It has been cold here the last little while, hovering around -20 for over a week. It’s hard to get out and get motivated in the winter sometimes, but I strongly believe that it’s more important in the winter. It’s easy to sit inside and cuddle up with a book or binge watch Netflix and our modern day luxuries don’t force us outside like they did decades ago. As a result, children and adults alike have far less winter skills that we used to – so we’ve decided to change that as a family.
We find way to engage the kids outdoors and teach them skills without them realising it isn’t just a game. My husband and I wanted to get them out for some fresh air and exercise, and the kids were in the mood to act like zombies, so like the good little mountain parents we occasionally are – we invented a game. We played this amazing game a couple of weeks ago and it’s sure to be repeated many times even during the summer months. A game of survival, critical thinking and adventure!
We drove up our mountain as far as we could get in 4 feet of snow, then proceeded to unloaded the kids and the snowshoes. Once everyone was strapped in we went for a bit of a hike asking the kids to pay CLOSE attention to their surroundings as we walked.
Once we’d gone a ways (with a clear snowshoe path leading back to the truck), we asked them to lead the way to the truck but they couldn’t take us on the same route. They needed to think about it and find an alternate route that would take us to the same spot – cut their own trail, if you will. They looked slightly forlorn, as the forest canopy rose 60 feet above them and a deep quilt of snow covered the ground.
We talked about the surroundings, the details, the things they may not have noticed on their own. We asked them to study the trail we had left in the snow and think about where the truck was. Could they point in the direction it was parked? We asked them to look at the sun and compare it to the position of their body while they faced the direction they intended to walk. When facing the truck it was slightly passed their right shoulder. We were less than 20 minutes from the truck so the sun would move very little before we returned.
We didn’t give them the compass, so the boys (aged 5 and 7) had to get us back on sheer brain power. They looked around for a minute, talked about it between themselves, made a plan and off they went with dad and I in tow.
They chose a pretty route that followed an active set of coyote tracks over a hillside and into the forest. The ground was alive with animal activity. They looked at the tracks and the different sizes, trying to guess how many were in the family. It hadn’t snowed in several days, so it was possible that this was days worth of activity from the same family members, therefore increasing track numbers. My husband tracks for a living so he was teaching them different ways to analyse them and to tell how fresh or old they were.
At one point our path started to shift a little north and we had to remind the boys to notice the sun and turn their bodies back to the body/sun position they had started with. We climbed over boulders and logs, we dipped down below fallen trees and we trudged though snow as deep as the boys. Just as they were getting a little frustrated and feeling the shadow of defeat creep up our truck appeared over the bank. Huge smiles of pride and success washed over their tiny faces.
It was a day of triumph.