The Benefits of Outdoor Winter Play
Dr. Kristi Smith, D.Ed., M.Ed.   •   January 8, 2024

As winter sets in and temperatures drop, it's tempting to keep the family indoors, bundled up in cozy blankets, and sipping hot cocoa. However, stepping outside into the crisp, cold air can offer a myriad of benefits for your child's physical and mental well-being. In this blog post, we'll explore why embracing the chill and encouraging outdoor play during the winter months can be a game-changer for your child's development.

Many parents and guardians of young children feel they are protecting their children from illness by keeping them inside where it is warm. Early educators have long known the benefits of getting children outside, even in cold temperatures. Many state childcare regulatory agencies have rules requiring children in licensed programs to go outside every day, yes, even when it is cold.

At Children’s Lighthouse Early Learning Schools, we understand the health and mental well-being benefits of going outside each day. That is why our Lighthouse Pathways® curricula include outside in our daily lesson plans. Our preschool curriculum, Lighthouse CARES®, has a module called 3E: Outdoor that features skill-based exercise activities and theme-based yoga.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of winter-time outdoor time:

  1. Boosting Immune System: Contrary to common belief, exposure to cold weather doesn't necessarily make us sick. In fact, spending time outdoors in chilly temperatures can strengthen your child's immune system. The cold air can stimulate the production of white blood cells, helping your child's body better fight off illnesses. So, instead of avoiding the cold, consider it a natural immune system booster for your little ones.
  2. Developing Resilience: Winter weather provides an excellent opportunity for kids to develop resilience. When they brave the cold, they learn to adapt to different conditions and build mental toughness. Facing challenges such as dressing appropriately for the weather or dealing with chilly winds helps instill a sense of resilience and the ability to overcome obstacles—an essential life skill.
  3. Enhancing Motor Skills: Outdoor winter play can involve activities like sledding, ice skating, or building snowmen. Engaging in these activities requires coordination, balance, and fine motor skills. The varied terrain and challenges presented by the snow and ice provide an excellent environment for your child to refine their motor skills, fostering both physical and cognitive development.
  4. Beating Winter Blues: The winter months can sometimes bring about feelings of lethargy and a lack of motivation, especially for children. Exposure to natural light, even in the colder months, helps regulate the body's internal clock and improves mood. Encourage your child to spend time outside during daylight hours to soak in the benefits of sunlight, which can positively impact their overall mental well-being.
  5. Family Bonding Time: Children stuck indoors during the winter often engage in extended screen-type activities to pass the time. The cold weather becomes an opportunity for quality family time, fostering connections and creating traditions that your children will cherish. Embracing the cold together can create lasting memories for your family. Whether it's a day of bundled play, a winter hike, or simply building a snowman in the backyard, these shared experiences strengthen family bonds.
  6. Appreciating Nature: Winter offers a different perspective on nature, with berries on bushes, evergreen trees with pine cones, glistening snowflakes, and frost-covered landscapes. Exploring the outdoors during the colder months allows your child to develop a deeper appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness of each season. It instills a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world.

With benefits like these, don't let the winter chill keep your family cooped up indoors. Embrace the cold weather as an opportunity for your child to grow physically, mentally, cognitively, and emotionally. Whether it's building snow forts, mastering a new winter sport, or simply taking a brisk walk to look at nature, the benefits of outdoor winter play are plentiful. So, bundle up, step outside, and let the winter adventures begin!

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