Book Review: 15 Minutes Outside

Here in the Midwest, we’re headed into hibernation season.  The leaves are on the ground, we wake up to frost, and we’re getting glimpses of the dark and sometimes dreary winter days ahead.  We’ve also had a string of glorious fall days, where the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect.

On those days, as in the sunny days of spring and summer, I find it easy to get myself and the kids outside.  I’m not above pushing kids out the door and insisting they play outside, especially when I know we only have a handful of really gorgeous days left in this season.  Winter is another story, though.  I struggle with getting the kids outside, mostly because I don’t particularly enjoy being outside when the temperature dips below 40.

I know how important it is for all of us, not just the kids, to get fresh air all year long.  It’s probably even more important in the winter, when breathing in the same stagnant air is just an invitation for illness.  I was thrilled to find a book that could help me come up with creative ideas to get us outside all year long.

Fifteen Minutes Outside, by Rebecca P. Cohen, is a gem of a book with the goal of getting you and your kids outside, every day, for just fifteen minutes.  Her ideas are creative, require little to no planning ahead, and cheap.  All you need is some enthusiasm, and if you live where I do, a coat and gloves.

Here are a few of my favorite risky ideas for fall and winter:

Stick Tunnel

Build a stick tunnel:  For many kids, playing with sticks is a big no-no. Parents and teachers are always worried someone’s going to poke an eye out.  Channel their energy away from using them as swords and into building with them.  My son is actually allowed to do this at his school and the kids make an entire “city” out of fallen limbs.

Play Ghost in the Graveyard: It’s easy to forget you’re cold when you’re running around.  I’m also finding that kids are increasingly unfamiliar with traditional outdoor games. Have a game revival in your yard and see who joins you.  Encourage the kids to learn other games or to make up their own.

Backyard ice rink

Go ice skating outdoors: If you’re lucky enough to have frozen ponds nearby, take advantage!  If not, search the web for outdoor rinks in your area.  Or take advantage of a killer ice storm and skate in your very own backyard!


Visit the playground after a snowfall: Even the most boring playground can be transformed into something magical with a dusting of snow.  Try building snow up at the end of the slide for some cool ramps.

Go off-road:  Without vines, tall grass and brush blocking your way, you can find some great spots to walk or bike in the winter. Bonus points for biking in the snow or experimenting with snow shoes.

How do you keep your family outside and active during the fall and winter?



  1. […] Check out more inspiration this season with my latest feature for PBS Parents and a recent review of 15 Minutes Outside. […]