How to Spend More Time Outdoors This Winter
Many families have been spending more time playing outdoors over the past number of months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts have told us that outside is the safest place to play because the risk of transmitting the virus outdoors is extremely low. With colder weather, finding a variety of activities to do comfortably outside can become more challenging. But the outdoor play has many benefits, especially for children!
When children play outdoors, they:
- Move more, sit less and are active for longer periods
- Can test and understand their own limits and potential for growth
- Develop cooperation and communication skills
- Can still make friends when they are playing while physically distanced
- Have more opportunities to explore, create and experience imaginative play
- Can be their own leader, which boosts independence and confidence
Playing in nature has also been proven to:
- Improved mental health
- Enhanced attention, cognitive development, self-regulation, working memory and executive functioning
Tips and Tricks for Outdoor Winter Play
- Think outside the box! What inside toys and materials could you bring outside?
- Dress for the weather. Layering works well. Protect those ears from frostbite. Don’t forget those little fingers – you may need more than one pair of mittens! Sunscreen is still needed in the winter as well as sunglasses when the sun glares off the snow!
- Vary the types of activities you do. Active play keeps you warm!
Playing Outdoors Safely
- Wherever children play, they need supervision that is appropriate for their age and developmental stage. This is great news because parents and caregivers can also benefit from outdoor activities.
- Monitor the weather. Stay inside if the wind chill reaches -27C (-16F).
- Remove drawstrings from clothing, use a neck warmer (not scarves) and mitten clips instead of a string to prevent strangulation.
- Provide the safety equipment appropriate for the activity and use them yourself to model safe behaviour. Ski or hockey helmets should be used for sports and tobogganing.
- Choose your play location carefully – away from roads, water, machinery and fences.
With a little imagination and planning, wintertime may become your favourite time to play outside!
- Check out these websites for other ideas about active, winter, outdoor play:
- De Lannoy, L. & Brussoni, M. (2020). Should I go outside in the COVID era? Retrieved from https://www.outdoorplaycanada.ca/should-i-go-outside-in-the-covid-19-era/
- Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). Children’s Unstructured Play Position Statement. March 2019. Retrieved from https://www.cpha.ca/childrens-unstructured-play
- Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. (2020). Outdoor play. Retrieved from http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/outdoor-play
- Middlesex-London Health Unit. (2015). Outdoors the ultimate playground. Retrieved from https://www.healthunit.com/outdoors-the-ultimate-playground
- Canadian Pediatric Society. (2017). Winter safety: Advice for parents and kids. Retrieved from https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/winter_safety
Heather Bywaters RN PHN
Middlesex-London Health Unit
For the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership
Heather Bywaters RN PHN