Cold temperatures, gray skies and unpredictable weather are hallmarks of winter, and while the instinct is to stay indoors, getting outside can provide a wide range of benefits for youngsters.
“Nature is an incredible environment for learning and self-discovery that has helped me chart a path to success,” said Survivorman Les Stroud of TV, an outdoor expert and the new Scout Leader of Scouts. Canada. “Getting outside and having an adventure helps kids learn valuable skills to meet many of life’s challenges. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
To inspire families to get outside all year round, Scouts Canada and Stroud share four creative activities to embrace winter and learn important skills along the way.
Try a summer sport in the winter. Try turning a summer sport on its head. Volleyball in deep snow, winter football or golf on snow may seem strange, but it will stimulate creativity and problem solving to meet the challenges that come with modifying games.
Build Shelter and STEM skills: STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, and building an emergency shelter is a fun way to learn STEM skills. Follow the Scout method of learning-by-doing and encourage children to find out what works, what doesn’t and find solutions themselves. Offer guidance through questions such as “how can we make it hotter?” and “how can we keep it from falling?”
Young children can try building a tarp shelter using branches, tarp and rope, while older youngsters can use materials found in nature. Nobody plans to get lost, but it happens too often. Knowing how to build a shelter to protect yourself from bad weather can save lives.
Train yourself to lose yourself and find yourself: Embark on a nature walk and let the kids take the lead as you navigate a trail and pave the way back. Whenever they are unsure of the way tell them to hug a tree – this teaches them what to do if they get lost as it is the best way for children who are separated from their group to stay put until someone finds them.
A game of lost and find me takes hide and seek to the next level and puts navigation skills to the test. Obtain (or make) a neighborhood map and divide it into two teams. The hiding team must leave clues to their location that match the map. The second team can then use a map and the clues to look for.
Become an outdoor chef: The ability to build a campfire to cook a simple meal is an important survival skill. Once kids have honed their fire building skills, try creating a fire with just one match. Be sure to follow fire regulations and only start a fire if it is safe to do so.
If you don’t have access to a space to cook safely outside, try a cooking challenge at home. Create a meal without using electricity or select five unusual ingredients that should be used to inspire creativity and problem-solving skills that would come in handy during a power outage or emergency where food is rare.
Research shows that outdoor recreation is a basic need for children that not only supports physical development, but also contributes to positive self-esteem, mental health, and cognitive functioning. Giving children the freedom to explore and discover is an essential part of play that nurtures imagination and creativity and allows safe risk-taking to test abilities, problem-solving and self-regulation skills.
To encourage children and youth to discover their abilities, build resilience and spend more time in nature, Scouts Canada is hosting a four-week outdoor winter skills challenge called Claim the Flame, which was launched on January 31, but there’s still plenty of time to get involved.
Through weekly challenges, youngsters can take part in exciting activities designed to build their skills in four key areas: sports and physical activity, building and creativity, cooking and exploring. Scouts Canada will provide the framework for young people to explore their own ideas through ingenuity, imagination and leadership.
“We know the pandemic has had a big impact on families and Scouts Canada is committed to supporting young Canadians with accessible resources and fun new activity ideas,” said Siobhan Ward, Youth Program Specialist at Scouts Canada. “We designed this challenge to help kids just be kids, providing adventure, socialization and something exciting to look forward to when they need it most.”
Canadian families who are not Scouts can get involved by accessing the weekly challenges at scouts.ca/claimtheflame and downloading the Scout’s Guide, or by watching weekly videos released each Monday, starting January 31. The program is designed to be flexible, allowing young people to participate as part of a Scout group, with their families or individually at home, depending on current pandemic restrictions and individual comfort level.
Remember to prioritize safety on all winter adventures and leave no trace – ensuring that nature remains untouched to protect and preserve it for generations to come.
Source: Scouts Canada
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