Why do we need to get our kids outside in this change of weather? I know some of us think that just walking to the car daily is adequate for them and their children, I promise you that is not enough. Research has shown many health benefits of being outside in nature. I will elaborate on those below. We need to get the kids outside regardless of the harshness of winter, before we know it the sun will be here for the majority of the day, but we still need to get the kids outside and play in the winter.
Here in New England, the weather can be very temperamental, and with some very warm days looming, winter tends to linger a bit longer.
Approximately two years ago, we had snow on my son’s birthday in April. Snow in April! That made the best birthday for him.
I have always been a fan of getting outside. Before kids, we would go for walks along the river well bundled. Now with kids- when they were smaller we would bundle them in the stroller, go out and enjoy nature. Our children love the outdoors, they cannot get enough snow, days and they seem to be unaffected by the cold.
Winter begins very darkly here, there is a gradual loss of daytime around 4:30 pm. Hibernation tends to set in and outdoor play gets minimized. This time period makes it very difficult for everyone, not just children. I often feel like I want to lay on the couch and not be bothered. However, this is a time to be nourished and let children explore their creative side.
Here’s a list of Benefits to getting the kids outside to play in the winter.
Exercise – I don’t need to point to another scientific study that states the benefits of exercise. Be it a brisk walk around the neighborhood or just running around in the yard, moving the body is always paramount. Research has shown that even 15 minutes per day of movement can improve your lifespan.
Outdoor Play in the Winter Boosts Vitamin D levels and Uplifts Mood – Another scientific point. Even though the sun is not as blatantly hot as it gets in the summer, the sun rays are still presents and can activate Vitamin D. Children need Vitamin D for Bone and growth development. A deficiency can cause major damage along with developmental delay in children. Seasonal Affectivity Disorder tends to be higher in the colder states as people are more despondent about the darkness of the season, this happens in children as well.
Outdoor play in the winter boosts the immune system – This is research-proven, growing recognition of the role vitamin D plays in health impacting the innate immune system to prevent infections and the adaptive immune system to modulate autoimmunity. Being outside is necessary.
Outdoor Play in Different Conditions Promotes Problem-Solving and Cognitive Thinking – This is an interesting concept. My children tend to adapt and use whatever is present, which is very different from having everything easily available in the summer. They are also deterred from going inside for a toy, fearing that they will not be allowed outside again, also that they will have to undress and redress to go back outside.
Risk Taking: Children need to take some risks – As parents, this makes us anxious; we want our children to be safe. But if we keep them in bubbles and never let them take any risks, they won’t know what they can do, and they may not have the confidence and bravery to face life’s inevitable risks.
Appreciation of nature– So much of our world is changing, and not for the better. If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in the soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. If they are infrequently outside they will never appreciate the leaves on the trees, the changing seasons. They need to get outside to foster that appreciation.
Now Let me tell you how to Do it:
You need Proper Gear – you simply cannot send your children outside in leggings and a long sleeve shirt. You cannot! They will freeze. You also should not layer them to the point of immobility. I do the 3-2-2 layering. 3 layers on top, 2 layers on the bottom, and 2 layers of socks. Proper snow gear is also essential in the snow along with waterproof snow boots, mittens, and a scarf.
Plan your destination – our destination is almost always the backyard. We are fortunate enough to have ample space for running, swinging, and playing muddy puddles. Sometimes we venture to a nearby playground, and our gear does not change.
Let them have fun – oftentimes when we are outside, they have free range, I don’t interfere, I let them be as creative as they want to be. I also try not to limit the amount of time spent unless the temperature is very undesirable.
I challenge you to incorporate these tips into your winter schedule, the kids will appreciate it tremendously.