What Do I Do With My Kids During COVID Winter?

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Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, freelance journalist and outdoor enthusiast, shares her expert advice on getting your kids outside this winter. She gives tips on what clothes to wear, what snacks to pack, and how to get your kids off the couch when they’re just not feeling motivated. “We don’t want to be locked away all winter. We want to make sure that the kids can get out and still enjoy all that they love to do outside and see some friends and socialize a bit while they’re at it.”


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Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan  00:05

Hi, I’m Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan and you’re listening to GOOD KIDS. I am a freelance journalist who specializes in the outdoors, science, environment and parenting. And today I’m going to talk about getting your kids outdoors all year round.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan 

I think this winter, especially getting your kids outside is going to be so crucial for everybody’s sanity. My three-year-old son is like a 10 out of 10 on the energy scale, so we just have to get him outside like the inside cannot contain him. And he starts getting into trouble if we don’t, so you know, getting like to get him outside at least an hour a day to just run off, run off that extra energy. And it’s fun for everybody and breaks up the day. And we did not want to stop that when it gets cold. And especially this winter, when a lot of the things that we would have turned to for that kind of energy outlet like, you know, the gymnastics place, or the library, or the indoor pool, like those are not going to be options for us this winter.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Keeping your kid warm is probably a number one concern for parents who want to get out in the winter. And it should be because if your kid is cold, like your outing is going to end very quickly. So I think the biggest thing to think about is you want waterproof stuff, if there’s any snow involved whatsoever. So you know, snow pants and jackets are at least water resistant. And that’s usually good enough. But something like gloves and boots or mittens, you want to be waterproof. Sometimes you see those kids gloves that are just kind of like light cotton type or acrylic mittens and anything like that, if the kids playing in the snow for any period of time is going to soak through, and then they’ll be freezing.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

So we thought many other families would, you know, probably be in that position and be maybe concerned about Cabin Fever overtaking them. And I really wanted to encourage everybody, no matter where you live, whether you’re in a mountain town, or you live in the middle of a city. That you absolutely can have a lot of fun in the winter with just a little extra prep. And you can still get your kids out. And I hope you do.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan 

And really surprisingly, get them moving when they might be a little reluctant at first. And then you also need to keep their energy up. And this goes double in the winter really because you’re burning extra calories like plowing through snow and just keeping your body warm. So we like to keep take things that are not going to freeze so you know certain kinds of energy bars sometimes turn into like solid bricks if they’re outside for a few hours. So you want to avoid that kind of thing. Other you know, like things like dried fruit or good or some you know, treats are good like maybe some chocolate chips or cookie. Cookies are a really good one I find they don’t freeze and kids are always excited to have a cookie

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan 

And that’ll keep their energy up and keep them happy. And you also want to think about hydration. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much like moisture you’re really exhaling and kind of letting out when you’re outside in the cold and you don’t necessarily feel like you need to drink as much as you would maybe in a hot summer day. But that’s another key thing and a thermos of you know herbal tea or hot chocolate is such a good way to both get your liquid in and motivate the kid to get the liquid in and also just make it a special treat for them.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan  02:33

And the same with feet like you want to have a good waterproof boot on there. Cold feet are the quickest way to kill an outing I think. Snacks are an essential part of at least raising my children. Like they’re such a good motivating factor. And you know, mood lifter and I just feel like strategically deploying food is such an important part of raising my kids. But I mean outdoors, you definitely want to have a good supply of snacks, in one sense it’s a good kind of bribe really a lot of parents will bring around will bring kind of treats along with them like gummy bears or something like that. And that can help your kid you know decide they actually do want to go for a hike if you say “Hey you know if you get to that tree over there, you can have a gummy bear”

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan  04:58

Keeping your kids moving I think is such a key word because not only does that get their mind kind of off, like “Oh, it’s kind of cold or there’s wind blowing in my face” But it keeps them warm, like just the act of running around is gonna help them feel more comfortable. So it’s always nice to kind of have some ideas in mind to encourage them. Like just the other day I was out on a winter hike with Sam and his little buddy and, you know, being outdoors, they’re both masked, and that’s like our only way to do playdates these days. And we were like “Let’s play hide and seek” and then you know, the two little kids would just sprint ahead and hide behind a tree. And then we just repeat and repeat and repeat. And they were so happy and just getting moving was all it took.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan 

And sometimes, you know, you can say, let’s play red light green light, or tag or just anything that’s going to get them running around which, you know, most kids are pretty excited to do no matter what. It’s sometimes hard to leave the couch when it’s cold or blustery outside. And my kids are very high energy and like to be outside. But sometimes we run into this too. And, you know, kids sometimes have trouble with transition no matter what it is. So, one way we get my son out the door, if he’s you know, a little bit bulky about it is to just say, you know, okay, we’re just going to go for 5 minutes, 10 minutes. And that is enough for him to be like, okay, fine, and you know, put on his snow pants, and then he’s outside and he’s having a blast, and then he cries about coming inside.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan  06:29

So just kind of saying, hey, if you hate it, we can come inside, and come inside, if you hate it and try again later. And even getting outside for 10 minutes, like three or four times a day is gonna help with the energy and help break up that day. And we also try to have an outing in mind, like, particularly now, I mean, it’s really dark, we live in Montana. So like the sunsets really early in the winter. And sometimes after work, when I have time to take him outside. It’s already dark. But I’d be like “Hey, let’s go check out the holiday lights in the neighborhood.” And he’s like “Oh, okay,.” There’s a, like an incentive for me. And then he gets out the door. And then again, once he’s outside, he loves it. It’s just a matter of that, like initial transition resistance.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan 

I think getting outside as a family is really important all the time, every season pandemic or no pandemic, because it’s fun for kids, first of all, you know, they love exploring, I think we all have this innate curiosity about nature and love for being outside. And it doesn’t take too much prompting to kind of get kids to discover that for themselves. And it’s also important because it gets their energy out, you know, cabin fever is a real thing. And getting outside for even, you know, 30 minutes a day can help a lot. Also, it’s so much easier, honestly, as a parent, like, when we take our kids outside, you know, they’re just exploring and happy and they make their own fun. And you just basically have to follow them around. And, you know, bring them inside.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan  08:13

And suddenly there’s a lot more like management happening. But outside, it’s just this like free raining experience. And I mean, this year in particular. A lot of the indoor fun that we used to do in the winter is just not going to be available or not going to be safe for us. So you know, outside is one of the only things and we haven’t had an indoor, we haven’t had anybody as a guest in our house. I mean since last March. So we we’re not really doing indoor anything. So it’s kind of the only way that our kids can see their friends and for us to see our friends and what we feel like is a safe enough manner. So you know, we don’t want to be locked away all winter. We want to make sure that the kids can get out and still enjoy all that they love to do outside and see some friends and socialize a bit while they’re at it.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan 

You can see more of my work about kids and the outdoors and all kinds of other subjects at my website, which is ElisabethKwak.com Thank you for listening to GOOD KIDS.


GOOD KIDS is a Lemonada Media Original. Supervising producer is Kryssy Pease. Associate producer is Alex McOwen and Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. The music is by Dan Molad with additional music courtesy of APM music. Check us out on social at @LemonadaMedia, recommend us to a friend and rate and review us wherever you listen to podcast. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at hey@lemonadamedia.com. Until next week, stay good.

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