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 toddlers and kids that you can set up right in your own backyard.
Top 10 easy outdoor winter activities for toddlers:
- Snow Shoveling – the best winter activity for toddlers!
- Go for a sled ride – my toddlers’ favourite winter activity!
- Which sled should you get for your toddler?
- Build a snowman
- Snow Paint and Painting on Snow
- Build a Fort, Maze, or Obstacle Course
- Be a Winter Wildlife Detective
- Have a Winter Time Tea Party
- Freeze Stuff
- Haul out the Toys (and raid the kitchen cupboards)
Read more below for additional ideas, tips, and suggestions for making outdoor toddler winter play fun for them and stress-free for you!
If you’re looking for indoor winter activities for your toddlers, jump to the bottom of this post. I have a few quick ideas and a link to a great list for you!
My littles just loved the snow!
Oh, how I miss the days that my littles would wake up to a freshly white and snowy day… and the excitement in those eyes when they heard the snow plow 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 fun outdoor winter activities can you and your littles get up to outside on cold winter days?
Toddlers and preschoolers 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 and fun things planned or on hand will certainly help.
1. Snow Shoveling – the best winter activity for toddlers!
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 in teaching them early!
I recommend you get your toddler an actual shovel sized for little hands. I’m pretty sure we picked ours up at the dollar store.
Some little kids are even able to use smaller ‘adult’ snow shovels… like the emergency shovels for keeping in your vehicle.. some of these are the perfect size and actually work at moving snow around.
2. Go for a sled ride – my toddlers’ favourite winter activity!
Whether it’s just for fun or for practical purposes, having a good quality pull sled is very handy when you have 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!
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 supported our babies in a sitting position. Once they were a little older and sturdier we started using a plastic toboggan pull sled without a back support.
Which sled should you get for your toddler?
I find the pull sleds are more stable and can manage rough snow and terrain better than the smaller wooden 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 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? Kids of all ages love to build snowmen… but, don’t stop at snowmen!
Encourage your toddler’s creativity and pretend play opportunities by suggesting they 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. Snow Paint and Painting on 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, empty dish soap jar, or even a pop bottle (with a hole poked into the lid) with coloured water.
Tip: The slower the water empties from the container, the longer this fun activity will last!
I used an empty soy sauce jar when we tried this 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 colours to show up stronger on the snow, add more food colouring to your water.
I would think water guns would work too… as long as it weren’t so cold that they’d freeze right up.
You could also let the kids bring out their water paints tray or tempera paint cakes to paint on the snow. I see this working really well when the snow has a hard crust on top that would act as a giant canvas for your kids.
5. Snow Art
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 on your ‘canvas’. The rough texture of the brick, wood, or bark will grip the snow. A wetter snow works better than the super light and fluffy variety. And, 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: 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 snowy, cold weather I’m sure you’ve built a fort or two! Remember, 2 year olds aren’t very big, so this snow fort 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.
However, I do have fond memories of my dad digging a fantastic tunnel fort one out of a giant snow drift!
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).
Super Snow Fort Building Tip: If you really want this fort to last, make bricks by filling cardboard boxes with snow and leave the snow-filled boxes to harden over night. Slide the brick out of the box form and fill the box with snow again. As you can imagine, this can be a long process, but you’ll end up with a very strong snow block. The more boxes, the quicker this will go!
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 snowy 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 make a specialty course.
Check out this dog run…. but I know my littles would have loved this! So fun!!
8. Make an obstacle course
Obstacle courses are fun any time of the year, but in the winter, there’s the element of snow! Read more at Paper Heart Family to see the snowy obstacle course they made for their kids and get some fun ideas for your own backyard course.
Tip: If you have a few kids, your older kids might enjoy making courses for your younger kids to enjoy
My girls still make obstacles courses for themselves in the backyard. Over the years these have become increasingly more intricate and difficult to traverse.
9. Watch the Snow Machines
Yep, this one is simple, but wow, if you happen to have a toddler that loves anything with wheels, then this is definitely going to be a hit!
We are lucky to live in an area that clears and picks up the snow on our 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 for some fresh air and to watch safely from the porch! …and if the truck honked or waved, well, his day was made!
10. Go on a Track Hunt
Little kids love to stomp through the snow, play with their own footprints and follow other prints. Pretend to be spies and head to the local park or around the block and see how many different vehicle, human, and animal tracks you can find. For extra fun, choose some tracks to follow and see where they lead you both.
