By Natalie Ockey from Utah's Adventure Family
Guest writers are invited for their insights into different aspects of the Homeschool Hub Utah's four pillars, which are to connect, empower, educate, and serve homeschooling families in Utah. While we feel each guest blogger's message will be helpful to homeschooling families, not all ideas presented by every guest blogger are officially endorsed by Homeschool Hub Utah.
Hello Homeschool Hub Utah Friends! My name is Natalie Ockey, and I run the website Utah’s Adventure Family. I am so excited to be sharing some adventure ideas with you today. My family and I have been sharing fun things to do in Utah for 12 years now, and we love helping everyone enjoy this amazing state that we live in. We also believe strongly in the benefits of spending time together as a family.
I get asked quite often if we are a homeschool family, so I’m going to let you know that we are not. My husband is a 4th grade teacher in our local school district, and before I became a mom, I was a 2nd grade teacher for six years. Our kids attend our public schools, and in fact our youngest is in his dad’s class this year. As life-long learners and teachers, we respect everyone’s choices on how education works for their families. We also know that a lot of our children’s education is happening with us every day, and that is another big part of why we love adventuring as a family. We learn A LOT together!
I am excited to share today how we survive winter! As the weather starts to get cooler, families find it a little more difficult to get out together, especially in the great outdoors. We often want to snuggle up and stay home! While we love reading books, playing games, and finishing puzzles together, there are plenty of fun activities that you can do even in the winter. Some are indoors and some are outdoors, but we are going to share 10 of our favorite ways to leave the house during the cold winter months.
Go for a hike
Walk a nature trail
Play at a playground
Visit a museum
Embrace the snow
Enjoy an animal outing
Kids Building Workshops
Indoor Play Areas
Go for a Bird Drive
Our favorite place to go in the winter is the library. There are always fun programs and activities at local libraries. And who doesn’t love picking out new books to read every week? This was the way I made sure to leave my house every week when I had infants and toddlers, and is sometimes a quick way for us to spend family time when my kids are busy with other activities. So definitely make use of your public library.
Go for a Winter Hike
Hiking in the winter can feel intimidating, and it does require some extra preparation, but the trails are beautiful when covered with snow. We have written a whole post about hiking in the winter with kids and how we make it work with young kids. My biggest tips are first, choose short hikes, even shorter than you normally would because tramping through snow wears you out quicker. And my second tip is to have a nice warm treat after the hike. We take hot chocolate in a thermos to warm us up. Both of these tips make hiking in winter fun! You can read our other tips on our website.
Walk a Nature Trail
If you’re not quite ready for a full on winter hike in the mountains, then I recommend finding a local nature trail in your area. These trails are usually paved, short, flat, and perfect for getting outside when you want some fresh air, but don’t want to wear all the snow gear. Some of our favorite nature trails along the Wasatch Front are Farmington Creek Trail, Provo River Parkway, Eccles Wildlife Center Trail, Miller Bird Refuge, Bicentennial Park Trail, and the Dripping Rock Trail. The nice thing about these trails is they are often not as snowy as mountain trails. We have a big list of 20 urban trails like this in Utah if you are looking for other ideas.
Play at a Playground
I know that playing at a playground doesn’t seem like a winter activity, but most of the time there isn’t too much snow down in the valley, so we throw our coats on and head to a park. And we are so lucky to live in Utah because the parks here are amazing. You can always find a park with an awesome playground close by. The cities are constantly updating and changing the playgrounds to be all-abilities accessible and super fun for kids. Our website is full of park ideas, so search for cities near you and some great parks should pop up.
Visit a Museum
Did you know there are tons of free museums in Utah? We are always amazed at the places we can visit for free. Our favorites are the Bean Museum at BYU and Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake. Both of these spots teach our kids and provide lots of interactive fun for them, too. Museums are such a great place to learn about a topic, and it is one of the reasons we try to visit. The Natural History Museum of Utah is not free, but is an amazing resource for studying about Utah, geology, dinosaurs, and more. Watch for free or discounted days at your favorite spots by following them on social media or joining their mailing lists. Museums are great in the winter because they are indoors, so you don’t need to freeze.
Embrace the Snow
This was a tough one for me for a long time. As someone who grew up in Southern California, I was not accustomed to the cold, but my boys LOVE playing in the snow. I finally had to embrace that fact and let them be sopping wet, but happy. Just playing with the snow in our yard makes them happy and it doesn’t require going anywhere. You can also go to parks for sledding and snowman making if you need a little more snow. Something else I have done with my kids when they were young is bring the snow inside. I heap a cookie sheet or small bin with fresh snow and let them play with their trucks or add some food coloring, and that way only our hands get cold. We really love building mini snowmen and putting them in the freezer to show dad after work.
Enjoy an Animal Outing
Our favorite time to visit the Hogle Zoo is in the winter. The animals seem to be more active (probably because it’s not so hot), the crowds are smaller, and you can usually snag tickets on the $2 Wednesdays. If you need a free adventure, we love Cabela’s in Lehi. There are “stuffed” animals there. We love looking at the live fish and then walking through the entire store finding all the different animals. Tracy Aviary is another great spot, as well as Scheels.
Kids Building Workshops
Home Depot has workshops the first Saturday of the month all year long, but for some reason we only go in the winter. Summers just end up super busy. The stores are all handling this a little bit differently since 2020, so make sure to contact your store to see their procedure. Generally speaking, you register for a workshop where you children can build a simple kit. Then you go on the first Saturday at the appropriate time and you put the kits together. We usually bring them home and paint them so we don’t have to wait for things to dry. We have built fire trucks, picture frames, easels, periscopes, and more. It’s a great FREE way to introduce your kids to building tools. Lowe’s also has workshops, but they cost a few dollars and I never seem to be able to get on quick enough to register, but it is another spot you can look into building kits.
Indoor Play Areas
Sometimes my boys really need to burn off some serious energy. We are grateful for places like Airborne Trampolines or Kangaroo Zoo or Obstacle Warrior Kids. So do our boys! They love using their bodies and running, climbing, and jumping. We don’t go to these places too often since they can cost quite a bit, but they are so great in the winter for exercising and moving. Indoor swimming pools are also a great way to leave the house and wear those kids out. We often use our Get Out Pass for admission to these places, so if you have that pass, make sure to use it during wintertime. If you don’t have the pass, you can read more on our website and just know that a great Black Friday code is coming here soon.
Go for a Bird Drive
Our final suggestion for getting out during the winter is to go on a bird drive. I know what you are thinking–we don’t even like birds. Well, what if I told you that in the winter here in Utah you can see Bald Eagles all over the state! They come to winter in Utah. We have a few suggestions of where to drive: Sanpete County and Farmington Bay. But you can try other places and you might be surprised at what you see. The nice thing is that you can enjoy them from the comfort of your warm car, but you are still outdoors learning about nature.
I hope that one of these ideas sparked something to help you and your family this winter to learn, have fun, and grow closer together. I hope you’ll follow along with our adventures. You can visit our website utahsadventurefamily.com any time and search for ideas, or you can join our email newsletter to get adventure ideas each week in your inbox. We also share on social media on Instagram and Facebook (@utahsadventurefamily). And feel free to send us an email anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org). We love answering questions and helping families spend time together. Have a wonderful winter season!