Another winter is upon us, and we’re all excited for a season full of frosty fun in our own Winter Wonderland. Here in York Durham Headwaters, we’ve seen quite a bit of early snowfall this year, which has definitely upped the ante on the eager factor! Mother nature may be winding down after a busy fall season, but that does not mean we have to. In fact, winter is a time where the world comes alive in new and fascinating ways, which makes it the perfect time to pack yourself into some warm mitts, hats and coats, get outdoors into that fresh and fragrant air, and explore the wonders of this magical season!
If you love the outdoors in these frosty months, or if you need a little motivation to get outside and rediscover the wonders of winter, then we have a fun-filled winter scavenger hunt for you. You can do this hunt in your neighbourhood if you don’t want to stray far from home, or you can venture out onto one of our trails or into one of our YDH conservation areas to really get in touch with nature. Whatever you do, we encourage you to review the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines for your chosen location so that you can take the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.
And don’t forget to bundle up! Winter is best enjoyed from beneath the warmth of many good, cozy layers.
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Your scavenger hunt checklist
We’ve got ten fun items that can be spied anywhere in York Durham Headwaters, or anywhere in all of Canada, for that matter. Whether you decide to take a walk around your block, a trip to your local park, or spend the day at your local trail or conservation area, you are sure to find each one of these items. If you have one on hand, bring a magnifying glass to get up-close and personal with your finds.
1. Mittens and hats
Your scavenger hunt starts at home. Dig out your warmest hats and your coziest mittens (waterproof for the kids is a great option). You’re going to want to keep those little ears and fingers tucked warmly away as you venture out into the cold, crisp air.
2. Three different kinds of leaves
Yes, count them: three! They can be on the ground, still on a tree, or attached to someone’s holiday wreath on their front door. But they have to be three different kinds. Thankfully, we’ve got lots of species of trees in our neck of the woods. Oak, maple, pine, spruce, sumac—the choice is yours.
3. A conifer tree and a deciduous tree
Parents, this is a great time to teach your children about the different kinds of trees we have here in North America. Coniferous trees, or evergreens, are those trees that keep their needles through the year like fir, spruce, pine, cedar or juniper. A deciduous tree is more often called a hardwood, and this includes maple, oak, ash, beech and birch. These trees shed their leaves in the fall and are responsible for our beautiful autumn colours. Have your kids find one of each.
4. Animal tracks
The animals may be hibernating, but they’re still out and about every now and then. Can you spot rabbit tracks? Deer? Or maybe even dog or raccoon. Get down to the ground with your magnifying glass and go hunting for some tracks. Bonus points to you if you can determine what animal made them.
5. A bird
Is it in flight? On a tree? Not all birds fly south for the winter, after all. See if you can spot a snowbird (fair warning: the human variety that vacation in Florida every year don’t count, lol).
These beautiful crystalline shards are a hallmark of a YDH winter. Whether you’re in a natural setting or walking around your urban neighbourhood, you are sure to spot one. It could be on the bumper of a car or hanging from a bare tree limb. Find the most beautiful one you can.
7. Something smooth
Get creative and hunt for anything smooth. Really—anything! Is it ice? Is it the hood of a car? Maybe it’s a windowpane. Use your imagination and your scavenger savvy to find the most unique smooth thing you can discover.
8. Tree bark
It might be on the ground or on the tree still. But tree bark is abundant in winter and stands out against the canvas of white snow that paints the world. Touch and feel its rough texture when you do find it—just be sure not to pick it off the trees.
9. A nest
Bee, spider, bird or squirrel. There are all kinds of nests you can find on your scavenger hunt. Do you know the difference? Kudos if you can identify which kind of nest you’ve found.
10. A snowman
This one is a little different. We’re not asking you to find a snowman, we’re asking you to build one! Once you’ve completed your scavenger hunt adventure, end your day outside by building a jolly old bonhomme de neige of your own. Is he traditional, with three round balls stacked on top of one another? Is she a sculpture, perhaps a frosty little elf? Use your imagination. If there is no snow, or not enough to build your snowman, be inventive. What can you find to bring to life your wonderful snow-free snowman? We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Here’s a scavenger hunt checklist you can download and print! Click image below.
Okay, so now that you have your scavenger hunt checklist in hand, get out there and get some photos, fun and exercise. And don’t forget, if you’re participating in our Instagram winter scavenger hunt contest, tell us where you went, too!
Parents: teach your kids about the importance of sustainability
Unless you’ve been avoiding media of all kinds these days (and hey, we don’t blame you if that’s the case), you’re bound to know that the earth and the environment has been front and centre in our collective discourse for many different reasons. If you are giving our YDH Family Winter Scavenger Hunt Adventure a go this season, we suggest that this is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids all about sustainability and why it is important.
Protecting our green spaces to ensure they remain healthy and vibrant for future generations is something that will surely resonate with your children as they’re searching for tree bark, different kinds of leaves and different species of trees. Remind them of how wonderful it is to enjoy these natural places, and ask them if it is important for them to have these beautiful spaces when they’re all grown up. Speak to them about the importance of habitat preservation. The birds they spot and the nests they spy are there because there was a habitat for these creatures to live in, after all. Likewise, the animal tracks they find are proof that the natural ecosystem is providing a home for the creatures of our own backyard. Have a chat with your kids about the water cycle as they search for icicles. Ask them what it means to have clean water—can they tie the water that makes the icicles into a bigger picture of precipitation that includes streams, rivers, lakes and oceans?
Those little minds are eager for this kind of learning, and a scavenger hunt is a wonderful time to engage your kids. This is tactile learning, where they can see, feel and smell the natural world around them—whether it’s on a conservation trail or in a neighbourhood. Your scavenger hunt adventure will be that much more memorable and impactful if it comes with great conversation about taking care of the earth and how your kids can make a difference!
Story by Katherine Ryalen
After a long day outdoors, there’s nothing quite like a warm beverage and some comfort food. Check out some great spots to warm up below!