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Full Days, Dark Days, Getting Outside Anyway

It’s been a brutal winter and I don’t need a weatherperson to tell me that this is by far the worst winter we’ve had in years. We’ve had many snow storms, ice storms, and consistently frigid temperatures. School has even been canceled because of the dangerous temps. That never happens in Maine–but it’s happened twice this year.

The cold has kept my kids inside more than ever.  They aren’t going outside for recess at school and are also not going outside at aftercare. Some of their schoolmates don’t have adequate clothing for these low temps and because of this the school keeps them in for recess when it is below 18 degrees F.

What this means for this busy family is that when I pick my children up around 5:30 from aftercare the sun has set and the only outdoor time the kids have had was to and from the car on the way to school.  Then it’s a mad dash to make dinner, eat dinner, clean up from dinner, do homework, maybe have some down time, and then get ready for bed.  That means that my kids only go outside on the weekends. Not OK.  I’ve also had a hard time getting myself outside during my busy days. So we have been going on many evening winter walks. Once they’re outside they love being there… but the hardest part is always getting over that indoor-inertia, gearing up, and opening the door.

Here are some tips to make regular nighttime walks an adventure your kids will agree to:

1.  Bring headlamps or flashlights

We don’t really need them, there are so many streetlights in our neighborhood, but the kids love them.  Headlamps have come way down in price the last few years–I’ve seen LED headlamps for less than $10. Flashlights are fine, but if kids wear headlamps they can still hold your hand and throw snow balls at the same time.

2.  Let’s walk to the video store

We have a small video store near our house.  It’s about an eight minute kid-speed walk from our house–so we start by going the long way around the block and then pick out a video for pizza-movie night and walk the short way home.  Maybe you have a corner store to walk to for a loaf of bread and a piece of gum or some other simple treat.

3. Have snowball fights

Nighttime gentle snowball fights while walking.  Super fun–especially for nine year-old boys.

4.  Hide from cars

When cars come by, hide from their headlights behind telephone polls, behind snowbanks, or simply drop down and lie down on snow… the car will go by having not seen you.  Truth be told, I don’t hide–but the kids love this and is a nice way to add some adventure to a normal walk.

5.  Make up a scavenger hunt

Tell your kids you’ll give them a scavenger hunt once they’re dressed and outside. Last night I made up a list of things for them to find which included: a snowman; Christmas lights that were all white, rainbow colored, and all the same color; a snowbank higher than your waist, Valentine’s decorations, a big patch of ice that you could slide upon, a man, and a woman.  Interestingly the only things we didn’t find were Valentine’s decorations and a man. I invited my kids to add to the list.

6.  Practice funky walks

This one is brought to you by my daughter. She’s taking a hip-hop dance class in which they practice funky walks. Once she started doing it, my son had to make one up, more of a funny walk than a funky one, but nobody cares. They had races to see who could do their funky walk the fastest to the stop sign.  Sometimes it is nice to have the shelter of darkness to do things you might not do in the daylight.

7.  One-on-one dates

If you have more than one child, go for a walk with just one of them and call it a date.  Such precious alone time. The child can decide where you’ll walk, you can hold hands, you can gear the perfect let’s-do-this activity to exactly what the child wants. There’s no fighting, just a lovely mom and child outing.

I hope that my kids remember these special outings when they’re older. I parent better in these moments. I’m calmer, less stressed out, and more attentive. Getting away from our messy house, away from technology, away from all of the have-tos helps me relax into being more present with them. Outside on these walks I can give them the gift of my full attention.

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PS. I won these at a holiday work party.  A friend of mine selected them for me and my bosses agreed that they were perfect. They certainly helped get the kids outside one rainy night. Lights and wipers–they don’t work well, but they sure are fun.

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