Outdoor winter play has long been blamed for colds and the flu. Our parents told us “Bundle up or you’ll catch a cold” and their parents probably told them the same thing. But winter play gets a bad rap. Although going outside unprepared for the elements is unwise, viruses that are spread by other human beings cause colds and the flu—indoors.
The indoor circulation of germs and bacteria is much more harmful to your child than playing outside. There are plenty of excellent references for winter safety tips, such as this article by the American Academy of Pediatrics that explains proper clothing, winter health and so much more. With the right preparation and understanding of winter weather, your child can have as much fun in the cold as he or she does in the sun!
Here are five benefits of outdoor winter play:
Breathe Fresh Air
It’s no secret that most parents blame winter air as the cause for colds and the flu. Although the viruses that cause flu and colds are more common in the winter months, the circulated air in closed environments (school, daycare) are the main cause of your child getting sick. All of the bacteria, dirt, dander, and other germs simply get recycled through the air vents over and over. The more time you spend inside, the more you are exposed. Nothing is more refreshing than that first deep breath of cold, winter air before starting hours of fun outdoor play.
Strengthen Immune System
As stated above, playing outside allows your child an escape from indoor germs and bacteria. This will not only be good for the healthy bunch; the sick kids benefit from the fresh air as well. Just make sure they are properly bundled up and moving around to capture and generate warmth. Being outside more often also allows your child to develop a stronger autoimmune system and a resistance to allergies. Studies have shown that children in rural areas or those who are active outside have the best overall health.
Engage in Physical Exercise
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your children have lost their energy or desire to play. In fact, the California Childcare Health Program states outdoor winter play “gives children an opportunity for a change of environment, a balance in play and routine, and large muscle activities (gross-motor development).” You must remember your child is still growing during these months, and prolonged sessions of inactivity are not conducive to their muscular development. Video games are a fine idea in the worst weather, but if it is a sunny winter day there are a lot of physical activities kids can do.
Stimulate the Imagination
The winter also offers a variety of ways to stimulate your imagination through play. Does your child like to build things? Build a snow fort in the backyard with tunnels and a home base. Do you have access to a park? Go for a wildlife hike and look for birds and other woodland creatures. With all of the technological advancements of the past decade, many children are using their imaginations less and less. Something as simple as building a silly snowman utilizes problem solving and imaginative skills they would not be using while sitting on the couch.
The list of fun things to do in the winter goes on and on. Sledding, ice-skating, snow angels, snowball fights, building snow forts and building snowmen are all unique to winter weather and provide tons of fun for everyone. And by “everyone” we mean the parents as well. Nothing makes your children more comfortable and motivated for outdoor winter play than when Dad is going to help build a snow fort or Mom is taking them sledding. As with any activity, this is a great time to bond and enjoy a fun outdoor activity together. Don’t forget to bring the camera!
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc. in Carrollton, GA. Playland Inc., is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to many industries, with its roots deep in the park and playground markets including churches, schools, and day care centers. It has developed into the only company in its field to offer direct to all of its customers, the ability to purchase outdoor playgrounds, shelters, shade, indoor playgrounds, water slides and site amenities.
I grew up in the northeast and winter is my favorite season because my siblings and I had sooo much fun playing outside. Plus it made us really tired which my parents liked :)
Sledding with your kids is so much fun!