I’m not sure whether or not this has been explicitly mentioned on this blog, but at some point over the last few years, my wife and I got extremely loaded one night and decided that it would be a good idea to relocate to North Bay, Ontario.
All joking aside, though, we moved to North Bay in order to be in closer proximity to family, to avoid the increasing costs of living in Toronto, and to pursue a new career opportunity that was presented to me. It has been great in many ways and not so great in other ways, but I’m not going to dive too deeply into the subject here. Perhaps in a future non-dad-related post, I will break down what it is like to move from a big smelly city to a small smelly town. (Spoiler: No matter what you choose to do, you will find a smell to complain about)
One of the benefits and drawbacks of living in North Bay? More snow than I have ever seen in my life. There’s, like, a lot of snow here. If snow were decent Japanese restaurants, we would be all set.
Snow is not a decent Japanese restaurant, though. It is a bunch of cold puffy water. Which sucks for getting around and leads to a lot of shoveling and shivering. But also kids love the stuff and it is apparently very good for children to go run around outside and fill the world with their laughter and all of that stuff.
So, when it is not -30C (which is not a typo, but a real thing that happens here), we have enjoyed taking my daughter outdoors and exposing her to some of winter’s great bounty of fun activities. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.
Building a Snowperson
This is the act of creating a snow being in three segmented parts like some kind of big freaky white ant with facial features that approximate those of a human. It is a classic winter activity that holds up pretty well. You have to have the right kind of snow to make this work, but when it works, it can keep everybody busy for like a half hour.
For the kids, there’s the chance to get a little artistic and a chance to dictate just what kind of a person the snowperson gets to be. It gives them the chance to play God, which I’m sure has some kind of a developmental benefit. I don’t know. This isn’t a psychology blog. This isn’t really even a parenting blog, what do you want from me?
For the adults, there’s the chance to get a little artistic, as you will have to interpret your child’s wishes and translate them into something that makes a single lick of sense. There’s also the chance to push something around until it gets heavy and your back hurts.
- Fun lawn ornaments!
- You can make a bunch of them and create little stories for yourself about what those people are doing in your yard.
- You can make a sad one and look at them whenever life gets you down in a “Hey, at least I’m not that guy” way.
- If you build them just right and the weather cooperates, you’ll get to watch them slowly and painfully melt away like that guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- Sore arms and back if you’re building a whole family of them.
- Getting asked to make one when the snow is powdery is like getting asked to eat soup out of a spaghetti strainer.
- Finding sticks that make good arms: Surprisingly difficult.
- You won’t be able to use the hat/scarf/gloves that the snowperson is wearing until it naturally falls to the ground at the weather’s behest.
- There is a chance that your child will temporarily consider the snowpeople to be their actual parents. (This could also be a pro, maybe)
Verdict: In my opinion, building snowpeople is a pretty good idea. It gets everybody doing something and you’re left with a reminder in your yard that you went outside at some point, which gives you an excuse to try to get out of going outside again later. 7/10 Flake Points
Creating a Snow-Based Play Structure
This one requires some work off the top, there’s no two ways about it. If you do it right and your kid cooperates, though, you’ll soon be laughing all the way to the snowbank. Given that last joke, it is totally cool if you want to navigate away from this blog and never return. I would!
So, you can use an existing snowbank for this or create your own pile/structure out of sticky snow, whatever’s easy and readily available. You’ll want to use this (preferably pretty big) pile of snow to create a slide or a tunnel or a house or a castle or anything that inspires you, I guess. People might want to steer clear of the tunnel idea if they’re going to leave their kids alone to play, as cave-ins are not fun.
We have tended to build slides because they have the most favourable work-to-fun ratio. It doesn’t take very long to build a pretty great slide out of a pile of snow. Kids go bonkers for it. You can just build it and then get them sliding on it, and you don’t have to lift a finger. You can just stand there and watch them slide again and again and then you’re on a one-way trip to that great zone-out state that tired parents can call up whenever they have a free minute.
This can keep a kid busy for a really long time. It rules.
- It seems like most kids don’t really get sick of sliding down a thing. Like, you might have to drag your kid away from it.
- Once the upfront work is done, there’s a little maintenance, but really this activity mostly takes care of itself.
- Fun lessons about gravity?
- If you’re building the pile yourself, this can take a long time to get going.
- Requires the good kind of snow.
- Dragging your kid away from the slide kicking and screaming can be painful and embarrassing.
- You can make the slide big enough to slide on yourself, which you’ll do once and then get snow all up your back and be forced to confront the fact that the joy and whimsy of childhood no longer exists within your desiccated parental husk.
Verdict: This is a really great thing to go for if you’ve got big snowbanks around your place. Kid enjoyment levels can reach extreme heights, and it’s free as hell. You don’t even have to spring for a carrot or anything. Great times! 9/10 Flake Points
Riding in a Little Sled
Although the above sled looks like some kind of space age tongue monster, this activity is a real classic. A bit of a qualifier here, though: I am specifically writing about getting pulled around on a sled, not about sledding or tobogganing down a hill under the influence of gravity. For the purposes of these rankings, those are separate activities.
Pulling a kid around a snowy area by a string attached to some kind of a sled is about as winter wonderland as a winter wonderland gets. It’s a little bit thrilling for kids, and completely exhausting and painful for parents. The kid gets a pretty fun ride. The parent gets to drag dead weight while also trudging through knee-deep snow and throwing their gaze backward every thirty seconds to make sure that the kid hasn’t fallen out again.
The weight distribution is never quite right and you need to pull the thing with the string held really low, or else the whole front of the sled just flies up and dumps the kid off the back of the sled. Speaking of backs, your back is in for a treat if you spend an afternoon pulling a kid around on one of these. Occasionally you might come to a little hill that will give you a break and give the kid a little thrill. It can’t be too steep of a hill, though, because then the kid will just bail and you’ll have to pick them up.
I should mention that I’m writing this from experiences with this activity involving a toddler. If you’re still doing this with an older kid, I don’t even know what to tell you.
- Your child will have the time of their goddamned life.
- Your lifelong dreams of feeling like a pack mule have borne fruit. (note: this may not be a universal pro)
- This one is like getting kicked down a flight of stairs.
- You actually have to own a piece of equipment for this one.
Verdict: Given the level of glee experienced by the child, I must recommend this activity. Every aching chamber of my weary body wishes to warn you against it, but my addled parental brain wants me to tell you that it is very fun and that you will love it. 8/10 Flake Points
Playing out in the snow with your kid hurts like hell, but it gets them active out in the open air, and they go absolutely bonkers for it. There are many more activities that I would love to tell you about, and I’m open for suggestions. Can a 2 1/2 year old skate? I’m terrified to find out!
As much as they all hurt, they’re all way better than my typical winter pass time of digging my car out from under about a foot of snow and then white-knuckle driving to work in terrible conditions. Adult activities are the absolute pits and do not deserve a blog series.
Not even on a blog as terrible as this one.