It’s cold outside, but that’s no reason to stay in the house. Here are 52 outside games for kids in winter, and none of them require snow on the ground.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to see the white stuff, but snow is not a luxury most winters in Georgia. Even with cold temperatures, I want the boys to play outside at least half an hour a day (and most times it is much longer.)
Whenever I poll the internet for new ideas for winter play, it seems that every list includes skiing, sledding, snowshoe hikes….this doesn’t work for Atlanta!
So the kids and I did some brainstorming and came up with ideas for outside winter playtime. Most of these are free or cheap, and can be done in your own back yard. I figure we’ll make it through the list twice (maybe three times) before the thaw comes! Hope you enjoy it too!
- Horseshoes – If you don’t have a horseshoe set, then put out laundry baskets and toss Tupperware lids!
- Binoculars – Use them to look for birds, peek through the trees, or any explore a new park.
- Take pictures outside – Give your kiddo the iPhone or a camera and let them take shots of things that interest them.
- Go cardboard box sledding – We don’t need snow! Use a cardboard box to slide down your nearest hill. We even do this in the summer!
- Playground – Seek out a new playground, maybe in the neighboring town.
- S’mores – build a small fire in the patio firepit and make marshmallow treats!
- Walk the dog – Don’t have one? Borrow the neighbor’s.
- Feed the birds – Fill the feeders, make and hang feeders, or throw popped corn out to the singers.
- Winter picnic – Bundle up with care, pack hot cocoa or a thermos of soup, and have a wintery picnic.
- Treasure hunt – Evergreen trees, acorns, smooth rocks…name your treasure and go on a hunt to see how many collectibles you can find.
- Obstacle course – Run around patio chairs, jump through hula hoops, weave through cones, do five jumping jacks…whatever it takes to get them moving!
- Grow seeds – With a little shelter, greens and lettuce do well in Georgia’s winter. Cut a gallon milk jug in half. Fill the bottom with dirt (make drain holes,) and use the top like a green house. The kids can check them every day!
- Freeze water balloons – If the temps are low enough, fill water balloons and let them sit out overnight. Pop them the next day for a fun game of ice bowling.
- Tic tac toe – Pull out the sidewalk chalk for an oversized outdoor version.
- Plant pansies – Use an oversized pot to plant some winter color.
- Photo scavenger hunt – something red, something square, something growing, a mail-delivery device…have them use the camera to capture the moment.
- String popcorn – pop some corn then string it (lots of short strings make you feel more successful.) Decorate the outdoors with them, as a feast for the birds.
- Nature walk – Find a new path near you and see what you can collect in a brown bag. Display it on a table at home to remember your adventure.
- Look for animal tracks – After a rain, head out into a muddy area to find some tracks – or make your own!
- Bubbles – Blow bubbles, and see how many you can pop.
- Hop scotch – Bring out the sidewalk chalk! Have you ever built a spiral hopscotch?
- Hot cocoa wagon rides – Take a neighborhood walk with a thermos, blanket and the wagon. They can pull a favorite toy along (and you will probably end up pulling them home – but it is fun exercise!)
- Play ball – Baseball, basketball, football….it’s more challenging in the cold, but lots of fun. Try it with mittens!
- Watch your breath – A frosty morning? Try blowing your breath in the air. Who can make the biggest cloud?
- Collect acorns – can you find 10? 20? 100? Bring them in and use some glue to make an art project.
- Stick course for race cars – Collect sticks of all lengths, then connect them on the driveway to make a course for the hotwheels.
- Golf – No clubs? A stick and ball work well too. If it’s a super cold day, you can pretend you’re playing ice hockey!
- Catch – Big balls, small balls, over and under obstacles, with and without gloves, close together and far apart…there are too many ways to count!
- Hike – Hike a favorite summer trail and talk about how it is different in winter.
- Trampoline – Jump jump jump the wiggles away!
- Outdoor art – Find a special outdoor art installation. We love the ones at Smith Gilbert Gardens, or maybe try the Solar System Exhibit in Gwinnett, the Georgia Guidestones in Elbert County, or Howard Finsters in Summerville.
- Botanical garden – Gardens bring their own special delight in winter. Try Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Smith Gilbert, the State Botanical Gardens, or your neighbors yard!
- Visit new state park – There are 65 state parks in Georgia, perfect for hiking, climbing, and preventing cabin-fever. Visit one that is new to you!
- Jr ranger program – Winter is a great time to start the Jr Ranger Program with your kiddo. Download the program guide for free from the website.
- Build a cairn – Build then with big or small stones, short or tall piles, tight or lose foundations. Use them to mark your way or celebrate the day.
- Start a compost pile – You don’t have to buy a fancy compost bin to start building better soil and recycling food waste. Dig a hole, or build walls with pine straw bales. Teach your kids about what goes into a compost bin, and about how to create green and brown layers.
- Disc golf – Find a disc golf course near you, or use baskets and non-breakable containers around the yard to build your own. Buy discs here.
- Litter pick up – Get the wiggles out while making the earth more beautiful. Kids will love to put on plastic gloves. Give each kid a bag and a mission at the park – find the most trash, find the smallest piece of trash, the largest, a red piece, a blue. It becomes a scavenger hunt for the greater good.
- Sing with the band – We love to play our instruments, but sometimes my inside musicians can create a bit of havoc. Time to take the band outside! Bring the instruments and march around the yard, creating a new song as you go.
- Geocaching – I’ll be honest, we are addicted to this! It is a wonderful way to find new places and create new adventures. If you don;t have a GPS, many phones can fill the gap.
- Freeze tag – This old school classic is guaranteed to start the giggles.
- Stick fort – Sticks and twigs are easy to find in the winter. Look for the large ones and create a tee pee or fort. If you can only find a few, supplement with an old sheet.
- Color hunt – Pick a color aaaannnndd GO. Find as many things with that color as you can. Green and brown are easy ways to start.
- Hula Hoop – You can pick up this magic device at the dollar store. If your little one is not coordinated enough, use the hoop for jump-through games or with a bouncy ball.
- Sock snowball fight – You can still have a snowball fight without snow. Use balled-up socks. Man each child with out 10 pairs and a shield ( cardboard sheets are great for this) and let the games begin.
- Hide n Seek – In the back yard or at the park, this classic is always fun.
- Simon says – Simon says, “Do 10 jumping jacks!” After all that fun, maybe this will be a nap day?
- A-Z walk – An acorn, a bottle, a Christmas tree (shouldn’t they have taken that down by now?) a dog…take a neighborhood alphabet walk to see what you can find.
- Frisbee Run – Who can throw it farthest? Between the trees? Catch it mid-air? Maybe you can throw it and the kids can catch it? Do you have a small one and a large one? Instant science experiment about velocity!
- Magnifying glass – Time to pull out the looking glass and see what’s active in winter. Find any bugs? Get a great look at the tree bark or the winter seed pods.
- Plant a tree – replace the evergreen you chopped in winter with a new baby spruce or cedar. If the ground isn’t frozen, your tree should be just fine. If you’re worried about the cold weather, wrap your new tree in chicken wire and then fill the wire with crushed leaves as insulation.
- Jump rope – Another classic game that never gets old. A tip for beginners: splurge on this toy. A flimsy, light weight rope is harder to learn on. We like a heavy weight rope purchased from Home Depot, with knots on the end.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.