Outdoor Holiday Fun from the McFadden Playbook

Have you noticed that holidays bring out the energy in children? Those cute little faces on the front of our Christmas cards feel the change of pace that the Christmas season brings. Sometimes it’s not a very pleasant result. Long car rides to visit relatives, no school, excess sugary treats and lots of time in indoors make children restless. Outside time for kids can help alleviate some of the holiday season’s stresses. Also, adding some fun outdoor activities to your Christmas routine can even help adults. Are you out of ideas? Let this mom of five help you out. I’ll share some of the outdoor fun from our playbook. I’m optimistic that some of these ideas will help spur some helpful solutions for your own family. Taking a break in Mother Nature might just be the cure for what’s ailing your kiddos.

Our family celebrates Christmas in cold snowy northern Minnesota and every year the holiday break results in cooped up energetic kids. Our Christmas celebrations would never be complete without Grandma Deb baking a spread of cookies that attracts the grandkids like magnets. All that sugar and gluten does something to children. They morph into challenging little beings fairly quickly. Couple that with it being down right cold outside. Sometimes below zero temperatures chase the kids indoors for long days and there’s too much lounging around. The later part of December here in the great Northwoods can be a bleak couple of weeks with very short days and very little sunlight. All of this adds up and it often leaves moms with nerves frayed and relationships with your kids tense at best.

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Did I mention that Grandma Deb also bakes a delicious ham dinner with all the fixings? Once our bellies are full of all this good food and adults have lounged around it’s time for a little winter fun. Take a peek at how we balance out our holidays.

First, be creative and look around online for activities in your local area. Many businesses specialize in holiday winter fun such as sleigh rides and in our case we’ve done dog sledding. Set a budget and take advantage of local opportunities. Watch social media for chances to take part in free or low cost activities. A couple winter’s ago we were able to spend a few hours taking dog sled rides on Minnesota’s Lake Winnibigoshish. All of us had a blast and I remember how all the energy expended in this adventure helped the kids sleep so well.

Next, find family and friends who love outdoor toys. Snowmobiles, dirt bikes and 4 wheelers can make great memories. Our family has an inventory of old used snowmobiles and the kids have a blast riding and the bigger kids driving them. The more the merrier for activities like these. We love to share our love of snowmobiling with all our extended family. Offer to pay for a tank of gas and team of with others for fun active evening.

Photo By: Jennifer McFadden Taken @ the McFadden Family Farm in Deer River, MM – Gabe is bundled up and ready for his snowmobile ride.

You may be thinking this is great but we live in a warmer climate. We have no snow so snowmobiling and dog sled rides aren’t options for us. Let me tell you this. We also have warm seasons in Minnesota. Holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day all are big days that families gather together in our state for BBQ and fun. One of our favorite activities is bike riding. Rent a bicycle if needed and start looking for local trails. Trails even exist in metro areas and they are so enjoyable.

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Fishing is another great sport to participate in with friends and family regardless of your climate.

Photo By: Jennifer McFadden Taken @ the McFadden Family Farm in Deer River, MM – Sam Jr. is ready to take his bike for a spin.

If you live in Texas or Florida you obviously can’t ice fish but you can find local lakes. Folks in coastal regions can even venture into salt water fishing. In our case the McFadden family loves to fish and we have some uncles that love to take their nephews along. Often our extended family takes some vacation days from work over Christmas and New Year’s which leaves time for on ice fishing adventures. Angling with a fishing rod and also spear fishing are frequent Minnesota Christmastime sports.


Photo By: Jennifer McFadden Taken @ the McFadden Family Farm in Deer River, MM – Uncle Adam took Sam Jr. out for some angling through the ice on a local lake.

Finally, one thing that is unique to our family is we own a seasonal business that sells door wreaths. Our November and December are extremely busy and a bit chaotic. We often have found ourselves putting up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and leaving it up well into the New Year. We’ve learned to roll with this over the years. Another great activity to help children get some energy out is letting them help decorate for Christmas. Have the kids help set up the nativity set. There’s no rule that this can’t be done over Christmas break. Our youngest boys love to help Grandma Deb bake those delicious sugar cookies, our daughter has helped wrapping presents and our two oldest boys help hang the wreath outdoors. Being our holiday small business has to do with handcrafting fresh balsam and pine Christmas wreaths our sons have caught the passion to make them. Let me share the one our son, Sam Jr., made for us in December 2019.

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Photo By: Jennifer McFadden Taken @ Jens’ Wreaths in Deer River, MM – Our oldest son, Sam Jr., came up with this new door wreath design.

This peek into our family’s playbook for fun active activities is just a starting point. Be creative and enjoy those weeks off around Christmas with your kids. Each day is a gift and our kids are growing quickly. If you don’t make the time purposefully today to do some outdoor activities you never will. Turn the cell phone off parents, put down the remote, stretch those aching joints and get outside with the kids this Christmas season.
Jen McFadden and her husband, Sam, are small business owners in rural Minnesota and are blessed with 5 children. Both are lifelong Minnesotans and have a passion for both hard work and outdoor fun. Their seasonal business, Jen’s Wreaths, manufactures fresh balsam fir Christmas wreaths and decorations. They ship wreaths from coast to coast seasonally during November and December each year. You can purchase door wreaths at their website www.jenswreaths.com.