble to freeze, depending on time, sunlight, what the bubble lands on and the bubble solution. This is an experiment that can last over weeks!
Help feed the birds with everyday items
Feeding the birds can be very rewarding and will give you the opportunity to become an expert in identification.
Have a go at one of these messy activities to make a ‘DIT feeder’ with things you already have at home.
What you will need
- some wild bird seed
- a cardboard tube (toilet roll tubes are perfect)
- peanut butter or lard – this is the ‘glue’ to stick the seeds on
- some string to thread through and hang on a tree
Alternatively, thread some cereal hoops onto a pipe cleaner or chenille stick, loop together and hang on a tree.
Animal tracks spotting
Winter is a great time to head out to the woods - or even your local park - and see if you can find animal tracks.
Fresh snow is great for showing tracks of various woodland animals. Examples include rabbits, foxes, deer, and squirrels. Make it a game and see who can spot the most tracks; the biggest, the smallest and the most exotic. Try to guess what animal made them, where they were going and what they were doing.
Don’t recognize the tracks? Take photos of the tracks and look them up when you get home to see what animal made them.
Feeling festive? Try these ideas
Go for a magical Christmas lights walk
One of the best things to do in December is to go for a night-time winter walk through the area in which you live and look at the Christmas lights. Dress up warm, walk around the streets close to you and look how people have dressed their homes with pretty, sparkly Christmas lights!
Head out on a candy cane hunt!
A candy cane hunt is a really fun way to get your kids active and exploring outside. All you need is a box of candy canes (as many as you want) and a place to hide them that your kids can safely explore.
Take a few minutes to hide them all (hang in trees, on bushes, stick in the ground, and so on) in various locations and at different heights (for different kids). Then let the kids go and see how many they can find. If you have kids of different ages, consider giving them each a section of space to find the candy canes or hide candy canes of different colours for each child.
Once they’re all found, start again! Hide them in new places or let the kids take turns hiding them for each other.
Winter picnics - why wait for summer?
We tend to associate picnics with the warmer sunny days, but in the winter you just need to take a different approach. Pack up a flask of warming soup, and wrap hot, freshly-cooked sausages in layers of foil and newspaper, then head out for a winter picnic! Enjoy a brisk walk and then indulge in your winter feast.
Need more ideas? Here's 50 more
The National Trust website has the ideal bumper list of outdoor activities - called '50 things to do before you're 11-and-three-quarters'. Give it a try!