By Jeanine Silversmith

BunnyI’ve had enough. Between the sinus infections and fevers, the wind and the rain, the frigid temperatures, and the toddler who absolutely refuses to wear mittens yet screams, “Cold! Cold!” while pointing to his chubby, purple hands, I am pretty much done with winter.

For those of you who know me or have read my columns here at Kidoinfo, you might recall that I started RI Families in Nature because I truly believe that everything falls into place if we all just get outside and play a bit every day. So you might say it surprises me a bit to know how many days it is difficult for me to get outside with my kids – especially during the winter.

So when cabin fever really gets the best of me and my two little ones, I reach for the books, surf trusty sites, and find some new motivation. My latest vice: the wintertime wild animal safari. I found this idea along with a host of other gems in Nature Rocks Winter Wonderland Activity Guide.

Step 1: Sneak outside and hide a few of your children’s stuffed animals in your yard. You can also do this in a park; just have your kids hide their eyes while you do it. Place them in trees or shrubs, on top of logs or rocks. If you’re a bit of a neat freak and worried that the animals will get wet or dirty, simply use plastic animals. And if you’re a bit of a science geek like me, you’ll feel compelled to place them in species appropriate spots. Like a stuffed owl would go on a tree branch, whereas a stuffed mountain goat would go on a big rock. What, doesn’t everyone have a stuffed mountain goat?owl

Step 2: Announce to your kids that it’s time to go on a wild animal safari! Grab a pair of binoculars and a camera and you might just be out there longer than you thought you’d be. I first tried this activity on a particularly cold albeit sunny and dry day, so I had pretty low expectations of how long we’d be out there.binoculars Little did I know that my two little ones would decide to take turns hiding the stuffed animals and searching for them. Then, they decided we needed snack out there. And then we had to tell each and every neighbor what we were up to. So we wound up watching the sun set and going in after 75 minutes. At that point, of course, my toddler was shrieking about his mittenless hands. (Hey, I kept putting them on him. And he just kept taking them off.)

Step 3: Feed them a big, healthy dinner, put them to bed early, and revel in the fact that spring is just around the corner. No matter what that groundhog says.

Jeanine is a self-described tree hugging, science and math geek whose love of nature, coupled with her absolute certainty that people, especially children, are happier, healthier, and wiser when they regularly spend time in nature, led her to establish Rhode Island Families in Nature. She loves to run, garden, bake, hike, and go camping, especially when accompanied by her husband, Ian, her four-year-old daughter, Sierra, and her two-year-old son, Devin. They live in Wakefield.