Or, make a game out it where you each have to follow each other’s tracks. Toddlers love these types of interactive games!
11. Visit the Playground
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.
Ask your 2 year old some of these questions:
- What are the animals doing and saying?
- Have they left any evidence in the snow?
- Whose tracks are whose?
- Can we figure out
READ MORE: If your kids are ones that love to learn and explore when they’re outside, you’ll want to check out this great list of 13 easy ways to study nature in the winter!
13. Have a Winter Time Tea Party
If your little one is into tea parties, then go have one outside!
(Depending on how cold it is where you live, you might need to reserve this activity for a sunny day in the warmer months of winter.)
Get all bundled up, bring out the cups, a blanket, and a few dollies… then enjoy a fun little tea party in the snow. You could probably also whip up some snowy pies and cakes for the celebration too… such a wonderful way to enjoy some special time with your toddler.
For an extra treat, fill the “tea” thermos with hot chocolate or warmed apple juice!
And a great tip for encouraging outdoor time, invite some friends to the tea party… the more, the merrier!
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.
READ MORE: You can get the full instructions on making wintertime ice ornaments here.
Or, raid your recycle bin for some empty yogurt or milk containers and fill these with coloured water. Your toddlers will definitely help with this!
Then, leave these outside to freeze. Once they’re frozen, pop them out of their containers and your littles can play with these in the snow.
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 muffin tins, cookie cutters, scoops, and rolling pins.
16. Make Snow Angels
Oh the fun on flopping down into the fresh snow and making snow angels!
Just remember that if your toddler isn’t bundled up well there is the risk of getting snow down their jacket at their neck or waist…
For more tips of dressing warmly for a snow day, check out this post here.
17. Catch Snowflakes
If it’s snowing, show your toddlers how to catch snowflakes on their tongue and mittens. Show each other the tiny flakes you’ve both caught. If you have a hand held microscope or magnifying glass bring those out with you to look at your tiny discoveries.
18. Draw in the Snow
Have your toddler use a broom handle or stick to draw designs and shapes in the snow. You could use this time to practice some letter writing if they’re ready for that… or even writing out words if they’re older.
When I homeschooled one of my daughters we’d stop and spell out words or stop and do math equations in the snow for some added excitement in learning those skills.
19. Toddler Skating
If your little one ready, you could try skating! Or, if they’re not ready to don skates themselves, you could do the skating and pull them behind in the sled.
If you plan to be out for a while and they’ll be riding in the sled, remember to dress them super warmly and bring some blankets because they won’t be moving much and will get chilled faster.
20. Go for a night time walk
Often the cold winter months also mean it gets dark earlier in the evening, making night time walks a bit more accessible for families with young kids. My toddlers loved going for short before bed walks to look at the lights around the neighbourhood.
If you don’t live in an area with a lot of decorated houses, just going out for a night with a full moon or lots of stars can also be exciting for toddlers… especially if you’ve had a recent snow fall and the snow is all sparkly and fresh!
And a few indoor snow play activity ideas for the winter season
1. Bring the snow inside!
Yes, I’m serious, this is so fun… especially for those super cold days or for toddlers who don’t enjoy being outside long in the cold temperatures.
Find a large bin, bucket, or tub and fill it with fresh snow. Bring that inside, and hand your toddler a few kitchen utensils. When I would do this I often put down a few large beach towels to keep the melting water mess contained.
2. Snow Sensory Bin
You could make this even more enticing by creating a small arctic small world sensory play bin with penguins and a polar bear!
3. Snow in the bath tub
I’ve also brought a bin of snow to the tub during bath time to have my toddlers enjoy mini science experiments melting handfuls of snow into the warm water.
4. Paint the Snow
Fill a backing tray or large dish with fresh clean snow and give your toddler a tray of dry watercolours and some paintbrushes. As the snow melts their paintbrush will get wetter and they’ll start picking up more colour to transfer back over to the snow.
If you’re comfortable, you can also let them drop food colouring onto the snow and mix and play with that too!
3. Sculpt with Snow
Depending on the consistency of the snow you bring inside, your kids might enjoy playing with it like clay.
Here is a photo of my littles making tiny indoor snowmen!
Really, finding an outdoor winter activity for toddlers 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!