At this same time last year—right around the half-way point between the start of winter and the first day of spring (Feb 1st, this year), I floated up a simple prompt to our Outdoors All 4 FB community: What one word or phrase best describes how you feel about winter?
The responses rolled in, and they fell on both sides of the winter love fence, from “Joy!”s to “Done!”s. I smiled right along with people who love the quiet and the beauty. I was 100% with friends who love when we get snow to play in (extra thumbs up for those amazing homemade hot tubs, too!). I nodded “right there with you” to others who are tired of the cold and long for warmer outdoor visits and more daylight. This year, I'm feeling that more than ever. And, I ached for friends who’ve struggled with burst pipes and struggles that come with darkness and isolation, especially when you layer Omicron in there. What a season!
This amazing community helped me remember that we can both love winter and be so over it at the same time. Isn’t that what all the seasons of life are about—holding space for what is wonderful and tough about everything? Nothing could be more true about life in pandemic, too—a wild mix of silver linings and hardest of hard things.
How can we help kids (and ourselves) get really good at holding space for the good and the bad? Here are some ideas for winter lovers and spring enthusiasts alike.
Let a Little Sunshine In
One thing we forget about winter, especially in the colder regions, is that there is so little color. In all regions, we also forget that there are fewer hours and opportunities to get sunlight than other times of the year. And, if we stay inside more because of the cold or because of the sicknesses swirling around us, we get even less sunlight. Sunlight and color are magic lifters of mood, so it's no surprise that we get a bit down when we get smaller doses of them.
To balance this out, make some time to sit or stand in the direct sunlight every day, if you can. You can also enjoy play activities that involve sunlight, too! Make frozen Wondermobiles and behold how the sunlight flows through the ice and treasures. Or, grab some tape or contact paper and either find colorful things outside or get some flowers at the grocery store and make beautiful Suncatchers. Hang them in a window and make time each day to behold how the sunlight illuminates the colors and warms your heart. Or, just enjoy handling, smelling and interacting with colorful living things that many of us only dream about in winter.
Remind Kids of the Magic in Winter
If you peruse last year's Facebook post, one other thing will pop right out at you: The photos of kids are all the same—pretty joyful. Sure, we’re less likely to share photos of bummed-out kids, but also, smaller humans often focus on what’s joyful better than we do.
Kids see the magic because they look for it.—Christopher Moore
We can reinforce our kids’ ability to see the silver linings, even if we’re over winter. Involve kids in making a simple “Thank you, Winter” list. On a walk, at dinner, before bed time or whenever you can, ask kids, “What do you love about winter?” In our house, we put a gratitude spin on it, asking ourselves and the kids to think about what they feel thankful for about winter. Write down all of the ideas. Welcome kids to draw or write their ideas, too.
You can also carve out some time to grab your phone, make tea and cozy up with kids for a walk back through your photos from winter so far. As you scroll through your winter experiences, get kids talking about what they remember. Talk about what you learned and loved about the season. For such a documented generation, we tend to focus on “what next” and rarely take the time to go back and savor what has happened.
Looking back at photos not only helps kids learn to slow down and reflect (who couldn’t use more of that?!); it also helps kids build vocabulary, learn to make connections between experiences and reinforce what you value (e.g. time outside, time with friends and family, play, etc.).
Only 1 in 10 Americans name winter as their favorite, according to a 2013 CBS News poll, so if you’re not into it, you’re not alone. If winter really gets you down, it’s hard to feel genuinely thankful for it—and trying to pretend otherwise pretty much always gets us nowhere.
If that’s you, find a little “you time” to do some letting go. At the end of 2020—the year to end all years—we shared some easy, nature-based ways to release hard thoughts and feelings and create space for something new. Try using fire, water or wind to help you let go of winter and make space for spring!
Lean In to Spring!
Change is life, and the better we get at embracing it, the more joyful—and less disruptive—life becomes. Many of us are ready to move on. And, thanks to nature, we get that chance every few months!
There is nothing permanent except change.” —Heraclitus
In our free February calendar, there are ways to play and celebrate this winter month—and you can even see a "Hunt for Signs of Spring" activity waiting for you in the first week of March. Get ready. Keep your eyes peeled. Signs of spring are coming...and some quiet signs may already be here!
To look ahead, make a list of hopes for the spring. In our house, we love to fill jars with wishes and ideas for things we'd like to do together. A few weeks before a new season, we’ll empty out the old wishes—grabbing the few we don't want to miss before that season ends. Then, with space created, we add new ideas. What are you looking forward to? What do you hope to see, smell, hear, feel and taste? Where will you go? Make a list of wishes for spring and put them in your jar, in a notebook or on a chart.
At the end of the season, see how many wishes came true!
No matter how you spend the back half of winter, we wish you moments of peace, joy and plenty of outdoor adventures!