Snow Day Checklist: Tips for Winter Family Fun
Dig out your snow pants, find those waterproof gloves, and make sure the kids’ winter boots still fit—it’s snow time. With the season’s first big snowfall comes excitement, anticipation, and of course, planning. From family snowshoeing adventures in the backcountry to a simple sledding day at the hilliest park in town, we’ve learned a thing or two about cold-weather fun. Check out our guide full of tips for surviving an all-day snow day.
Make a gear list. Dressing for cold, wet weather may seem easy-peasy if you’ve done it a couple of times before. But you’d be surprised how many stories we’ve heard of folks forgetting gloves, dog booties, or (one of the most commonly forgotten winter items) sunscreen. Create your own checklist based on the type of activity you have planned to ensure you remember everything you’ll need for snow day success.
Pack everything into plastic bins or dry bags. One of our favorite pro moves. Not only are they easy to load into the car but they make cleanup a breeze too. Just toss all of that snow caked gear into one of the bins and like magic—the inside of the car is puddle-free (and somehow less smelly too).
KEEN tip: Nothing can kill the snow day spirit like unhappy feet. Before your first adventure of the season, make sure everyone in your crew has insulated, waterproof shoes that can handle hours in low temperatures and slushy conditions. Think your kid might have outgrown their boots, but not exactly sure? Check out our KEEN guide to determine if your kiddo is in need of a new pair. (And if she is, don’t worry, we’ve got a guide for that too.) Think you might need some cozy new boots yourself, but not sure what kind? Have a look at these tips for choosing the best winter boots for all types of conditions.
Packing everything in a plastic bin helps prevent that one mitten from being left behind, and it's a great way to contain wet gear for the drive home. Don't forget sunscreen!
Health and safety
Pack foods that are easy to eat. All outdoor adventures call for proper fuel. We recommend bringing along tasty foods that you can eat with gloves on (so fingers stay nice and warm while you chow down). Packaged granola bars, sandwiches, or foods you can eat with a fork or spoon are all great options. You’d be surprised how many things you can actually eat with a spork. Trail mix anyone?
KEEN tip: A warm bowl of soup or a steamy cup of cocoa enjoyed out in the snow is one of our favorite ways to refuel. You can also just bring along a thermos of hot water and packets of dehydrated soup, cocoa, or instant coffee, so everyone can choose their own type of treat.
Remember to drink water. Turns out that even in the frosty winter months, dehydration is still possible. In fact, according to the American Hiking Society, staying hydrated can be even more important in colder months than the warmer ones. (The cool air actually draws water from our bodies faster than warm air does!) Be sure to bring along plenty of water and remind your crew to drink up even if they aren’t feeling all that thirsty.
KEEN tip: Slide water bottles into a wool sock or an insulated bottle sleeve to keep them from freezing in your backpack on especially cold days.
Plan to take plenty of breaks. Whether there are kids in tow or not, taking time to rest is important for both body and mind. Take short breaks every couple of hours (or every hour or so if you have children in your group). Breaks are a great time to have a snack, enjoy the scenery, or take an epic group photo. Just make sure the break isn’t too long. You don’t want to lose hard-earned body heat by standing around in low temps. Breaks are also a great time to check-in and see how everyone is feeling. It’s always better to cut a fun adventure short than have it turn into a long, un-fun one (parents, you know what we’re talking about).
Don’t forget the essentials. If your adventure is taking you into the backcountry (or you’ll be away from the car for a long period of time), plan to pack the Ten Essentials. Since winter weather can be rather unpredictable (and so can kids and dogs), it’s important to be prepared with the appropriate gear, including navigation, first aid, and emergency supplies.
Combat complaints with hand warmers. Even for the best-dressed adventurer, a chilly wind or bout of yucky weather can spell disaster when there are still hours left in the day’s activity. Keep cold-weather discomfort (and complaints) at bay with a few gel hand warmers. Kids and adults alike love cracking ‘em open and feeling the quick heat.
Get a little competitive. Sometimes the best way to remedy the cold is with some friendly competition. Kids find it hard to say no to a game of tag or a race to the furthest tree and back. Not only does the quick movement get their blood flowing, but the fun of a little rivalry seems to make them forget that they were ever cold at all.
Pro parent tip: If your little ones’ complaints start to veer from discomfort into total meltdown territory, give them the greatest winter gift possible: your own precious body heat. Sharing your cozy warm jacket or letting your kiddos' icy fingers warm up on your toasty stomach (or armpits!) is the ultimate reward for enduring the cold. (Not to mention that it typically elicits gleeful giggles that are bound to turn around any bad mood.)
Keep some warm rewards in the car. When the snow fun is done, make sure the car is well stocked for rewarming. Pack some warm beverages, extra clothes, and cozy blankets for a warm and snuggly car ride home.
Keeping things fun
Give kids a job. After the initial excitement wears off and your kid realizes they still have an hour of snowshoeing left before returning to the car, things can start to go downhill (and not in the fun sledding type of way). If your snowy adventure involves kiddos, give them a job when you notice their attention start to wane.
Some of our favorite job titles to hand out:
• Energy restorer: They provide the rest of the crew with energy-sustaining bites. Our most prized variety is M&Ms (each color has a different fortifying power, you know!).
• Wildlife scout: Have kids keep their eyes and ears open for evidence of animals, birds, or other humans! If they’re old enough, let them use your phone to document any findings such as tracks or scat.
• Trip leader: Kids love to lead. It can be very rewarding to let your little one take the lead for a while and teach you how things are done. (Just be sure to set a few ground rules beforehand.)
Pro parent tip: Put a favorite snack or candy in your kid’s jacket pocket for an unexpected treat when a redirection is needed. It’s amazing how much energy a small bag of fruit snacks can yield in a pivotal moment.
Make some snow day traditions. Whether it’s writing your names in the snow with your snowshoes or a friendly hole-drilling race while setting up for some ice fishing, rituals can help keep spirits up. And the fun doesn’t have to end when the activity is finished! Post-snow-day traditions give kiddos and adults alike something to look forward to. One of our favorites? Stopping at our number-one food cart on the way home for a hot and gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Yum.
Have fun out there, and be sure to share your adventures with us by tagging @keen.kids!