Go outside this winter

The Danish term "hygge" (pronounced hoo-guh) has been all the rage over the last couple of years. Hygge is the art of reorganizing your indoor living space to maximize cozy feelings. The word hygge evokes images of warm lighting, hands curled around a hot mug of tea, a heady hardback novel, knitted scarves and blankets or a fire in the fireplace. A hygge lifestyle asks us to slow down and spend our days playing cards and board games, baking cookies or braising stews. All of these are wonderful options for passing the next couple of frigid months indoors with your family and friends, but what about when it all starts to feel a little monotonous, or even stifling? Here I offer you the Norwegian term "friluftsliv" (pronounced free-loofts-liv).

Friluftsliv roughly translates to "open-air-living" and encourages people to take up outdoor activities, even in cold temperatures. Popular examples of winter friluftsliv in practice include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice-fishing, jogging, sledding, hiking, visiting a sauna or simply playing a game outdoors. Some Scandinavian parents even nap their babies outdoors during the winter months, wrapped safely in blankets or tiny sleeping bags. In these countries, the benefits of winter napping for babies and toddlers are said to include a reduced exposure to indoor germs, longer, deeper sleep and an increased appreciation for the outdoors.

Of course, the benefits of being outdoors in the winter are numerous for all of us, not just babies. Any quick internet search will yield the numerous positive side effects of spending time outdoors: Increased vitamin D, boosted immunity and metabolism, improved mood, reduced stress and a positive change in overall perspective, to name a few. And on those short but somehow all-too-long winter days, when the whole family is trapped indoors, taking the time to walk outside alone can be akin to finding a room of one's own, a much-needed breath of fresh air and a break from work, screens, chores and the needs of others.

But heading outdoors needn't always be a solitary mission. Why not bring the entire family outdoors for some friluftsliv? When I was a new mother to my first toddler, a German friend first introduced me to the old adage: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." I took her advice and purchased low-cost mittens, warm socks and tiny stocking caps that would undoubtedly be lost or left at some playground, somewhere. My son and I took to whatever wide-open spaces we could find to simply wander around outdoors. I spent that winter making a lot of pinecone bird feeders and then spent an equal amount of time curled up with my son, watching birds visit from behind our frosted windowpane.

Remembering those days reminds me that the stark beauty of winter can be magical for little ones. If you have small children at home, why not take advantage of wintry gusts to go fly a colorful kite? What about searching for animal tracks in the snow? Or encouraging your children to build cozy "fairy-houses" in the backyard, with whatever materials nature provides? Whatever the activity you choose, you'll be embracing the Nordic spirit of friluftsliv and reaping the benefits of open-air living all season long.

Pinecone bird feeders for winter

Materials needed:
A sturdy pinecone found on a walk in the woods
Nut butter
Birdseed or oatmeal
A long-ish piece of string or twine

Place your pinecone on a washable surface or paper plate, and have your child smear nut butter all over it. I find a popsicle stick and peanut butter work best for this, but use whatever you have on hand.

Ask your child to sprinkle birdseed all over the nut butter so that it sticks. I've also used oatmeal or stale granola for this step.

Tie the twine or string onto the top of the pinecone and hang it from a tree or a hook outdoors.

Make some cocoa and snuggle up to wait for your winter visitors.

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer in Springfield. This winter, you may find her walking in loops around the neighborhood solo, or with two young boys in tow, in search of the perfect pinecone.