Liz SoperWhen you live in Vermont, not going outside during the winter is not an option. From November through April, Vermont can be, at times, snowy, cold and downright miserable. Since I have children (and need to maintain my sanity during these long six months), I find ways to get them outside in the snow and cold–and make it fun at the same time.

During the summer, my kids rarely complain about going outside. But in the winter it’s sometimes harder for them to become motivated. When they were younger they would sled, build snowmen, make snow angels, and observe snowflakes–but as they have gotten older, they prefer to go on winter adventures.

Often this means a hike on their snowshoes–a great way to get your kids outdoors in the winter and give them an opportunity to travel longer distances without falling through the snow–and getting frustrated!

One of our favorite treks is right outside our back door and straight up the hill for a two mile hike to “the rock.” Our best friends come each year to make this trek–and when the kids make it to the top (usually way before the adults), they are excited to have their picture taken and get their reward of hot chocolate and cookies. Having a destination in mind when on snowshoes makes all the difference in the world–and having friends along creates a healthy sense of competition and keeps their minds on sharing the fun along the way.

One of the keys of a successful winter outing is to make sure that your kids are prepared for winter weather. There is nothing that stops winter fun in its tracks and causes more anxiety for parents then not being prepared. I have found that one of the most important keys is to layer your kids with appropriate clothes:

  • Make sure they wear good long underwear that will keep them dry.
  • Layer them with a turtleneck, fleece, snow pants and coat.
  • A good hat, neck warmer and gloves can also make the difference between a happy winter trek and a completely dismal experience.
  • As the kids get hot on the way up, make sure you have a backpack to store their gear–and when you get to your destination, have them put a layer back on to stay warm when they are not moving.
  • Key to success: Get good boots and snowshoes that the kids can get on and off easily. Many snowshoe manufacturers are making kid-friendly gear that stays on during the trek, but is easy for your child to take off when they are finished. Check out

So even though it’s cold and sometimes it takes some effort, take your kids outside during the winter months. There is nothing better than watching my kids fly down the hill on their snowshoes. They are wild, free and moving fast–and as a result, are then tired, quiet and ready to settle down inside when the winter trek is over.

Liz Soper is the education manager for National Wildlife Federation in its Northeast office and a mother of two daughters–now 10 and 14. They live in Stowe, VT and spend over 6 months out of the year finding ways to enjoy the outdoors during the cold winter months.