Photograph courtesy Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin

We had our first “White Christmas” this year. We live in the mountains and there is often snow on the ground in December, but since I can remember we’ve never had it actually snow on Christmas Eve. And this wasn’t just snow. It went from absolute dry ground and sunshine on Christmas Eve—we even went rock climbing that day—to a Winter Wonderland on Christmas Day.

But along with the magic came the dread—not of the snow or the cold, but of the absolute production it takes to get our son outside. First the long underwear (“too hot!”), then the shirt (“I don’t want this shirt! I want the Spiderman t-shirt!”), then the fleece or hoodie (“I can’t zip it up!”), then a puffy jacket (“my friends say my jacket makes me look fat!”), then the mittens (“my thumb won’t go in the thumby hole!”), then the hat (“too itchy!”), and then the boots (“too tight!”). Face it, in weather like this it is so much easier just to snuggle up in front of a fire with a cup of hot cocoa watching Polar Express.

But getting outside this season is almost more important than getting outside in the summer. Between the short days and the holiday gorging, staying active and getting that Vitamin D is critical to staying fit—physically and emotionally—in the winter time.

So here are six things you can do that will make it easier to get outside this winter, especially if you have a little tyke in tow.

Sing
Adding a soundtrack to even the most mundane and tedious task makes it that much more fun. My son Kieran has a cute song that he sings (in between whining) as we layer him up—something about coats and hats and “socks, socks, socks!” You get the picture.

Start Small 
If you’re taking your little person out for the first time, or if you don’t have much time, do something that gets you out in the sun and gets the blood flowing. Build a snowman. Snowshoe around the block. Shovel your walkway with help from the little person.

Go Nordic
And I don’t mean wearing a Viking hat and breastplate. The sport of Nordic skiing—both skate and classic—is growing in popularity because it is so accessible. These days most municipal golf courses in snowy climes are groomed for Nordic skiing. And little ones are much braver on terrain that doesn’t require them to barrel downhill through an obstacle course of other children. And compared to the hundreds of dollars you will spend at a downhill ski resort, Nordic skiing is much kinder to the pocket book (which I assume has already dwindled after your Christmas shopping).

Snowshoe
If sliding along the snow at fast speeds isn’t your thing, get some snowshoes. What was once a hoop of wood with a rawhide mesh that kept you from sinking in snow has evolved into a carbon fiber hoop with spring-loaded suspensions, nylon webbing, and crampons that “maintain flotation” while you traipse in snow. Snowshoes are not as dorky as they used to be, and many athletes now use them to cross-train year-round.

Become a Mule
In his short life our son has seen a steady progression of contraptions that have allowed his parents to stay active while he has been able to lounge in luxury sucking on lollipops and playing with toys on their backs. We started Nordic skiing with him in an Ergo Baby carrier. He graduated to a Deuter backpack before we decided we valued our backs too much and purchased a sled.

Run . . . in the Snow!
Wow, how hard core does that sound? I picture Rocky running in Siberian snowdrifts. But in reality, all you need is some clever layering and a pair of Yaktrax and running in the snow doesn’t feel much different from running on the beach. Just instead of greeting bronzed beauties loping by the water, you’ll greet . . . absolutely nobody because nobody is out there running in the snow. Not sure why not.

Goodness where does the time go? I’m off to rent skis for my son. I’m done being a mule.

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