How to Get Kids Outside: Epic Winter Lord of the Rings Edition


December in the Ottawa region is about a few things (other than Christmas): first real snowfall, tolerable outdoor temperatures, and epic movies. It’s December 3rd today, and like clockwork, the snow is on the ground and theaters everywhere are filling up to see the final Hobbit movie.

It’s not an easy time of year to get kids to play outside. Ice rinks and canals aren’t yet frozen, and the ski hills aren’t quite in full bloom. But, there are distinct advantages to December, if you venture into the forested regions of our environs.

Did you know that the area within 40 KM. of the MacDonald Cartier airport is 73% covered by forest? So, why not find a way to enjoy this predominant land feature?

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Gandalf is the best character in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Anyone can decide to choose Legolas, just to be different… But, deep down, we know Gandalf is the boss. And, what accoutrement can make turn anyone into an instant Gandalf? (Ok, smartie pants, besides a 4 foot long beard). The real answer? A Gandalf staff!

Let’s put two and two together, shall we parents?

A) Gandalf is awesome.

B) Gandalf has a staff.

C) Staffs are made of wood.

D) Forests are made of wood.


The lack of underbrush in the forest, along with a relatively small snowpack makes this time of year ideal for finding that perfect gnarled, dried up,  and let’s not  forget magical Gandalf staff.

Bring a small saw, and let every kid find that perfect dehydrated and dead piece of wood, to take home.

A few pieces of sandpaper, some paper towel, and a little bit of furniture stain are all you need to complete the staff. Here’s a picture of our most recent creation. Don’t worry about finding wood that’s “perfect”. Worm holes, rotten bits, and knots all add character. The only caveat would be to make sure it’s a dried piece of wood, which is easy to achieve during these bone-dry winter months. Follow the directions on whatever products you’re using, particularly the part about “well ventilated area”. If you’re in a small place, get a stain with low VOC, or even use natural dyes to achieve whatever “look” you’re going for. You can use paper towel or rags for the staining, which tends to work better than a paint brush.

Oh, and for that other big thing that’s happening this month: Gandalf staffs made by grandkids make perfect Christmas gifts.

  • Lynn

    Absolutely BRILLIANT.

    • Brad Stewart

      Thanks Lynn!