The BC Parent magazine’s December issue is out and it features a great article about snow and kids, on when and how to introduce kids to skiing and snowboarding. This made us think of three key things to think of when playing with kids in the snow.
1. New games to play
Hard to believe but true: kids can get bored with doing snow angels, building snowmen and throwing snowballs. Luckily there are a ton of other creative ways to have fun in the snow. They can try one of these seven games:
- BUILD THE LONGEST CATERPILLAR EVER: Add as many 6-8+ inch snowballs together as possible for the longest snow caterpillar ever (great for small kids)
- WRITE YOUR NAME IN THE SNOW: Using footprints or with branches, and nice to take a photo and send to relatives
- JUMP SNOW HURDLES: Lightly pack a bunch of basketball-size snowballs and then use them to build a course of hurdles to jump over in a round of follow the leader.
- SNOWBALL THROWING CHALLENGE: Target a tree trunk, a branch or make a “basket” of well packed snow – and then let the competition begin!
- TIC-TAC-TOE: Using a stick play as many games in fresh snow as you feel like
- CREATE A MAZE: Stamp out a path for your kids to follow or build the walls of a knee-high maze for all to wander through.
- SNOW BOOT TWO-STEP: Play “Follow the Leader” in the snow by getting people to step exactly into the leaders footsteps.
2. Keeping warm and dry
All of these games are of course much better if kids are warm enough to enjoy them. What do they need? Layered clothing, waterproof boots and gloves, hats to keep heads warm. The rule of thumb for kids is to add one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear.
Always be sure to check the windchill factor as well as the temperature. Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite of the exposed areas and extremities. Frostbite can look like white patches of skin on the ears, nose, cheeks, fingers, or toes and older kids will complain of numbness – the trouble is that many will not notice this while they are having fun, so adults need to do regular checking in. Beware: severe frostbite can appear bright-red – but on touch it’s really cold.
3. Safety in the cold
It would be important to not take it for granted that kids know and remember the safety rules about being outdoors. I always review these risks with our kids when the cold season sets in:
- DO NOT TOUCH METAL: Cartoons do not exaggerate – touching metal that is cold, especially with moist hands or mouth/tongue does cause it to stick! Removal can be extremely painful and cause damage. Most importantly if it were to happen, do not pull. Use warm water or even blowing warm air help to disengage.
- SLEDDING: It’s fun to slide down on snow, but need to make sure the area is free of trees, posts, and fences and that the slope ends in a flat, open space-not a street, a parking lot, or a pond. Sled slopes should be covered in snow, not ice, and going down head first is dangerous.
- SNOW/TREES: When snow is deep and soft, kids can fall through and become trapped either in open snow or in tree wells (created when sunshine or a warm day melt the snow surrounding a tree).
- ICE: It’s great fun to get out and play on the slick frozen surface over ponds and lakes, but it needs to be safe. The best place is a frozen shallow body of water and they need to have an adult they know indicate that it’s ok to venture on it. Even then, a cracking or any kind of noise signifying movement means that the ice is not thick enough and may not be safe enough to walk on. Also teach them that if anyone falls through, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESCUE THEM. Call for help, call 911 and quickly look for something that you can use as an inflatable even as small as an empty, sealed drink bottle or box. Shout to the person to spread their arms and hands out on the unbroken ice and to kick their legs really hard to keep their head above water. Crawling out on the ice to attempt a rescue almost inevitably leads to both people drowning.
- SNOWBALL FIGHTS: These are great fun unless the snow hits the person’s face or is hard/iced over. Younger kids in particular don’t seem to understand the difference and may hurt each other unintentionally. A quick heads up alleviates any issues.
- EATING SNOW: While we may have grown up taking it for granted that the white stuff that comes from the sky is pure, sadly nowadays it’s a little more complicated than that. When snow forms moisture in the atmosphere, it develops around airborne particles like dust, bacteria and air-borne pollution. It’s better if you live in the country side, but even then, it’s not entirely safe. It’s even worse with things like roof side icicles, where rooftop dirt and insulation chemicals get washed down and is often not visible to the naked eye.
- PLAN AHEAD: Always have a back up plan when venturing far from home in cold weather. Cell phone batteries wear out faster, cars stall or get trapped in the snow, clothes can get soaked through. Planning for these events by having extra clothing, blankets and food/water as well as some candles/matches always pays off in case of an emergency.
Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, Mom of three, CEO of myBestHelper, best place for families to find helpers