It’s January in Alberta, which means peak season for staying indoors watching movies, reading books, and cooking delicious recipes. But getting outside is still important, even in the middle of winter. After all, who doesn’t feel better after some fresh air and sunshine? This roundup of five winter activities for kids will give you some inspiration to get your family outside!
“My kids LOVE playing in the snow but when we add color to all that beautiful white ice outside it really adds a creative element to their sensory play! This post will take you step by step on how to easily make your own kid’s snow painting art recipe!”
Kirsten Clark is a college instructor and academic strategist, a writer, a reader, a runner, a podcast junkie, and, most importantly, a mom. Kirsten lives in Beaverlodge with her husband and son, a curious and energetic toddler, who keeps his parents on their toes! Connect with her on Instagram @kirstenlanae and at thefaucet.net, where she blogs every Monday, no matter what.
Do you feel like it’s the same old thing every year? Quickly after the beauty of fall fades, the next season creeps in. A season that makes even some of the world’s most resilient animals say… yeah, no, gonna sleep through this one.
I’m talking about winter.
Winter makes us feel the need to bury ourselves under every blanket in the house, turn on the fireplace, and debate whether letting our kids watch TV for the next 5 months straight is reasonable. Anyone with me? I haven’t always been the biggest fan of winter and my fiance is even less impressed with this particular season.
Unfortunately (but also, fortunately), our 5-year-old child tends to set the stage for our daily activities, so… OUTSIDE WE GO! He has truly helped warm my relationship with winter. Greatly. I’ve come to actually love it! So I’m going to spend the next little while trying to convince you, while winter isn’t the easiest season to tolerate, it can be one of the most fun! Believe me?
First, let’s quickly touch on safety. Safety in the outdoors is always important, but I would say it’s the most critical in the winter with all the ice, snow, and darkness (I know… I’m selling it. Please keep reading!). I’ll keep it short. I strongly suggest you check the forecast and overpack with many layers and backups if you’re heading out. If your kiddo is typically unimpressed with the cold weather, bringing hand and foot warmers can help keep them toasty and you happy!
This past weekend we decided to take advantage of the sunshine – it’s few and far between lately! My daughter has become interested in taking photos – especially of flowers – and we had never been to the St. Albert Botanic Garden so that’s where we went!
1. It’s FREE
You park in the lot and it’s right there. There is a gift shop you can peruse if you like but entrance is free.
2. It’s bigger than you expect!
I hadn’t looked up anything more than where it was so when we got there, the entrance gardens were already impressive. But then we kept walking. It’s LONG. There is an entrance park, an East park, a West park and more additional gardens. We stopped along the way so much to take photos we spent almost 2 hrs there.
There are a few quintessential “Alberta” songs, but I have to say that “The Last Saskatchewan Pirates” by Captain Tractor just isn’t a good Albertan song, it’s a great song and was a staple in University pubs when I was in school not that long ago (ok fine, it was 20 years ago). For those not familiar with the legendary song here’s the video in all it’s 1990’s CANCON glory.
Now, imagine the excitement of singing this song while floating down the actual North Saskatchewan River pretending you’re a Prairie Pirate “…stealing wheat and barley and all the other grains.”
All set on the canoe for a 2 hour journey up the river
Here some North Saskatchewan River facts
The North Saskatchewan River is 1,287 kilometres long.
It starts at the Saskatchewan Glacier at the Columbia Icefield and goes through Banff National Park, up through Abraham Lake (via a short visit with the David Thomson Highway) up past Rocky Mountain House, then onto Edmonton, Smoky Lake, and then off to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border where it finds itself visiting North Battleford, Saskatoon and Prince Albert finishing its journey in Lake Winnipeg . (Source)
It’s the home to 12 types of fish including another 90’s and another North Saskatchewan reference, the Northern Pike
If you like bridges, canoeing on the North Saskatchewan in the Edmonton River Valley means you’ll see lots of bridges.
