(Easy) Outdoor winter activities for toddlers and kids

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It’s winter! Snow and cold and ice and the possibilities of new and different play! Below you’ll find a list of all sorts of outdoor winter activities for kids and toddlers that you can set up right in your own backyard.

How I miss the days that my littles would wake up to a freshly painted white world… oh, and the excitement in those eyes when they heard the snowplow coming down the road!

… they’d look out the window, see all those new possibilities and they’d suddenly not care about cartoons and cereal.  They just needed to get outside and try out their new Paw Patrol snow shovel, slide around in their sled, and eat some snow!

(Yes, let’s be honest, all kids eat snow.)

But, aside from shoveling, sliding, and eating snow, what other outdoor activities can you find for your toddlers to do?

a toddler holding a snow shovel with text overlay reading toddler play in the snow

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Toddlers have a natural curiosity and excitement about the outdoor world that just doesn’t compare to any other age group.  Often times we parents rush too quickly to make plans and create activities when really all they need is a little encouragement and confidence that their own play and explorations are great activities in and of themselves.

But, if you plan to spend hours outside, having a few snow activities for toddlers on hand will certainly help.

15 ideas for winter outdoor play for toddlers

1. Snow Shoveling

Toddlers love to help out and they love to imitate.  So, if you are planning to make a wintertime toy purchase for your little one, I strongly suggest a kid-sized snow shovel!  And, if you happen to live somewhere where you get a lot of snow, there’s no harm is teaching them early;)

I recommend you get them an actual shovel that will slide and push the snow.  I’m pretty sure we picked ours up at the dollar store (they look like these but I know we didn’t pay that price!).

a preschooler shoveling snow
My toddler helping us shovel the driveway last winter

2. Go for a sled ride – one of the most fun winter activities!

Whether it’s just for fun or for practical purposes, having a good quality pull sled is very handy with young children.  You can pull them around the block, they can slide around in the backyard, or they can pull their own dollies for a ride!

a little kid pulling her doll in a sled through the winter snow
Taking dolly out for a sled ride

Make it even more fun and find some hills to play on.  Remember, toddlers don’t need anything too big or scary and if you are going to go down some big hills with them, be safe and have them wear a helmet.

When my littles were really little, we had both a wooden baby sled and one of these plastic baby sleds.  Both worked well and supported our babies in a sitting position.  However, we would add more blankets and cushioning to the wooden sled.  Once they were a little older and sturdier we started using a plastic toboggan pull sled without a back support. 

I find the pull sleds are more stable and can manage rough snow and terrain better than the smaller baby sleds. Our baby sleds tipped more on rough and hilly trails where our basic pull sleds did not.

Unless you’re getting a hand-me-down, I’d probably suggest purchasing a pull sled and skip the baby sized sleds since they’re pricy and not as useful as kids get older.

3. Build a snowman

Really, this one shouldn’t even need to be mentioned, right?  But, don’t stop at snowmen.   Encourage your toddler’s creativity and maybe they’ll want to build a family of dinosaurs, a castle, a baby turtle, or a sculpture of their own family!  Make it even more exciting by letting your toddler choose some clothing and natural treasures to decorate their snow creations.

4. Paint the snow

This one takes a tiny bit of preparation, but it’s still pretty quick and easy.  The main idea is to fill a watering can, spray bottle, or even a pop bottle (with a hole poked into the lid) with colored water. 

Tip: The slower the water empties from the container, the longer the activity will last!

I used an empty soy sauce jar for this activity and the rate of water flow was perfect… not to slow, but not the whole bottle at once.

I just add a drop or two of food coloring to the water to make sure that the kids’ clothing don’t also get colored in the process.  If you want the colors to show up stronger on the snow, add more food coloring to your water.

using food color to paint in the snow
outside, painting the snow with blue-colored water

I would think water guns would work too… as long as it weren’t so cold that they’d freeze right up.

5. Paint with snow

This one works really well if you have a brick house or a wooden fence.  You can even do it on big tree trunks too.  Basically, with handfuls of snow, show your toddler how to make designs.  The texture of the brick, wood, or bark will grip the snow.  If the snow is wet enough, you can even throw snowballs at the wall and fence to make a picture out of thrown snow balls.

For older kids you could make a bullseye or target game for them to throw the snowballs at.

I also have memories of pulling off my soggy mittens and scarves and sticking them onto the brick walls too! … not sure if you want to encourage that or not!

6. Build a fort

If you grew up in snow I’m sure you’ve built a fort or two.  Remember, toddlers aren’t very big, so this doesn’t have to be an over-involved process.  Just a small snow wall will be very exciting to hide behind and climb over for them.  I’m pretty sure all the forts I ever made were done with my hands and feet.  I also have fond memories of my dad digging one out of a snow drift for me once.

