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Jan 21

How to Hunt for Joy this Winter

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Think back to your childhood. How many of your favorite memories took place during winter activities? For many of us, winter is a magical season full of joy.

That means there's a lot to look forward in the next few months. We know that joy helps kids (and us) thrive, and in an especially uncertain season, that's wellness we can all use.

Here's how to hunt for joyful moments all winter long, no matter the climate where you live:

Get #OutdoorsAll4 Seasons: The natural world inspires joy (and nature benefits kids' health and wellness). Research tells us you get the full mental and physical benefits by going outdoors as little as two hours per week (especially if you're wearing the right winter gear). Visit tinkergarten.com/outdoorsall4 to get inspiration, fun coloring tracking sheets and support in getting outdoors all 4 seasons!

Learn from wee ones: With brains ready to learn and full of wonder, kids are natural joy hunters. Build in time each week to slow down and follow their lead. Wonder about what interests them. Use all of your senses, and see what they see. They’ll lead you straight to joy.

Move your body: Exercise. Walk. Dance. Chase after your kids, but reframe it as exercise that is triggering positive emotion in your body. That reframing can actually increase the joy you’ll get from it.


Savor color: Colors, says designer Ingrid Fetell Lee, are a source of joy. Stop to notice the colors around you, especially those in the natural world—we are hard-wired to find natural pigments both stimulating and calming, which is an amazing combination for the growing brain.

Watch the Sky: Most of us do not really look at the sky too often. But, when you stop to think about it, the sky paints a background for our day. If color inspires joy, it could be our joy screen. Winter skies are particularly fascinating. Start by just start noticing it as a family. Wonder together: What colors or shapes do we see? How does the sky change on different days or at different hours of the day? How does the sky make us feel?


Notice the tiny things: When you are outdoors, slow your pace. Linger to appreciate the iridescence of a beetle’s back or the courage of a seedling just sprouting through the surface. If it helps, pop a magnifying glass in your pocket—even just as a reminder to think small.

Make messes: The more freely we play and the more senses we engage, the more joy we can take in. Read more about how to make friends with messy play, or get clever and easy DIY ideas here.

Befriend the animals around you: Try saying, “Hello, friend,” to squirrels, birds or other animals you normally might just pass by. Notice what they are doing and wonder about it. “Look at you scurrying so fast up that tree. I wonder what you are rushing for today...” Winter is a great time to learn about birds, no matter where you live.

Make friends with the plants too: Take time to really feel, smell and look closely at the leaves or needles on a plant. Learn even more about the amazing world of trees. Or, take time to “get to know” them. Slow down and savor the sweet little ways kids invent to connect with nature and find joy.

Play with shapes: Hunt for symmetry or for shapes in the world around you. Round objects, in particular, help inspire joy. Gather all of the round things you own (and would want your kids to play with). Place them all together in a play area—it can be mind-blowing—and have at it. Look for round things in the world around you as well. Joy all a-round!

Read about joy: Seek out books that teach kids how to hunt for joy. Here is a list of our all-time favorites.

Smile a little longer: You can actually generate more joy by smiling and holding that smile just a bit longer. When you smile, your brain releases neurotransmitters associated with joy. When people smile back (nearly guaranteed if you hold your smile long enough), that joy will amplify. And, if your kids see you smiling and see people smiling back, they’ll learn to do it too! Read more about this easy joy-inducing habit.

We hope these will bring you and your loved ones joy. And, we’d love to hear more joy hunting tactics from you, so please comment and share using #OutdoorsAll4 and #Tinkergarten!


Meghan Fitzgerald


After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, Meghan has her dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including hers, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, Meghan worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. She earned a BA with majors in English and Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. When she is with her kids, Meghan is that unapologetic mom who plays along with them in mud, dances in the pouring rain, and builds a darn good snow igloo with her bare hands.

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