Outdoor Play

How We Spend 5 Hours Outside in One Day

To most people, 5 hours seems like a ridiculous amount of time to spend outside. Especially in the winter. Especially if you’re stuck at home (one vehicle family here). But it’s really not as daunting as it sounds!

Parents often tell me that they get bored standing around outside while their kids play. I can understand that! Going to new parks or hiking trails is fun for the whole family, but many of us can’t do that on the daily. What about those of us who aren’t able to leave their neighborhood most days?

First off, I’ll say that building your time gradually is important to not feeling overwhelmed with such a big change. We started with an hour a day. After seeing all the positive effects this had on us, we added more! When we’re inside for more than a few hours at a time now, I notice the kids start getting crazy and I have a shorter fuse.

Many of us remember the days our parents would kick us outside and tell us not to come back until dinnertime. This is so rare now. If you have older kids, I’d definitely recommend both spending time with them outdoors, and also giving them time to play and wander on their own. Young toddlers, however, still need a bit of supervision. This is where the challenge comes in. Early on in my journey toward more outdoor-time, I’d often cut our nature time short because I was bored.

But reading How to Raise a Wild Child (Amazon affiliate link), by Scott D. Sampson, pushed me to get out there more, and to find ways to keep myself entertained. Honestly, now that I’ve gotten used to it, I’m more restless and discontent when I’m stuck inside for long hours.

Here’s what my daughter Emmy and I did today, to give you an idea of how we spend our time, as well as some tips and tricks on keeping boredom at bay.

8:30 We headed outside after breakfast. I worked on shoveling the (neglected) back deck while Emmy played with the dog. We’ve never hired a plow or used a snowblower. Shoveling is a great way to get some exercise and stay busy while the kids play. Or they can help!

9:00 Snack on clementines, followed by a walk around the block. It’s just under a mile and takes us about 45 minutes with many stops to play or rest. I enjoy our walks just as much as my toddler. We birdwatch, search for animal tracks in the snow and speculate about which neighbors (or neighborhood dogs) we might see.

9:45 Snack on raisins and sunflower seeds on the front porch.

10:00 Snowman building! It sometimes never occurs to us to actually play in the snow with our kids! Adults walking by might give me the side-eye, but I want my daughter to learn to be herself and have fun without worrying about what other’s think, so I strive to be a role model in that way.

10:20 Hook the dog up to our little sled. He pulled Emmy up and down the driveway a few times.

10:40 Put on our skis and went up and down the driveway a few times. Finding different ways to play with my toddler (instead of just standing there watching) definitely helps keep me from getting bored.

11:00 In the house for naptime. Total time outside = 2.5 hours

After nap and lunch, we get some indoor chores done and then head out again. I always make sure to allot at least a half hour for getting dressed for snow play. She’s at the stage where she wants to learn to do it herself. It takes forever, but it will payoff when she can get ready completely on her own.

3:00 We decide to go for a longer 4 mile walk around the neighborhood. I bring the stroller and lots of snacks. 

Emmy walks on her own for the first mile. It takes about an hour and there’s a lot of stopping. But this is the great thing about focusing on your hours and not your miles. And the great thing about toddlers is that they almost force you to slow down and enjoy the now. I am guilty of always trying to rush off to the next thing, and it has taken a mindset shift to change that habit.

Once she’s tired, she hops in the stroller for a snack. We stroll for the next hour, talking about the weather and our day and every car that passes by.

With a half mile left to go, she wants to walk again. We take our time, then head inside to start cooking dinner.

I struggle the most during the week when my daycare kids are here, and we can’t really leave the yard. On those days, the kids mainly play on their own. It’s so important for them to have those long stretches of time where they can plan and organize their own play, solve their own problems and develop social skills! But of course that means I’ve got nothing to do.

Here’s the advice I have for those types of days/situations:

  • Find some yardwork or shoveling to do.
  • Put in earbuds and listen to an audiobook or music.
  • If it’s warm enough to have your gloves off, sit down and read an actual book. Think about any hobbies you already have that you could bring outside (knitting?).
  • Get a new hobby! Carving wood, nature photography or nature art are all good ones to try.
  • If you have a dog, bring them out and work on some obedience or agility training. Or if you have a dog that actually fetches (ours don’t), just throw the ball for them.
  • Put up bird feeders and bird houses so you have some entertainment.

On days we can leave the yard, I find walks to be the most restorative. Walking gets the endorphins flowing (that feel-good chemical) and the change of scenery helps immensely!

Either way, what keeps me going the most is when my daughter says something like “I’m having a way, way fun time!” which rarely happens indoors. <3

What other tips do you have for keeping busy outside?


👧 Toddler mom. 🌈 Reggio and Waldorf Inspired Childcare🌲 Forest School 🏔 Dillingham, Alaska

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