Why is Outdoor Play still important during our colder months?

“Kids don’t remember their best day of TV”.

 

When you look back on your childhood, sitting and playing your video game or watching television certainly isn’t what you reminisce about. It’s all the fun and adventure you had!

A whole new sensory environment!

During our warmer months of Summer and Spring, children become familiar with beautiful bright green foliage, the flowers blooming, and nice warm temperatures. When the seasons change, children also become aware of the changes that come with them, whether it be rain, hail, snow, leaves changing colours and falling to the ground. These changes within the outdoor environment allow for the children to have new experiences and opportunities.

By going outdoors in the colder months, children are able to see their natural environment in a different state, taking note of what changes and how it changes.

Playing outside during, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring, all provide a set of unique opportunities for exploration and learning. Thus, outdoor play should be embraced in all types of weather, as it’s very important for children and their ongoing development.

What are some of the physical health benefits of outdoor play?

For children, outdoor play during the colder months of the year promotes physical development on top of well-being. This is due to outdoor play encouraging the use of your child’s whole body. The Outdoors provide a safe space to run, jump, and use both all of their larger muscles! Through certain activities and experiences, such as running around, riding tricycles, climbing frames and utilising balance beams, children increase the use of their large muscle groups.

This increase in physical activity supports children’s gross motor, fine motor development and their overall health. It is important that children remain active during these colder months, so they are able to continue to build their developing skill sets which are essential to their physical development.

What are some of the social benefits of outdoor play?

When children engage in outdoor play with others, it encourages both social development and relationship building. Social outdoor play also allows for children to get in their daily exercise as well as increasing their imaginative play.

Outdoor play also encourages social development and collaboration between children and their peers. This is due to play providing the opportunity for children to work together in groups, which includes learning to share, negotiate, and solve conflict.

Children who are given the opportunity to explore through play are also more likely to learn new skills and conquer challenges, which then promotes self-confidence, flexibility, and inspiration. The development of all these social skills are highly important to the development of healthy social relationships, communication skills, and a strong sense of identity.

What are some of the emotional benefits of outdoor play?

Outdoor experiences and activities are also beneficial for supporting children’s emotional health. Risk assessment, Self-Confidence and moderation of their own behaviour are just some of the benefits!

With children having the option to play outdoors in the colder months, they develop the ability to identify certain hazards and risks, such as slippery surfaces, a wet slide, or even frost on the play equipment – this then assists them to make choices  in regards to their own heath and safety.

Also, challenges provided by cold environments, such as icy leaves, and games played in fog and rain, can provide children with new ways to develop their problem-solving opportunities and emotional skills.

Cold weather, Sickness & Health:

A lot of families seem to associate the winter months with their child becoming unwell with cold’s and flu’s. When in fact being cooped up indoors, in a poorly ventilated area – such as a small room with the windows closed and the heater on – create the perfect environment for bacteria, germs, illness’ and virus’ to grow and flourish. With children and spending all of this time together in a small space, these germs’ and illness’ are more likely to spread from person to person.

 By incorporating and encouraging outdoor play in winter, children are exposed to clean, fresh air and Vitamin D – all while avoiding germs and bacteria. By being outdoors, children are breathing the nice fresh air and not ‘re-breathing’ the air in the heated room that can increase the spread of bacteria.

Some suitable activities & experiences for those cold & wet months:

  • Dress warmly and you can still go for walks, bike rides and play dates to your local parks and playgrounds!
  • Gumboots, rain jackets and umbrellas, and go and find some big puddles!
  • Installing a rain gauge in the backyard, this way after it rains you and your child can go and check to see how many mm of rain that you have had!
  • You can venture to parts of your area where it may snow at this time of year. A day in the snow is an amazing sensory experience! Building snowmen or even going for a toboggan!
  • If it’s not wet and the leaves are still falling from the tree’s you can rake up the leaves into big piles and jump into them.
  • When it’s windy, it’s the perfect time to teach your child how they can fly a kite!
  • On super cold nights you might be able to even light a bonfire in your backyard and roast some marshmallows!
  • Winter is also a time for certain team sports, such as football and netball if your child is old enough to participate.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

– John Lubbock

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