When it’s really cold, it’s hard to get motivated to go outside. I am not a cold-weather person. I’d be happy never seeing snow again, and anything under 40 degrees is too chilly for me. However, the benefits to children of getting outside far outweigh my short-lived discomfort (I know, I have to keep reminding myself, as well!). So, what are these benefits?
Getting outside in the winter lets children explore their world in a different way. Your yard and neighborhood are transformed – sounds, smells, and textures are all different. Children learn by exploring first-hand, by touching the frozen ground, listening to falling icicles, and yes, even tasting snow (with a warning about the yellow kind!). They are faced with new challenges such as the resistance of running in snow and avoiding slipping on ice. These challenges allow children to use their muscles in new ways and gain strength in skills they didn’t have before.
We also often think of the health hazards of cold weather and forget the health benefits. Children who spend 10-15 minutes outside every day get their daily dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D supports bone strength, as well as improved mood. And as anyone who has been housebound with young children knows, improved mood is always a good thing! Winter colds, coughs, and other illnesses seem to pass from person to person, often because those germs just circulate in our homes. Getting outdoors gets children fresh air, and the opportunity to kill off some of those germs before sickness sets in again.
Of course, going outdoors in the cold means it is necessary to dress appropriately, so be sure to layer the child’s clothing (a good tip is to add one more layer than an adult would need). You may not be able to go outside for more than a few minutes, but those few chilly minutes will be well worth it. Yes, it may take three times as long to dress and undress, but their growing bodies will thank you!