Families in Calgary, Family Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Winter Activity Ideas for Families (and Christmas, too!)

When we first moved to Canada, we were amazed by the snow, and very quickly became acquainted with frost bite, frozen eyelashes and all sorts of other classic Canadiana childhood moments.  25 years later, we haven’t lost our love of this magical season.  

And 25 years later, I still hold to the philosophy that if you are going to live in a country where winter runs from October to May (we had snow in September this year) – well, you might as well learn to love it, right?

I bring to you a list of really fun things to do as a family in winter.

First, go on a Christmas decoration hunt!  Print off this PDF I made for you and have the kids cross off each item when they see it!  We grab hot chocolates (and peppermint mochas for the parents of course) and it’s a fun evening! 

Pick up some toboggans and google toboggan hills in your area.  In Calgary check out the brilliant toboggan ‘bowl’ in Mapleridge, just off Acadia Drive.  In Canmore, the toboggan hill at the Canmore Nordic Centre.  

Watch the Grinch (Jim Carrey version) and have popcorn doused in butter. Or, grab a bag of that DELICIOUS Boom-Chicka-Pop peppermint popcorn.  Don’t forget to put mint lindtor chocolates in the freezer.  A christmas classic! 

Play Christmas light bingo.  Grab a happy meal, and drive around locating different christmas lights and decorations.  

Try making Maple Taffy in the snow.

Build a Gingerbread House

Make Christmas ornaments with supplies from the loonie store – pipe cleaner christmas ornaments with beads strung on them, popsicle stick snowflakes with jewels stuck on, there are so many options!

Bake some cupcakes or cookies, have the kids decorate them and take them to an elderly neighbour. 

In Calgary, go skating on Bowness Lagoon (North), Olympic Oval (Central) or Spruce Meadows (South) – feeling ambitous?  Skate on Grotto pond just before Canmore. 

Make a bird feeder with a pinecone, honey and wild bird seeds.  Even better, in Calgary go to Fish Creek and find the chickadees.  Curious, friendly and very happy to flitter onto your arm. 

Print off 12 days of kindness cards and divvy among the family.  Each day, a family member does something kind, writes it on the back of their card, and puts it into a kindness jar.  It is a lovely ritual to read all of them out. 

 Make hot mulled wine, and go out for a winter walk with it in your coffee mug (not for the kids lol)

Have a winter time charcuterie picnic.  Ice wine, cheese, bread, crackers, meats and some nice dried fruits.  Don’t forget the blanket and snow pants 🙂

Fill squirt bottles with food colouring, and set up snow in a container for the kids to colour.  They can also ‘colour’ their snowmen. 

Make Poppycock and then try not to eat it all. 

Visit Santa at the shopping centre.  In Calgary, you can decorate a gingerbread cookie and watch a disney movie as well!

Write letters to Santa, go on a forest walk and hang them in the tree.  Replace them with Candy Canes so that the kids find them on the return walk.

Make Pinecone christmas ornaments with glitter glue and sequins, tie with a twine and hang in the tree. 

Go outside with a black cloth and look at snowflakes up close.

Sleep under the christmas tree!

Have a family photo shoot – in the winter!

Make an extravagant breakfast.  Waffles, pancakes, fruit – or perhaps german style with fresh bread, meats and cheeses. 

Take ALL of the pillows off the couches and make the best.pillow.fort.ever.  

Get walnuts and a nut cracker (for the older kids) and consume half your body weight in nuts by the end of the night. 

Make a frame out of twigs in the snow and make a scene using twigs, berries, pine cones, leaves, etc. 

Attend an event where carols are sung.  

Make smores on a fire pit or in your own living room.  Another option:  Roast Chestnuts.

Go to the library and pick up winter and christmas books. 

Mix up and sprinkle “Reindeer dust” on the snow on Christmas eve.

Dance to christmas songs

Watch Home Alone, of course!

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Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Happiness, Kids Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Hiking Heart Creek Trail with Toddlers – Toddler-Friendly Hikes in Calgary and Canmore.

Heart Creek Trail with 2 toddlers and a baby 🙂 

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Today my husband and I rolled out of the house with our two toddlers (4 and 3) and baby (1) to finally go do Heart Creek Trail.  We haven’t done any hikes yet this summer, but we’ve heard about this trail on lots of family outdoors groups.

