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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!


Heather Bywaters RN PHN
Middlesex-London Health Unit
For the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership


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