Winter is around the corner and rather than hide inside for the next three months, take time to plan for outdoor family fun! The change in seasons provides unique opportunities to get out and see features of the natural landscape that are hidden during warmer months.

One of our favorite winter hiking spots is Mounds State Park. This local treasure offers a variety of options for outdoor fun. We appreciate the ability to choose how intense we want our hikes to be, from the easy, almost flat path from the nature center out to the Great Mound, to the more involved climbing required to take trail five down by the river during the winter mud and snow season.

Another great reason to visit Mounds State Park is the variety of planned programming led by the park naturalists. There are both indoor and outdoor activities planned for the rest of December: pioneer holiday celebrations, a sunrise hike, a sunset hike, coloring in the bird room, a nature movie and more! You can view the complete list by visiting www.in.gov/dnr and then typing Mounds in the search bar.

To get your family outside in your own neighborhood, plan a winter scavenger hunt with friends. Older kids can use the scavenger hunt list and take pictures, while younger kids can walk with mom or dad and check off the items they see. Make a list with both easy to find and more difficult items, and vary it depending on the weather: cardinal, acorn, icicle, pine tree, animal tracks, nest, etc.

When you are ready for a little peace and quiet, go out into the woods and take a sensory hike. What can you see that is not visible in the summer? What sounds do you hear? What textures do you feel? What do you smell? These sensory hikes can be a good time for short legs to get some much-needed exercise, or you might need to take one yourself to destress from the holiday rush. Either way, they are good for you — body and soul.

On your front porch, or in your backyard, winter weather offers time for unique and fun science experiments. Have you ever watched a bubble freeze or made an ice volcano? Search online for “winter science experiments for kids” for ideas. Even more important than what your kids will learn is that they get outdoors every day and have fun!

If you are looking for holiday gift ideas, choose experiences and equipment over things that will sit on a shelf after a few weeks. When our kids get toys or equipment that encourages them to get outdoors, they have not only a greater appreciation for nature, but it builds a better sense of community with the natural world, because they are out in it! A state park pass, handheld GPS for geocaching, hiking boots or binoculars, the possibilities are endless — and fun!

Welcome winter by greeting it outdoors!

Carol Emmert lives in Anderson. She is a founding director of Heart of the River Coalition.