20 Nature Aware Winter Family Activities and Insights


Why would anyone go outside when it is cold? It’s fun, interesting, relaxing, great exercise, fun to share. There is no such thing as bad weather, only not dressed properly for the weather!  Put aside your technology and tune into Nature with all of your senses while walking in an urban park or in the woods. With the leaves missing there is a whole new landscape to discover.

  1. Take deep breaths to smell the air in different places to become more aware of your surroundings. You may be surprised by the variety of smells. Try to identify the sources of the smells.
  2. Enjoy the sounds of silence interrupted by nature sounds like rustling leaves, falling water, birds, and chattering squirrels. Pause breathe deeply and enjoy!
  3. Look up for bird and squirrel nests among winter branches. Clumps of leaves wedged high in the tree branches are squirrel homes. Look for finely woven nests in bushes and trees.
  4. Admire the myriad shapes and heights of trees, many varieties with distinctive silhouettes.
  5. Imagine how these huge structures are supported by tiny fibrous roots wrapped around soil particles and occasionally rocks, often defying gravity by their lean in a single direction. (engineering feats!) Look for trees that defy gravity by their lean!
  6. What kinds of leaves and nuts do you see on the ground? What can you name?
  7. Become more aware of the weather by noting wind direction, velocity, changing temperatures, cloud shapes and become a weather predictor rather than depending on your weather app.
  8. Watch snow falling, sometimes driven, sometimes dancing, other times fluttering, tiny flakes, huge clusters of flakes (Watch outside or from inside!) (I love watching the snow fall – so relaxing especially if clusters of flakes are lazy, and dance in all directions.) Did you know that snow flakes float up some of the time? 
  9. Eskimos have about 50 names for different kinds of snow. How many english words for snow can you name?
  10. Walk together when it is snowing to experience different kinds of snow – lightly falling snow, driving snow, icy snow and more. How does each kind feel on your face? What impact would it have on local wildlife? 
  11. Note the shapes and patterns (opposite or alternate) of different kinds of tree buds. How many can you identify? Keep watching until spring when they burst into leaf or check a guide book.
  12. Catch snowflakes on your tongue and marvel how far those frozen drops of moisture have travelled through time. 
  13. Enjoy the beautiful patterns of ice on puddles and at water edges
  14. Notice the variety of shapes of weeds in winter. How many can you name? You may see milkweed pods or goldenrod.
  15. Notice maple sap icicles hanging from branches. Throw snowballs to knock them down and enjoy maple sap stalactite popsicles!
  16. Learn to identify several bird species with a guidebook or knowledgeable walking companion.
  17. Make snow angels together ( Fall back on the snow and move your arms and legs to create a snow angel imprint in the snow!)
  18. In winter cut branches of several kinds of deciduous trees. Make a fresh cut with a sharp knife and place stems in a vase filled with warm water. Place in a sunny area and watch leaves and often flowers unfold in your living room in January February March. Try apple, dogwood, maple, willow, tamarack or whatever is available. 
  19. Make learning about Nature not just a science class activity but a lifelong journey. Grow your curiosity about, for example, how trees work, and where does the rain come from.
  20. More Nature knowledge helps you make more earth friendly choices.

Join nature and trail organizations to learn more about Nature wherever you are.

JoAnne Fleming is a dynamic speaker and facilitator who passionately shares Environmental Insights.

Changing How People See Their Choices.



Celebrate a Dandelion Spring

Canned, frozen and fresh dandelion greens are available at some of your grocery stores. Dandelion seeds are offered in some seed catalogues. Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine sells more than 700 pounds of dandelion seeds each year. Considering a single round dandelion puff may contain 200 seeds, each with its own wings, that is a LOT of dandelion plants to add to a world obsessed with getting rid of dandelions.

So why would we want to get rid of them? Not everyone does. For centuries, people have used dandelions for medicinal and culinary uses. According to herbalists, dandelions have more medicinal and nutritional properties than any other single plant on earth. For some people, they are plants of last resort to provide nutrition and medicines during times of scarcity, depression or war. Yet people spend billions of dollars trying to get rid of them at great hazard to people, pets and ecosystems. Instead of listening to advertising that tells you how offensive they are you could change how you see them.

Fresh dandelion leaves collected in the early spring before the flowers show colour, are the mildest tasting, served steamed or in a salad. Yet, flowers, leaves, and roots offer endless possibilities for the creative cook or natural healer. With unusually high levels of Vitamin A , it is a cost effective supplement. Look carefully at the leaves in a package of mixed salad greens and dandelions will likely be present.

By changing how you see dandelions, not as a weed but healthy and useful, you have eliminated a ‘problem.’ There is no need to get rid of them from your lawn, you save money not purchasing weed control products and services, and you have reduced the toxic hazards to your family and pets. The first sunny dandelion faces remind us spring has arrived at last. It is so much easier to just appreciate them!