15 cheap & easy outdoor winter activities for toddlers and kids

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.

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 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 for toddlers on hand will certainly help.

15 ideas for winter activities 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

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 – a toddler’s 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!

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. 

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?  But, don’t stop at snowmen!

a small snowman with twig nose and arms

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, 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 winter 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 colouring 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.

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.

You could also let the kids bring out their water paint 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. 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 little one how to make designs on your ‘canvas’.  The 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 snow 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 so 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).

Super Snow Fort Building Tip: If you really want this fort to last, make bricks by filling cardboard boxes with snow and letting them harden over night. Slide the brick out of the box form and fill again. 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 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

These 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.

children playing in a snow obstacle course
An obstacle course from PaperHeartFamily

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 too.

9. Watch some snow clearing

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 grades 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 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 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.

Or, make a game out it where you each have to follow each other’s tracks. Toddlers love these types of interactive games!

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. 

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
squirrel prints in the snow
Take your toddler hunting for tracks in the snow

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 tea party or a picnic

If your little one is into 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 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.

Frozen Ice ornaments – such an easy winter activity for toddlers!

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!

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

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

a toddler playing in the snow with muffin tins and cookie cutters

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!

a toddler wearing a ski helmet asleep outdoors in the winter

toddlers playing outdoors in the winter


4 thoughts on “15 cheap & easy outdoor winter activities for toddlers and kids”

  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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