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Geoff CarpentierI know how tough it is to amuse kids when times are normal, but during this COVID-19 crisis, I can appreciate that it’s much harder.

I raised three wonderful children and two of them are now raising children of their own.

So I thought I’d share some ideas on how to engage your kids and perhaps amuse yourself with a focus on nature-themed activities.

Some of us are fortunate to live in rural areas where ponds are plentiful and kids can skate, as I did when I was a child many years ago.

Some municipal rinks are closed because of the pandemic but perhaps you can skate on one of the nearby lakes or ponds, or build your own rink. There are kits and supplies to build a great rink.

But if you do choose to skate on a pond or lake, please make sure the ice is sufficiently solid and thick to support the activity.

We all know that snowfall accumulates, then melts and then it snows again. Over time, it stops snowing but what if we tracked the progress?

black-capped chickadee bird watching nature wildlife animals

If you’re very lucky, a bird might come right up and eat out of your hand, like this little black-capped chickadee. Photo Geoff Carpentier

Starting on a nice day after a fresh snowfall, carefully measure the depth of the snow (in inches or centimetres) using a marked stick that you leave in place, stuck in the snow so you can check it daily. Every day at noon, check the outdoor temperature and the snow depth:

  • Is it getting shallower as the temperature changes daily?
  • Does it ever get shallower even when the temperature stays below freezing?
  • Did it snow and if so how much was added?
  • How much did it change in a week or a month?
  • When did it all melt?

Keep track of your observations and maybe you can ask your parents to help make a graph to show the changes over the weeks.

Click here to downloadWhat about trying to see how long it takes snow to melt under varying conditions?

Get two measuring sticks and place one in an area that gets lots of sunshine and another in an area that’s mostly shaded. Compare the results – you’ll be amazed how different they will be.

Why not have a winter picnic? You can do this in your own backyard or a nearby park. Dress warmly and bring thermoses of hot chocolate or hot soup.

While you’re outside, every now and then stop talking and just watch and listen. You might be surprised to see a rabbit hopping by or birds searching the trees for a snack. Maybe your parents will build a small campfire for you, if allowed.

red fox animal nature wildlife snow tracks

Keep your eyes peeled for tracks like those seen here, left by a red fox! Note their size by comparing to the dime next to them. Photo Geoff Carpentier

Take a walk in the woods, taking bird seed and putting it on the ground. The birds may not come right away but they will eventually – the food won’t be wasted. If you’re lucky, they’ll come while you’re there and sometimes they’ll eat right out of your hand.

Identify the birds you see. Did you see animal tracks? Could you identify them?

Why not make a bird feeder with your mom or dad and hang it outside so the birds and squirrels can enjoy it? You’ll be surprised how quickly birds find these feeders.

The bird feeders don’t have to be elaborate, but they must have some form of perch and a place to put the seed so the birds can grab what they want. Place it in a spot where it’s visible from your house and don’t forget to keep feeding the birds once you start.

Outdoor astronomy can also be fun. Winter skies are clear and stars seem to shine more brightly than in summer. Go online and search ‘constellations’ and you’ll find several apps that explain what constellations you can see where you live. Keep track of where they are in the sky, because over time their positions relative to the Earth change.

What you learn now will last a lifetime – so enjoy every minute of it!

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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