There are a LOT of misconceptions about the North Saskatchewan, including that the river is dirty, doesn’t have any fish and is completely unusable, but when we were meandering down the river we found this to be completely untrue. We didn’t take a water sample and test it in our private lab, but Epcor has some fun facts about the quality of the water here.
Much of the water was so clear you could see the bottom of the river which was a complete surprise to me because I believed that the water was dirty and muddy. I’ve lived in Edmonton for 10 years, I’ve never been near the North Saskatchewan River except for this summer in Rocky Mountain House, because I believed it to be dirty and not safe for humans. The whole time I was on the river I kept thinking, why hadn’t I done this before! It was so relaxing and this whole time I’ve had the great big river that’s easy to access quite literally right there on my doorstep to enjoy.
Views of the “End Of The World” in Edmonton
One of the many red chairs dotted on the river banks for fishing or gold panning.
We did see a lot of people fishing on the shores of the North Saskatchewan as well as gold panners. That’s right, people still pan for gold and they’re right there on the shores of our river. In fact there were many red chairs on the banks of the river, not sure why they all seemed to be red…maybe just a coincidence.
Views of the new bridge and the Waterdale bridge in the background.
If you’ve been living in Alberta and haven’t been on the river you NEED to do this. Whether it’s jumping on the river in Rocky Mountain House (hop on at Nordeg) or in Devon (Haskin canoe does a trip from Devon) or even in Edmonton. It’s definitely one of my “to-do’s” for summer 2018 to make sure I’m taking advantage to make sure my kids know the incredible natural resources in our own backyard.
For a map of how to access the North Saskatchewan around Edmonton, the River City Alliance has made some handy maps which can be accessed here.
Albertans are celebrating the end of a long winter’s nap and relishing this much deserved warm weather. The chirping birds and sprouting buds may be enough for parents to get outside and into nature but the same can’t always be said for our kids. Prying their hands from their beloved devices to enjoy a walk in the river valley or help plant the garden can be like taking away a Mom’s first cup of coffee in the morning. Not likely going to happen.
It is well documented that nature reduces levels of stress and anxiety and improves mood and creativity. One study linked spending time in a forest setting to an increased expression of anti-cancer proteins which lasted 7 days post forest walk. Fortunately, technology can assist us once again in providing our kids their daily dose of sunshine. Utilizing an app or becoming creative with what motivates your child can get them out counting lady bugs or ripping up the trails.
Here are some tech-inspired ideas to reinvigorate your child’s love for the great outdoors:
Geocaching – there is no shortage of geocaches hidden all over our province ranging from easy, kid-friendly caches to challenging, complex, where-am-I-going caches. The excitement in the search and finding the treasure is sure to draw out the most reluctant You Tuber.
Photography – the number of picture enhancing apps and fun photo filters available can inspire the youngest of photographers. Encourage your child to appreciate and capture on screen the smallest creatures in nature or notice the beauty in a single water droplet left hanging on a leaf.
Scavenger Hunts – suitable for older kids who can be on their own, parents can set up a scavenger hunt around the neighbourhood or on the trails. Perhaps the last clue will lead to the home wi-fi or iTunes password that was just changed.
Go-Pro – creating content via video and sharing that content is immensely popular with kids. Attaching a go-pro or similar device to their bike helmet or scooter can bring out their adventurous and creative sides. Plus, the excitement in watching and editing their self-made videos may spark further outdoor creativity.
Bird watching – the river valley is a haven for our feathered friends. Did you know the great horned owl is Alberta’s provincial bird and they are right here in our YEG river valley? Download a bird watching app like Peterson Bird Identifier & Field Guide and see how many chirpers your kids can identify.
“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength” – Maria Montessori
Alisa is a former Criminal Intelligence Analyst and has worked in law enforcement for the last 15 years. She is passionate about keeping kids safe and kind online and ensuring they thrive in our digital world. When Alisa isn’t online, you might spot her in the YEG river valley with her dogs, husband, and daughter or escaping the city for a weekend of camping. You can follow Alisa on her blog The Lotus Page as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.