You and the kids are on the couch, watching TV with a bag of chips, and you're not venturing outside until spring. After all, this is winter in Wisconsin! It can be hard to get motivated when the temperature is in the 20s, the wind is icy and it's cozy inside. But the rewards of spending time outside in the Wisconsin winter are many.
Got the winter blues? Fresh air and exercise will make you feel strong and alive again. Need to lose some of those holiday pounds? Exercise can boost your calorie burn. Looking for inspiration? There are so many new hobbies you can develop by spending time in the outdoors. Want to be closer as a family? There is nothing like having fun together. Here are some hints to get you and the kids outside and moving.
1. Dress right. If you are going to enjoy spending time outdoors in Wisconsin in the winter you have to dress so you're comfortable for what you're doing. That means a hat that covers your ears, gloves or mittens, warm socks, boots and jacket. If you're going to be participating in more active sports like jogging or cross country skiing you'll want to wear lighter clothing. If you're doing less active sports like ice fishing or walking, you'll need heavier clothes. One of the best purchases you can make is breathable long underwear. It will help keep you warm but wick the sweat away from your body so you won't get chilled. Visit a local camping store and ask for help. Many outdoor shops hire people who use the clothing and equipment themselves. They can help you choose the right gear and clothing to match your activities and budget.
2. Be safe. Tell someone you trust where you're going on your outdoor adventure and what time you expect to be back. That way, if you don't show up they will know where to look for you. Do this even if you carry your cell phone. On a new trail in an unfamiliar park? Take a map. Be sure to watch the time. It gets dark early in the winter. Make sure you're back to the car, cabin or house before dark. Keep an eye on the weather and don't venture too far from home if a storm is on the way.
3. Don't overreach your abilities. Only ski, run, hike, sled or snowshoe as far and as long as the least strong member of your party. If someone gets exhausted they may be more likely to get hurt. If you overdo it no one will want to go again. Pace yourself.
4. Take drinks and snacks. You may not sweat as much when you're outside in the cold but you still need to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle and snack bars or trail mix. Leave a thermos of hot chocolate in the car to help you warm up when you return.
5. Not sure how to do a certain sport? Learn how! Ask an experienced friend to teach you and your kids or sign up for a class. You'll enjoy the activity more if you have a basic idea of how to do it. But don't let a lack of experience keep you indoors. There's plenty of outdoor fun that doesn't require special skills or even equipment. Many families can easily enjoy things like sledding and hiking in the winter. The point is to get outside, be together and have fun.
At Wisconsin Youth Company's largest program, AFTER SCHOOL, kids play outside in the winter just about every day. We make sure they zip their jackets and wear hats, boots, mittens and snow pants. We hope we never have to use it but at least one staff person at all of our sites is trained in CPR. And all our staff is trained in how to have fun with school age kids, indoors and out.
Visit the Wisconsin Youth Company website to learn more.
This story is written and presented by Wisconsin Youth Company, which provides quality before- and after-school care, summer day-camp and travel camp experiences and family travel adventures. WYC exists so that the children of Wisconsin benefit from communities that nurture them at a sustainable cost.