Family

NO-COST WAYS TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS OUTSIDE

While many of the Christmas festivities occur inside the house, the real magic of the holiday season happens outdoors. The fresh air renews your holiday-frazzled mind while the activity recharges your body.

There’s something for the entire family to do to enjoy the outdoors on Christmas day or the days surrounding this special time spent with family and friends that doesn’t take a lot of effort or money.

CHRISTMAS EVE PARTY

For a truly memorable Christmas Eve, create a magical get-together in your backyard. Before the big event, string twinkling lights in the area, or line the space with candles in quart-sized mason jars so they’re ready to light before the festivities. Start a fire in the fire pit, light the candles or turn on the twinkle lights, and then sit back sharing stories of the year while enjoying roasted marshmallows and hot cocoa.

HIT THE TRAIL

If you live in a temperate region where snow and ice isn’t an issue, take a walk on local trails. Check for trails in city, state, or on federal lands. And to find hiking partners search online for local meetup groups. Many of these enthusiastic hikers walk practically every day, and are happy to have new faces.

PUT ON YOUR SHOES

For those where the snow comes early and stays throughout the winter, use snowshoes for a phenomenal workout to explore the beautiful winterscape. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, many outdoor recreation businesses offer them for rent, and at times the local Forest Service office allows recreationists to check them out for free.

BUILD A SNOWMAN

Even without breaking into song, building a snowman is something the entire family can do as soon as the snow is at its optimum packing consistency. Have the younger children start the snowballs, and roll them to the proper size with the rest of the family. Remember, snow is heavy and it takes some effort to heft the middle section into place if it’s too large, so judge the weight as you roll. Then decorate the snowman with natural materials such as sticks and stones, and a carrot for its nose, or dig out some funny clothes to add some personality.

ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT

For over a century volunteers have stepped up to help the Audubon Society count the birds in their area to determine population and migration trends. To be part of this important annual effort, contact your local Audubon Society chapter to sign up to go out with a group or own your own. Even if you’re not familiar with all of the species of birds, they’ll give you plenty of assistance. It’s a great way to spend time as a family and participate in a national effort to keep track of our birds.

HUNT FOR A TREE

Instead of hauling out an artificial tree to set up for Christmas, head to the woods or a tree lot to choose your own. The Forest Service offers Christmas tree permits for an inexpensive price so families can head to the national forest to make choosing the tree a memorable experience. You can find out more about the specific regulations at http://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/tree-cutting. Or, if you don’t live near a national forest, visit a tree lot to find and cut your favorite giving everyone a hand in choosing this cherished symbol of Christmas. And don’t forget to bring the hot cocoa!

FREEZE BUBBLES

Consider adding bubble solution to the stockings, and take the fun outdoors when the temperatures dip below 32 degrees F. Blow bubbles and try to catch one on the wand. You can watch it freeze before your eyes.

LOOK FOR TREASURES

Geocaching is an exciting outdoor activity for all ages, but if you don’t have a GPS unit, you can make your own treasure hunt in your backyard. Prizes can be a Christmas ornament, bag of candy, or even cards announcing special activities or privileges. Start with a hint that leads to another, making it simple or complex depending on your children’s ages.

More than the typical trappings of the holiday, being outdoors at Christmas time builds special memories whether it’s having fun in the snow, taking a nature walk, or freezing a few bubbles. Keep it simple and have fun.\

This article was written by Amy Grisak, contributor for The Daily Clutch.