Let’s face it: After a few weeks, winter gets old. “Too cold,” our two-year-old began complaining as we’d suit up for outdoor play. Our four-year-old pointed out that the bunnies and squirrels stay out all day -- but when she thought about it, she couldn’t imagine how they could possibly be comfortable. Were they cold?
It is hard to imagine when you’re standing exposed to wind and the flurries -- but we pointed out that bunnies build cozy houses against the elements. And that (combined with advice we recalled from sturdy friends who camped in snow) led us to try making a quinzhee -- a snug snow hut that provides shelter during even the wintriest winter. It took us under two hours to build -- and the girls have spent countless more hours decorating it, hosting parties in it, and hiding out in it, even in single-digit weather. Add a small lantern when the day grows dim and voila, you’ve rekindled the magic of winter.
What’s the big deal with a glorified snow fort? Plenty. Tucking their bodies into small, enclosed spaces is not just a perennial favorite for small children -- it’s also brain/body coordination work that falls into a set of preschooler behavior patterns known as behavioral schema. Kids engage multiple senses as they explore the sights, scents, textures, and even temperatures of snow play. Playing house is a powerful imaginary exercise that gives children the opportunity to emulate the people most important to them (you!). The quinzhee lends itself to cozy, rich sensory experiences, such as steaming hot cocoa and a flickering lantern against the dark, cold afternoon. These are the kinds of memories children hang on to well into adulthood. And perhaps best of all, sustained outdoor activity often leads to deep sleeps later that evening. Enjoy!
We think all families should be learning outside. Try this activity with your child and begin to see the power in outdoor, play-based learning. Have fun!Email it to me