5 ways to connect with Nature in the winter

Winter is a long, difficult season in Montreal and it’s easy to find things to complain about. Snow makes getting around hard and the cold weather makes it unpleasant to be outside. The short daylight hours can lead to seasonal depression and keep us indoors. Often, winter becomes a season to be endured until the snow melts and the days get long.

But there are ways to enjoy winter, even here in the city. Getting outside means that we are breathing fresh air and are less at risk of catching that cold that’s going around. The sunlight and physical activity are good for our physical and mental health. Connecting with Nature has also been shown to impact our mental health positively. There is plenty of Nature to be found in the city, so while it’s great to get out to the countryside, it’s not necessary in order to enjoy winter! Here are 5 ways to bring some Nature into your winter life.

Surprise! There are forests right here in Montreal, many of which are accessible by public transit. Mont-Royal, Parc Angrignon, the Westmount summit and the Outremont summit are all accessible, open forests where kids will entertain themselves for hours. This kind of free, Nature-based play (the kind of play we used to take for granted!) is essential for physical, social, and emotional child development – and is super fun, to boot!

You can make a bird feeder out of milk cartons, pop bottles or other items in your recycling bin. This might be a great activity for a stormy day. When the sun comes out, find a good spot to hang your feeder and look up the birds that start flocking to your yard! The app Merlin Bird ID is a free app that helps novice birders identify birds native to your area.

If you are attentive, you’ll notice that Nature is all around you. Notice the different types of trees you pass. Are there conifers, deciduous trees? You can use the app Branché to identify different trees and contribute to a map of trees in your area. In the mornings, as we approach the equinox, birds are becoming more and more active and their songs and calls are all around. Where are animals living? Do you see squirrel nests, raccoon holes, tracks in the snow? You can download our free Winter UrbaNature scavenger hunt and head out with the family. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and have a picnic in the park!

Outdoor skating rinks abound and at Mount Royal’s Beaver Lake you can rent skates and twirl on the ice to classical music. There are ski trails here, too, and ski rentals. If you have your own equipment, there are ski trails in many of the large city parks. You can consult the list here. Montreal parks are offering other activities such as fat biking, campfires, snowshoeing and discovery activities. Or go for an invigorating hike up the Olmstead road to the cross and the lookout on Mount Royal.

Ok, some days we just want to stay inside. You can connect with Nature indoors, too. Plant some seeds and watch them grow! Nurturing plant life provides well-being benefits and gardening has been shown to be a great way to decrease stress and anxiety. Kids will love taking care of their seedlings and they can help transfer them to the garden when the weather is warmer! Planting vegetables is one idea, but planting pollinator-friendly flowers will draw butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your garden and benefit the biodiversity on the island.

There are lots of other ways to enjoy winter before it’s over! Let us know your favourite ways to connect with Nature in the city.

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About the author
UrbaNature Education teaches environmental education in urban and suburban settings. We facilitate the human connection with nature, wherever it is found, ensuring our programs are available to all, especially vulnerable populations.