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Planning an Outdoor Party in Winter

Winter is here – and the current health restrictions can make you feel like hibernating till next spring. But we’re strong, tough Canadians – we don’t let a little cold or snow get in our way of a good time. Whether it’s a birthday or milestone, an outdoor party can be a lot of fun. So, embrace your inner ‘Elsa’, we’re going to guide you on how to throw the best outdoor winter party ever.

Please read and understand the current social distance restrictions in your area as they may not allow for all of these activities.

The Autopilot Option

First, if you 100 per cent do not (or cannot) do anything more than order individual pizzas and cupcakes, then think about exploring a nearby nature centre or conservation area (you can find plenty of options across Canada). Some will even throw the outdoor party for you, complete with nature themes. Another option is renting your local community outdoor skating rink – some even have fire pits on site! Lastly, you could check out a Tube Park for some downhill thrills.

The Hands-on Option

Sure, actually wrangling kids outdoors is more effort than throwing them in an indoor play gym, but it’s totally worth it. Here’s a few tips on how to make our outdoor party simple, fun, and memorable.

1. We like to Move It Move It

Get your guests moving! Have a few games ready, you may need to improvise last minute depending on weather and your guests. If your guests are under the age of five, or if your outdoor area isn’t enclosed, pair younger kids with older kids or adults.

  • Snowball Fight: Pre-make a stash of snowballs and use food colouring and spray bottles to paint snowballs different colours to represent the teams. Take cover and let them go wild!
  • Snow Cake: Who can build the tallest cake? You can use natural decorations like carrots for candles, strings of cranberries, and bird seed for sprinkles. No clean-up required!
  • Ice Bowling:You’ll need to fill water balloons (you can add food colouring) and allow them to freeze. Once frozen, remove the balloon plastic, these are your bowling balls. You can set up water bottles for pins (add glowsticks to the water bottles for glow-bowling after the sun sets).
  • Scavenger Hunt:Check Pinterest for free printable winter scavenger hunts or create your own bingo card and give out bingo dabbers. Think winter things like lichen, acorns, squirrels, bird tracks, and pinecones.
  • Milk Jug Curling: Fill 4 milk jugs with water and red food colouring and 4 milk jugs with blue food colouring (leave room for the water to expand) . Allow the guys to freeze - the jugs slide much better frozen. We used spray paint for the "targets". You can look up the official rules or make up your own ;)

2. Weather or Not

Not a bad idea to plan a back-up date for the party, but most of the time you can work with the weather. Remember, you can always set up a tent or tarp to provide a bit of shelter.  Snow on the ground? Hello, sledding, snow-paint, snowmen, and snowball target practice. No snow? No problem. Try ice-blocking in lieu of sledding, ice bubbles, a winter obstacle course, or stick forts. Rain? Puddle jumping and boat races!

One winter bonus for stargazers is that it gets dark earlier – consider a Night Sky theme for older kids. Think glowsticks, flashlight tag, and stargazing. You can even rent a high-powered telescope or have some good binoculars out.

3. Stay Warm

This is literally the most important part of having fun outdoors - make sure everyone is dressed properly. Make sure to have a packing list of layers on the invitation. Periodically do “Layer Breaks” with the kids to ensure they don’t get too hot and sweaty and end up with wet clothes. Layer breaks are to check in to see what needs adjusting. Get the kids to unzip their coat or remove a hat if they’re too hot and when they get cold again, layer it back on!

4. Serve Simple Snacks

Once you’ve pushed them to the very limits of their winter play, stoke up a fire and bring out some blankets out for a cozy winter hangout. In many municipalities, you can rent a fire pit in a park. Start your fire early, so it’s really going by the time your guests arrive and have hot chocolate and coffee or cider ready. A hot chocolate or S’more buffet can replace a cake. If you can’t do a fire, borrow some patio heaters and hit the backyard.

5. Give out “Goodie Bags” at the beginning

Instead of typical loot bags, think about how to help your guests have a good time outside. Think hand warmers, insulated mugs, neck warmers, or rain ponchos. Stick to the outdoor theme with goodies like a snowball maker, Field Notes journal, trail mix, flashlight, or a little first aid kit.

Embrace The Chaos

The outdoors brings out the wild in wilderness. Expect the unexpected and roll with it – bring extra warm clothes, blankets, and lots of hot chocolate. It’s been said that there is no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothes.

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