You can purchase fancy snow brick molds, but ice cream containers, sand pails, and buckets work too, and it’s always better to reuse (in my opinion).

7. Build a maze

This one will need a little more adult time.  In a large area of fresh snow use a shovel (or your feet) to cut paths in the yard.  Make a maze for your toddler to find their way through.  Then, show them how to make their own maze to challenge you.

You can challenge older kids to write out their name or designs.

8. Make an obstacle course

These are fun any time of the year, but in the winter, there’s the element of snow!  Read more at PaperHeartFamily to see the snowy obstacle course they made for their kids and get some fun ideas for your own backyard course.

My girls still make obstacles courses for themselves in the backyard. Over the years these have become increasingly difficult. There’s even one set up right now in the snow… and I see they’ve pulled all the lawn furniture out onto the lawn to climb over and under.

9. Watch some snow clearing

Yep, this one is simple, but wow, if you happen to have a little one that loves anything with wheels, then this is definitely going to be a hit!

We are lucky to live in an area that grades and picks up the snow on the roads.  My little guy would get so excited when that familiar beeping and grating sound came around!  He’d spend a whole hour just standing on the couch watching the grader, loader, and dump trucks do their thing (while giving me a running commentary the whole time).  If I really wanted to treat him, we’d get all bundled up and head outside to watch safely from the porch!  …and if they honked or waved, well, his day was made!

10. Go on a track hunt

Little kids will love to walk through the snow, play with their own footprints and follow other prints.  Pretend to be spies and head to the park or around the block and see how many different tracks you can find, follow them, and see where they lead you both.

11. Play at the park

The park is an entirely different place when it’s covered in snow!

Just be careful that metal structures can be unexpectedly slippery when covered in frost.

12. Be a winter wildlife detective

Head to a natural area and see how the animals are managing in the snow.  Make a little winter-time scavenger hunt before you head out, or just pretend to be nature detectives and look, listen, and feel with curiosity.  What are the animals doing and saying?  Have they left any evidence in the snow?  Whose tracks are whose?

squirrel prints in the snow

13. Have a tea party or a picnic

If your little one is into pretend tea parties, then go have one outside.  Get all bundled up, bring out the cups, a blanket, and a few dollies… then enjoy a nice little tea party in the snow.  You could probably also whip up some snowy pies and cakes for the celebration too!

For an extra treat, fill the “tea” thermos with hot chocolate instead!

14. Freeze stuff

This is a two-part activity that needs a little preparation on your part.

First, one day, you’ll fill a container with natural treasures (leaves, berries, pine cones) and add a few inches of water.  Then, leave this outside to freeze overnight.

On the second day, go see what happened, take the frozen disks out of the contains and hang them in the trees as decorations.

You can get the full instructions on making wintertime ice ornaments here.

ice sun catchers with berries and leaves hanging from a tree

15. Haul out the toys

Sandbox toys are just as fun in the snow!  Fill the dump truck and use the sand shovels to build a snow city complete with roads, tunnels, apartment buildings, and even snow bridges!

Or, instead of sand toys, try some kitchen tools like cookie cutters, scoops, and rolling pins.

a toddler wearing a green one-piece snow suit playing with toys in the snow

Really, finding an outdoor winter activity for your toddler and you to do together should be easy.  Just remember to dress well so you’ll both stay warm, be enthusiastic, and let them guide your snow play.

…and if you tire them out, it’s totally okay for nap time to happen outdoors too!

a toddler wearing a ski helmet asleep outdoors in the winter

What should you do now?

  • If you’re excited to learn more, get tips, and activity ideas for more outdoor family adventures then join the Take Them Outside Newsletter (you’ll also get access to the entire private outdoor printables library).

Other outdoor activity posts you’ll want to read:

toddlers playing outdoors in the winter

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  1. This is JUST what I needed. After only a week of COVID-winter conditions, spending 15 minutes bundling up a 3-year-old and 15-month-old only to have them play outside for like 5 minutes and realizing there are basically no indoor play options… Well, now I have much more to work with! I’m really keen to try the frozen ornaments with my 3-year-old! This makes me actually look forward to getting more snow lol.

  2. These are awesome snow play ideas. I especially loved the part about eating snow – when my daughter was just under two, ALL she did when we played outside was to eat the snow. I had to make sure she was in a spot with clean snow.

    We also used inflatable sleds to drag them around in the snow, which they loved. I can’t wait to try out some of these ideas the next time we are in snow and cold temps!

    1. Hi Natalie, Inflatable sleds, we haven’t tried those! Thanks for sharing… glad to hear my kids aren’t the only snow-eaters;)

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