As winter approaches, you probably feel inclined to stay inside and watch TV with your kids instead of venturing out into the cold. However, the outdoor playtime shouldn’t be put on hold until summer. Playing outside during winter has many benefits for kids, from physical to mental and emotional. Here are some of the benefits and ways to get your kids playing outdoors this winter.

Why Is Playing Outside in the Winter Important?

Playing outside during winter has its benefits and encourages kids to learn how to deal with challenges or changes.

The Physical Health Benefits

Winter play presents a new environment for your kids to learn some skills and develop healthy bodies and minds:

  • Improves motor skills: Your child can improve gross and fine motor skills through outdoor play. Building a snow kingdom or going through an obstacle involves picking up objects, jumping and running around which involve vital muscle groups that are still developing.
  • Reduces the spread of germs and infection: When you get sick, it usually comes from time spent in poorly ventilated areas with someone ill. Time outside with fresh air reduces the spread of germs. Also, in wintertime, coniferous trees emit phytoncides, which encourage the body to fight off germs by increasing natural killer cells.
  • Helps critical systems function in the body: Fresh air boosts your child’s immune system. Combined with playtime outside, they get multiple benefits. Physical activity, in every season, improves cholesterol levels, blood pressure and bone density.

The Mental and Emotional Benefits

In addition to the physical advantages, playing outside in the winter can help develop creativity and other mental benefits:

  • Improves self-regulation and reduces stress: Kids are less stressed and more likely to develop good self-regulation skills when they spend time in nature. When you notice your kids getting a little antsy or irritable, take them outside and see the difference it makes.
  • Teaches your kids about the seasons: When you encourage your kids to play outside in every season, it allows them to learn about the weather and see seasonal changes in real time. When you encourage your kids to embrace winter, they build resilience and are more likely to enjoy it as they grow.
  • Reduces screen time and sedentary behavior: Children may be sedentary 8-10 hours a day on average, between sitting in school or watching TV at home. Outdoor play is all the more important with the rise in technology that keeps many children–as well as parents–from engaging in social activities. Prioritize social activities by planning park playdates or encouraging imaginative play in the backyard.

Winter Playtime Activities to Try This Winter

Before you take your kids outside for fun in the snow, dress them in warm clothing. If there’s snow or ice out, add waterproof layers. Every half hour or so, do a warmth check-in. They could be having so much fun they don’t realize how cold they are. If needed, go back inside for a warm cup of cocoa.

1. Backyard Obstacle Course

Obstacles are fun in winter too! However, this will require your kids to wear waterproof clothing since they will be climbing and crawling.

You can make an obstacle with almost anything — outdoor tables and chairs, storage bins, hula-hoops and more. An excellent guide to help you create some obstacles is to think of ways to get them to jump, crawl, hop, balance, slide and zigzag. Include games within the obstacle course, like frisbee throw, hopscotch or bowling.

2. Build a Snow Kingdom

Put a twist on building snowmen by making a snow kingdom with your kids. You could do this on a hike, in the woods or in your backyard. Instead of one giant snowman, make a few small ones and build little snow houses and snow pets for the kingdom. Get creative with nature and use small twigs as arms and leaves for the snow house doors.

3. Make Bird Feeders

Birdwatching is always a fun activity. You can make a simple bird feeder with pinecones. All you need to do is cover the pinecones in peanut butter and coat them with birdseed.

Although making the bird feeder will be done indoors, you can spend some time outside decorating the tree and bird watching afterward. You can set up camp outside and identify the birds that pass through together. Blankets and hot cocoa will make bird watching a fun and cozy winter activity.

4. Hike – With Games

Go on a hike in a nature park to experience what winter has to offer. You can still get all the benefits of exploring nature when it’s cold out. But since there are fewer visible plants and animals when it’s cold out, you can entertain kids with other methods.

Dad could go ahead on the trail and draw shapes, faces and numbers in the snow for your kids to spot as they hike. You could also try a sensory hike. Encourage them to focus on sounds they hear, any interesting smells, textures and sights.

5. Visit the Playground

People tend to shy away from taking their kids to the playground when it’s cold. While they pose some risk when it’s icy and snowing, it’s perfectly fine to take your kids on better days. With no ice, they can run around, swing and climb on the jungle bars to their heart’s content all afternoon. It’s a classic way to get fresh air and exercise in a change of environment.

Support Your Kid’s Wellbeing This Winter 

Playing outside is essential to your kid’s growth and development, even in winter. While it may seem like the better choice to keep them warm and snuggly indoors, going outside is more likely to benefit them, boost their immune system and keep germs away. Get your snow pants on and join them; they will be more willing to go with a playful, engaging caregiver.

About The Author

Cora Gold is a mother and writer who aims to connect with other moms through her experiences with navigating motherhood. Cora is the Editor-in-Chief of Revivalist magazine and writes for sites including For Every Mom, MommyBites and Playground Professionals. When she’s not writing about style and beauty for her magazine, Revivalist, she loves to share her experience with family life. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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