Credit: Christopher Baker

With its short, cold days, winter seems like a season best spent indoors. But there's no need to stay cooped up when there's an outdoor fantasyland ready to be explored. Bundle up the whole family, and head for the nearest forest or city park for a snowy treasure hunt. The bounty? Animal tracks, birds, plants, and so much more.

Although some birds and animals leave for warmer climates and many plants struggle or go dormant in the cold, there is still plenty to see. Follow a set of paw prints and see where they lead; snow provides a perfect canvas for the tracks of animals. Be sure to look for birds -- certain species, such as cardinals, stick around through the coldest months. Or study a tree's bare branches for clues about how it manages to survive the harsh season.

To get the most out of the day, it's necessary for both parents and kids to prepare properly for the cold. Everyone should dress warmly but comfortably; clothing that makes it difficult to move can turn a joyous journey into a chore that's no fun for anyone. And that's what this is all about -- having fun without the hot sun. After all, it's lovely out there. Looking over a pristine stretch of freshly fallen snow, you can easily imagine an uncharted world -- one that's just waiting for you to make tracks of your own.


What to Wear

Head and Face

A hat lined with fleece will combat the chill without the itch. Sunblock is also important (an SPF of 30 is best) -- even on freezing days, the sun's rays are still strong.


Dressing in layers lets you adjust easily as your body gets warm or cold. Add a sweater or turtleneck over long underwear. To stay dry, wear an insulated jacket that's water-resistant.


Blood flows away from your hands and into the body's core when you start to get cold. To make sure fingers don't lose all their heat, wear well-insulated gloves or mittens.


Gone are the days of bulky snow pants; now they're made with lightweight materials. And paired with long johns, they'll easily keep a child warm while allowing for mobility.


You won't get very far if your feet are too cold. To keep toes toasty, choose comfortable, waterproof, insulated boots and thick socks that fit snugly.


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