Cold weather is the surest thing to send your kids indoors. Which is great until they’ve been inside watching TV for two days straight and everyone is going crazy. Then it’s time to get your kids back outside. Outdoor play is crucial for kids.
When kids play outside, they get more exercise, fresh air, essential Vitamin D, and new learning experiences. The cold doesn’t have to kill all outdoor play. You just need to reimagine the way your kids play outside. With a few easy tips, you can have your kids excited to play outside again, even in the cold.
Dress them warm
There’s real parenting pain that comes from trying to jam your kid’s fingers into the individual fingers of a winter glove. Especially when those gloves come off after ten minutes anyway. But dressing your kids warm is perhaps the most important part of outdoor play in the cold. Aim to dress your child in layers that can easily be taken off (or put back on). Avoid cotton as it will soak up any sweat or moisture and cause a chill. If it’s sunny outside, don’t forget sunscreen. Kids can still get a sunburn from the sun and the reflection off the snow.
Watch the time
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just send your kids outside to play in the snow for hours on end? Realistically, you should plan on your kids coming in every hour or so to warm up. Once it gets dark temperatures will drop, so encourage kids to come in after the sun sets. Keep your kids inside if the temperatures fall below 13°F. These low temperatures can lead to frostbite. It’s also a good idea to bring kids inside if they are shivering, tired, or seem confused.
Keep things upbeat
It’s easy to let the doldrums of winter bring down your positive attitude. But if you have a bad attitude about the cold weather, so will your kids. Treat each day (no matter how dark and cold) as a fun one. Get your kids excited to play outside when it snows. Teach them how to build sledding hills and snowmen. Your positive attitude will rub off.
Reimagine outdoor activities
Your kids don’t have to give up their favorite outdoor activities just because it’s cold. Let them blow bubbles and see how they act different in the cold. Take a family hike (with snow shoes if you have to). Go on a nature walk and look for birds. Pull out the dump trucks and sand toys from the sand box and use them in the snow. Even favorite (waterproof) toys can be reused in the snow.
Getting your kids to play outdoors during colder weather isn’t impossible. Your kids will learn to love the winter if you encourage them to love playing outdoors in the cold and the snow. They’ll love it even more if you join them outside for the fun. It’s good for them to be active, breathe fresh air, and soak up Vitamin D in the short sunshine hours.
As a society, we must revise our way of seeing winter as a time for children to spend less time outdoors. By trying to protect them from colder weather, we are doing the opposite and hindering learning. Breaks should continue outside, in the playground, so that children can burn off steam, face new winter challenges that they often crave, and benefit from improved serotonin levels through sun exposure and an increase in vitamin D.
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intermountainhealthcare.org. 2021. Encouraging Outdoor Play When Its Cold. [online] Available at: <https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/pediatrics/2019/12/encouraging-outdoor-play-when-its-cold/> [Accessed 22 January 2021].