Sometimes, in winter, it’s not very appealing to go outside. I have to change my attitude if I want my kids to play outside year round, in all weather.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.
I realize that winter gear can get expensive. We get handmedowns and shop sales when we can.
Growing up in Georgia, I only had a lightweight winter coat. I never had snow suits or boots. I never went sledding or snowboarding or skiing or ice skating.
I was outside all year round, no matter the weather. It was a different time, when kids played outside together until the street lights came on. Georgia winters, that was probably around 7, and summers, after 9.
Winter in Georgia is rarely very harsh. They get a few weeks of very cold and maybe some ice, once in a long while a dusting of snow, like the “blizzards” of ’81 and ’94.
I joke with my family that I’m just not made for winter and of course, that’s true. Humans have to bundle up in layers to be protected against the elements. I much prefer warm weather and being inside when it’s cold.
We lived two years in San Antonio, Texas, and three years Honolulu, Hawaii, where winter is virtually nonexistent. Honestly, the heat in Texas was stifling. We were out early mornings and that’s about it. We were outside all the time in Hawaii.
We lived four years in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the powder snow and dry air was actually quite lovely. It was totally new for me to have concern about winter clothing and snow tires. I learned how to shovel the driveway before it melted into an ice layer! We never did go skiing or tubing because the kids were so small and it was just so very expensive.
We lived three years in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where it’s wet and cool year round, and winter is just a little colder and slushier. Germans don’t care about the weather. They walk and hike every day no matter what.
We’re in Ohio now and the kids really look forward to the first snow and playing, making a snowman, sledding. I actually enjoy the exercise of shoveling the driveway. I want to be a good example for my kids, so I get outside with them as much as possible.
Get Your Family Outside! It’s Good for You!
Parents and guardians may be tempted to dial back outdoor activities when cold temperatures arrive, but getting outside is good for children and their families, even in the wintertime.
Time outdoors can equal happiness.
Nature is one of those things that can really bring your spirits up. Indeed, studies show that spending time outdoors is good for your mental health, and those who manage to do so are generally happier than those who stay cooped up inside. Butcher does his part to try to put people in touch with nature. Just recently, his gallery in the Big Cypress Swamp in south Florida sponsored a fall festival that included guided swamp-walk tours for children and adults alike. Those swamp walks provide what Butcher thinks of as education by immersion.
Time outdoors makes children healthier.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to children being overweight, which in turn increases their risk for a number of diseases, such as asthma and diabetes. When children spend time outdoors, they are almost certain to get more exercise, reducing those risks. Health professionals also say that, while over exposure to the sun can be harmful, some time absorbing the sun’s rays is helpful in such ways as boosting your body’s vitamin D.
Time outdoors makes children better stewards of the earth.
It’s important to protect the environment, and to preserve natural wonders for future generations, but it’s difficult to truly appreciate nature without venturing out into it. Children who take the time to explore what nature has to offer, he says, are more likely to become advocates for protecting it. Sometimes, in the abstract, it’s difficult to understand why nature is so important. But when children step into it, and see it firsthand, they can fall in love with it. Then they begin to understand.
How families can appreciate the outdoors in cold weather:
Do outdoor activities that are fun.
Weather that many consider to be “messy” can be a huge canvas for children and their imaginations.
Fall leaf piles, snowball fights, and snow forts offer a wealth of opportunities for parents to play with their children and to explore and experiment in our living landscapes.
Ask your child to look at how the landscape changes with the seasons.
Talk about what happens after leaves fall, when snow arrives, when it’s windy, and more, linking these seasonal changes with basic science about clouds, rainfall, temperature changes, and the earth.
We love learning about astronomy and what we can see in different seasons.
Try something new.
Try your hands at cross-country skiing, igloo-building, fall and winter hiking, ice fishing, ice skating, snow sculpting, snowshoeing, or something else that your children want to try to give them an appreciation of the outdoors in all seasons.
Our city Metro Parks offer lots of activities to learn about for the inexperienced winter person.
Do yardwork as a family.
Involve everyone in seasonal yard chores.
Children can help put outdoor toys into storage and help tidy the yard.
My kids love learning how to use power equipment like the lawn mower, weed eater, hedge trimmer, and leaf blower for cleanup. Safety first with protective glasses, closed toe shoes, and long sleeves and pants!
Getting outside helps our happiness.
Even winter sunshine can make kids happy—literally.
Sunlight boosts Vitamin D, which helps regulate emotional and mental moods by increasing serotonin in the brain.
Even exposure to weaker sunlight in the winter can cause this joy boost.
Also, I encourage my kids to go barefoot as long as they’re comfortable in our yard, creek, and backwoods to get good bacteria in their system.
Tolerate some mess.
It’s a given that kids going outside in all sorts of weather will often return wet, muddy and messy.
Be prepared for wet and cold kids and get them warmed up when they return from playing outside.
My kids look forward to tea or hot cocoa while I organize the wet snowsuits and boots to dry.
Process what they did.
Ask kids to share about what they did outdoors or ask them to write or draw out their activities and observations.
We often have notebooking pages ready to record experiences.
Did they see something new? Did something surprise them? What was fun?
You might also like:
- Winter Nature Walk
- Winter Nature Hike
- Winter Birds Study
- Snow Unit Study
- Winter Unit Study
- Winter Books
- Tot School Winter
- Snowy Preschool