- My family moved from Los Angeles to a remote island in Alaska. The change has been positive for us.
- In winter, the sun goes down at 14. It does not deter us from having fun.
- Having the right clothes and an open mind gets us through the cold winter days.
There were other people standing on the frozen lake, and a few were even skating. But when my 8-year-old asked if she could step on the snow-covered ice herself, I bent down. “Please,” she begged. “I want to be careful.” I nodded and we went out on the firm ice together, at the same spot where she had paddled a raft around with a group of giggling friends last summer.
We got back to shore after a few minutes, my daughter laughing and elated. The sun was getting ready to fall behind the mountains. The time was 14.00
For those of us who live in places with far more night than day, winter can feel long and dark. These beach summer days are like a distant memory. So what do we do do all winter? That answer depends on the weather, but it is guaranteed to be fun all year round. My family and I moved from Los Angeles to a remote island in Alaska. We demanded a closer connection to nature and less of the chaos that the big cities offer.
The key is to stay busy no matter the weather
When there is snow on the ground, we sled down the unploughed streets of our neighborhood. We build epic snow forts – which have no roof for easy access and extra security against collapse. We pull every riding toy we can find out into the snow and see which of them moves best through the powder.
We are going to the beach. There we can explore frozen whirlpools, build bonfires and eat biscuits and cheese. The key to these activities is the right equipment for cold weather, a cache of favorite snacks and a reliable boot dryer at home.
On ugly days – when the rain falls on top of the snow and the streets are ice sheets – I reserve the right to stay inside.
We bake, cycle through our collection of board games and let the kids ride on balance bikes and scooters around the living room. We chop vegetables and make a big pot of soup. They play vet clinic, tie stuffed animals and write prescriptions.
We pull out a large stack of library books and read to a theme: picture book biographies, animal babies, vacations around the world. We listen to an audiobook while the kids focus on an activity, such as drawing or playing with Matchbox cars. When they need to get busy again, it’s back to the bikes and scooters.
I can not be valuable to small people knocking into walls or hitting each other with their vehicles. The long winter means that there will be some days where their only exercise takes place between four walls.
Open toys are the key to imaginative play
Both of my children have winter birthdays, and I have noticed that new toys, especially those that are open and stimulate the imagination, keep them occupied for long stretches.
We can not get new toys every day, but rotating them in and out means they have time to forget something and get excited when they see it again. So I have a trash can with toys ready to be hired when the kids are sane.
Sometimes I have to be more of a tour guide in the winter: “And if you look to the left, you see a toy kitchen. Maybe someone wants to make a plastic pancake for me?” But other times, they decide on new interests that they want to pursue, all on their own.
This may mean that we have a lot to show for the spring. To learn some chords on eg the guitar or make a collection of small bowls of air-dried clay.
We just have to agree not to let winter defeat us. We should only allow ourselves to step out on frozen lakes. When he left a doctor’s visit not long ago, my son said, “I’m so proud of myself.”
Before I pack the winter jackets off and turn off the radiator, I feel the same way.