We find that with hiking, we HAVE to commit, get up and go.  It really takes commitment – no changing minds.  It honestly takes a bit of dedication, because so many things can happen in the 2 hours between the kids up at 6:30 and getting rolling at 8:30. Meltdowns, complications, distractions or just the weakening of our own willpower to get in the car and drive for an hour and a half! 🙂

One thing that I am constantly fighting in order to get to the mountains, is the urge to leave the house in a somewhat not-disastrous-state. It’s quite a state after morning wild animal feedings 🙂

I work so hard not to feel it but my house IS messier than the average house and I full disclosure, I am still working to shake off  shame about it (which is hard to do when you do get judged and it reactivates your shame.) I constantly feel the need to clean it before we go.  Which is silly, because even if I do clean it, my ‘clean’ is still messy to other people, so what’s the point? lol.

I had been succumbing to the urge to clean earlier in the summer and finding that I was using my best energy and best time of day to clean and “organize” – basically, more often than not, it would wind up resulting in us not getting out!  So stupid when it’s not even a value of mine, I’m just doing it because of long-held shame and fear of judgement.

So, for the second half of summer, I’m pretty much leaving the house a disaster, saying fuck that and going to the mountains!  This is a belief that is no longer serving me.

We try to get everyone up, snacks packed, everyone changed, stuff thrown in a bag and coffees ready for us. Almost always, somewhere along the line we usually forget a coat, or a pair of extra pants, or someone’s water bottle, but if it means getting up and out, we can roll with that 🙂

Now, with out out of the way, onto the fun part – Heart Creek Trail, it is toddler approved (4,3,1)

Heart Creek is ideal for age 3+

Under 3’s will get tuckered so have a mode of carrying if they do!

I am pretty adventurous with my BoB Stroller and Double Chariot Stroller, however, I’ll say that Heart Creek is *not* doable with a stroller.

However, there are lots of natural features to keep the toddlers going!  You start off with a very slight toddler-friendly ascent up a hill (top left photo), over rooty, rocky trail for about 10 minutes before the trail opens to a nice meadow and view of Heart Mountain.  From there on in, you follow the creek, where there are fun bridges criss-crossing the creek, a toddler-friendly crossing where they step over slabs of rock, and trail mostly consisting of loose and compacted river rocks and pebbles.

Despite the bear in area signs, it was a busy trail on a Sunday in July, but not overly busy.

We turned around at the climbing area (75% of the way) as our parent spidey senses were tingling and we sensed the kids were getting tired. It wound up being a good judgment call.  Always turn around before meltdowns, and leave something more to look forward to the next time.  That’s kind of our approach to hiking now.

I think in our earlier parent days we were adamant about completing the whole hike or trail and we’d always wind up carrying someone back to the car or dealing with meltdowns.

We’ve learned to let that mindset go and simply go for the experiences on the trail, rather than where the trail leads to, or the “accomplishment” inherent in a hike.  It takes a bit of work to pull back and turn around before you are ready to, but it makes for a better experience for everyone!

 


Tips to keep your toddlers going on a hike:


-Snacks


-Point out cool features (lots of mushrooms on your right, on the first part of the hike – keep your eye out for the cute pink ones!)


-Don’t see at it as getting to a destination – look at it as a chance to explore and play in different features along the trail. We loved the little creek crossings on the rocks as well as the bridges.

-Make nature bracelets so they can pick things along the way! Still have to write a post about this, but essentially, make a bracelet out of duct tape, with the sticky side up.  As your kids hike, they can add little things to their bracelets like leaves, moss, twigs and the occasional wildflower. 

-Scale it.  Remember they are little people in little bodies.  We really had to work on getting out of our “goal of completing a hike because we drove an hour there” mindset and focus on the experiences along the way on the trail.  Ironically, this is a really nice analogy for life. 🙂

If you enjoy reading about trails on blogs, here are some blogs about Heart Creek Trail written by other wonderful bloggers!  These are always what inspire me to get out there!

Other blogs on Heart Creek Trail & Area

I love the Hiking with Barry blog, he’s a lovely guy and sold me my XC skis last year! Here’s his blog on Heart Creek Trail 

Tanya scrambled up Heart Mountain (sans kids you can make it a great scramble / summit hike!)

Here’s the standard All Trails Heart Creek Trail Map

With or without kids, if you complete Heart Creek and still want more, why not do Bow Valley Nuclear Bunker after lunch and explore the man made cave inside?  (take a flashlight, it’s pretty cool and starts from the same area as Heart Creek!)