Whether you head out or stay in, don't let bad weather put a damper on family fun. Photo: Scott Livingston
By Ethan Hipple
January ice. February snowstorms. March rains. April mud. Winter
and spring weather can make it challenging to get motivated for family
adventures outdoors. And since we all want our kids to have the most positive
experiences possible, sometimes when it rains or snows, we bag our plans and stay
home instead. But wait! Hold that rain check! Below are some ideas to keep your
kids playing in less than optimal conditions. And for when the truly nasty
weather hits, we’ve got indoor ideas, as well.
Just go out in the rain (or snow or SLUSH)
We often forget is that skin is 100-percent waterproof. Once
we get over the discomfort of slightly soggy clothes, being outside in the
elements can be fun, especially if we keep warm by keeping active. One of my
favorite family memories is a trip in the Vermont highlands: a day full of
muddy trails, wet clothes, bushwhacking, misty vistas, drizzle, and fog—and adventure
and exhilaration. A few tips:
- In rainy or snowy weather, make sure you’re adequately
prepared with good rain or snow gear, plenty of warm layers, umbrellas, and a
change of clothes in the car. The number-one factor in staying upbeat on cold
and wet days is wearing the right gear.
- Keep bad-weather day trips short. Kids can endure less than optimal conditions
and keep spirits high—but only for so long. After a couple hours, it’s just a slog. No one wants that.
- Bring a tarp and a backpacking stove. Go for a day
hike in the rain or light snow, set up a tarp for lunch, and fire up the stove to make grilled
cheese sandwiches and tomato soup—a recipe for happy campers.
- Hot cocoa in a thermos. Essential.
- Backup pocket chocolate also helps. My wife’s
favorite childhood memory is of her father pulling out chocolate-covered
marzipan on the ski lift. It kept them warm and brightened their spirits.
- Watch the weather. Never go out in lightning
storms, blizzards, or strong storms of any kind. You can have a great time in a
drizzle, but there’s never a need to put folks in danger.
Indoor Options for
an Outdoor Adventure
When the weather is too rough to go out, you can still embrace the indoors with an outdoors mindset. Here are some of our tactics:
Indoor camping. Round up a couple of couches, coffee
tables, chairs, blankets, or tarps and build a massive indoor fort. Set up pads
and sleeping bags inside then read a book, take a nap, or watch a movie on the
laptop inside your cozy nest. Top it off with a picnic in the fort while it
pours or snows outside.
Sardines. Hands down, the best rainy day activity, ever.
Just like hide and seek except only one person hides, and everyone else breaks
up and goes looking for them. When a seeker finds the hider, the seeker hides
with the hider and waits for the rest of the seekers to come looking. One by
one, the other seekers will eventually discover the hiding spot, and everyone ends
up hiding together in a cramped space while one last seeker tries to figure out
where everyone went. Great times. We usually play that the first person who
finds the hider gets to hide next.
Climbing gyms. Rock climbers hit these indoor training
grounds to keep in shape during the off season or just during bad weather. Most
climbing gyms have great kids programs and introductory lessons for beginners.
A quick web search will help you find you a climbing gym within about an hour
of most locations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Science and childrens museums. There are so many great examples
of these—and what better time to visit than a rainy day? Some of our personal
Squam Lakes Natural Science
Center, in Holderness, N.H. Great indoor exhibits and a New England-centric
zoo featuring a coyote and mountain lions.
Science Center, in Rye, N.H. Awesome exhibits on marine ecology.
- Montshire Museum,
in Norwich, Vt. More than 140 hands-on science exhibits.
Museum of Science, in
Boston. The big daddy in New England. Expensive but worth it. You can spend an
entire day here and still miss things.
- Childrens museums. Excellent options for younger
children in Boston; Dover, N.H.; and Portland, Maine; plus, many others to be
Watch SHOWS about
Some of our family favorites include:
- “Planet Earth.” a TV show featuring mesmerizing cinematography
of wild places and animals. You think you’ve seen everything, and then you see
something on this show that blows your mind. We prefer the original British
version hosted by David Attenborough, although there is also an American
- “Life,” a great BBC series from David Attenborough,
similar to “Planet Earth.”
- “Man vs Wild,” in which Bear Grylls gets dropped into
wilderness locations without gear and has to find his way out to civilization.
- Outdoor sports videos on YouTube. From biking to rock
climbing to freestyle skiing, there is something here to inspire every child.
- Guide You Outdoors. A YouTube channel full of
educational videos about camping, knot tying, canoe camping, gear reviews, and
general outdoor skills.
- AMC’s own YouTube channel
features lots of great how-to advice and breathtaking time-lapse videos.
Rainy or icy days are a great time to plan your next trip. Get out
the maps, read a guide book, plot a route, buy tickets, and start organizing
your gear. When the sun comes back out, you’ll be ready to go!
Get tips on raising the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts in Great Kids, Great Outdoors and find more trip ideas in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s community for families, kids.outdoors.org.
Labels: AMC, bad weather activities, Ethan Hipple, rainy day activities, rainy days, snow days, Winter Fun