by Ty Fischer, Riparian Habitat Restoration Intern
It is no secret that winters can be harsh here in Canada. Between the cold weather and the lack of sunlight, this is the time of year that many choose to stay inside and cozy up to the fire with a hot beverage and a good book. Next time you make a pot of hot chocolate, however, consider reaching for the travel mug instead! The winter season can provide you with incredible and magical opportunities to get out and connect with nature. There are lots of ways you can get outside and have fun, learn something new, and appreciate the intricacies of the natural world in a whole new way. Here are 10 ways to have fun this winter:
1. Go Stargazing
The winter months can provide some of the best stargazing opportunities of the whole year! This is due to a few key reasons. Firstly, winter is when the most iconic constellations are high in the sky and bright enough for astronomers of any skill level to pick out. Second, in most places during these months, you’re provided a few extra hours of darkness which means there is ample time for the whole family to enjoy this activity before bedtime. Finally, cold air holds less moisture than warm air, which contributes to very clear, haze-free nights. Bundle up and enjoy these starry skies!
2. Make Icy Sun Catchers
Looking for a unique way to decorate your garden, trees, your mailbox, or anything else outside? Why not make frozen sun catchers! You can freeze your favourite trinkets from nature in icy scenes and place them anywhere outside, bringing an air of festivity and joy to your property. It is easy to do and does not require any special materials to make.
3. Identify Your Local Evergreen Trees
Most coniferous trees, like pines, spruces, firs, and cedars, retain their foliage year-round. As a result, they are often the only trees in Canada with greenery throughout the winter months. This makes it the perfect time to go out and practice identifying evergreen trees! Head out on a nature walk and use our evergreen tree resource to help identify some conifers. You can use a species identification tool like Seek by iNaturalist or join a local field naturalist online group to confirm the tree species after you have had a go at identifying it.
4. Explore Frozen Waterfalls
Everyone appreciates the majesty of a waterfall, and fortunately in Canada, we have plenty of them. Waterfalls can be even more breathtaking during the winter when they look as though their flow is frozen in time. This winter, consider going on a hike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe to a waterfall near you so you can appreciate their magnificence in person. As always, be sure to prepare for your visit to the waterfall adequately. Check the weather forecast, dress warmly and bring extra layers, let someone know where you are going and when you should be back, and of course, stay a safe distance away from the waterfall when you arrive.
5. Watch a Sunset
Sunsets are beautiful during the winter! They can be much more vivid than the other months due to the low air humidity and lower particulate concentrations, and often last longer since the earth is spinning closer to the sun. This is not to mention the incredible sight of sunset colours reflecting off of white, snowy surfaces! That is why, this winter, consider spending an evening with friends or family at a good vantage point to see everything that winter sunsets have to offer. You can also take a picture of it and try to colour-match it with our colouring sheet!
6. Make a Simmer Pot
Looking for a way to fill your home with the smell of the holidays? Make a simmer pot! Simmer pots are when you boil spices and herbs to release their aromas in the steam. A necessary ingredient for holiday simmer pots is the foliage of evergreen trees that you can forage responsibly around your property.
7. Become a Snow Flea Sleuth
Snow fleas are certainly one of Canada’s most inconspicuous and fascinating creatures. These microscopic beings can be found hopping around on the surface of the snow throughout the winter, but it will take a sharp pair of eyes to see them! See if you can spot some snow fleas on your next winter outing.
8. Watch a Pinecone Change
Did you know that pinecones change based on outside temperature? You can watch this process happen before your very eyes by trying out a fun experiment at home using pinecones that you responsibly collect from your yard.
9. Befriend a Sapling
Young trees can be weighed down by heavy snowfalls, which can break their fragile branches. This winter, consider adopting a young tree that you’ll care for over the winter. Ideally, this will be a coniferous tree – a fir, spruce, pine, or cedar – because they will still have foliage and will be weighed down a little extra by heavy snowfalls as a result. After the big dumps of snow this winter, head out to meet up with your new tree friend and brush off the snow from its branches. Record all the care you provide for your adopted tree on this handy tree adoption information sheet!
10. Make Frozen Bubbles
Making frozen bubbles is a fascinating winter activity that showcases the beauty of ice crystal formation. The best part is that you can make them using things you probably already have around the house! Use 2.5 tbsp of dish soap to make this wintery fun possible.
For more than 20 years, Watersheds Canada has been working with landowners, communities, a vast network of lake and river associations, municipalities, schools, and organizations to keep Canada’s freshwater healthy, beautiful, and available – today and for generations to come. Through shoreland plantings, fish habitat restorations, municipal policy work, student education programs, and more, Watersheds Canada is equipping communities to protect their lakes, rivers, and shorelands. You can support this critical work by making a tax-receiptable donation today: watersheds.ca/donate