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Winter family activities

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Get your family outdoors

Winter tends to send families indoors where the fire is roaring and steamy mugs of cocoa are aplenty. Staying warm is certainly a necessity when the temperatures plummet, but that does not mean hibernating until the spring thaw. Winter offers a playground of fun family activities, giving you the opportunity to connect with the winter side of nature and keep your family healthy and fit. We caught up with outdoor lifestyle expert and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) National Spokesperson Rebecca P Cohen to get her recommendations for fun winter activities.

7 ways to Bring nature indoors

Even though Cohen advocates that families spend time outside every day, she is well aware that when the temperatures drop dangerously low or light snow turns to blizzard-like conditions, being outdoors can be unsafe. That doesn't mean, however, that your family can't connect with nature. "Outdoor fun can be brought inside with a little imagination," says Cohen. Here are seven ways you can bring nature indoors.

1. Gather nature before the weather turns for the worst

"I love giving my kids a plastic container in which to put objects they collect from outside to play with inside…building something or using paper and a glue stick to create a collage," says Cohen.

2. Have a nature treasure hunt

Cohen suggests devising a nature hide and seek game. "Create an 'archaeological dig' with dry rice in a plastic container and hide objects from nature, such as shells and rocks, and small animal figures recycled from the toy box," she adds.

3. Pitch a blanket and have a picnic

Freezing temperatures can ruin a picnic faster than an army of ants, but you can take the opportunity to have a picnic on a blanket indoors. "Winter traditions like s'mores can be great in the microwave and are second only to those roasted over a fire," says Cohen. Sitting on a blanket instead of at the table is a fun change and can help combat the stir-craziness that long periods of inclement weather can bring.

4. Have a campout inside

Unless your family enjoys hardcore winter camping, pitching a tent inside and having a winter campout in the living room is a far warmer -- and safer -- option. Cohen suggests including a few elements of winter: "'Carve' a sculpture with snow kept in the freezer and a plastic spoon, or build an igloo out of ice cubes then keep it frozen outside." Don't forget those microwave s'mores and, if possible, sit around the fireplace and tell "campfire" stories.

5. Clear the room

Adults need exercise and kids naturally crave it. Even if you can't be active outside due to weather conditions, you can still stay active. Designate a room or another safe place in your home for the kids to run around. Cohen adds, "My personal favorite is how my boys used a leftover balloon from a birthday party and had an indoor volleyball match in their bedroom, seeing how many times they could hit the ball back and forth -- they got a tremendous amount of exercise!

6. Build a fort

Engage the creative spirit of your kids by having them design their own fun. Pitching a tent is easy (and, really, an essential skill for every family member to learn), but encourage your kids to erect their own shelter. "Building a fort with cushions and blankets is something that kids always love to do and encourages creative play," says Cohen. "They just need to agree beforehand that they'll clean it up when you ask them to!"

7. Play board games with a nature theme

Next time you're looking for a family board game, opt for one that also brings nature to the table. "Board games, like the National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rickopoly, is a great way to engage with your family and learn about wildlife at the same time," suggests Cohen.

Keep your family connected to nature regardless of the season -- embrace the great outdoors with its changing weather conditions and bring the outdoors inside when the weather is too inclement to endure. "Whatever interests your [family], there is a beneficial form of play that can be done outside when the whether permits and inside when the weather does not.," concludes Cohen.

More ways to keep your family active

For more information about the National Wildlife Federation Be Out There campaign visit www.nwf.org/beoutthere/. Additional outdoor lifestyle tips can be found at www.rebeccaplants.com.

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