Parents, carers, school teachers and nursery staff often put a stop to outdoor play as soon as we hit the autumn months, and carry on this way until it gets to mid-spring. However, we suggest that outside winter activities outside actually have more benefits than you would originally think. So what’s the best course of action during these colder months?
At Hand Made Places we feel that outdoor play should be practised all year round, no matter what the weather. This is due to the immense benefits which playing outdoors has for younger children. Now, we are not suggesting that you send your children outdoors in extreme weather conditions. However, some exposure to the elements (provided they’re closely supervised) will help build skills and even improve immunity. This, in addition to giving them plenty of exercise, is the best gift you can give children this holiday season!
Outside Winter Activities: Are they safe? Are they beneficial?
In winter, parents often avoid sending their children outdoors due to the cold weather, with fears that it will cause them to become ill. However, it is actually quite the opposite.
Fact: the common cold and or flu are much more likely in the winter.
Fact: this is not due to the dip in temperature.
The bacteria and viruses that cause these types of illnesses actually enjoy the heat. Therefore, infections spread much more easily inside in poorly ventilated, warmer environments. You are much more likely to catch an illness by spending the day in a classroom with the windows closed and the central heating on than you are by getting outdoors and breathing in that fresh clean air.
It is safe to say, however, that there are illnesses which are worsened by exposure to the cold for long periods of time. Illnesses caused by cold weather are relatively uncommon, so long as you follow the appropriate safety procedures for outside winter activities. Top of this list is ensuring that your child is not directly exposed to the cold weather.
So, how to dress a child for winter?
- Multiple layers
- Cover their head and extremities
- Think feet!
For younger children taking part in outside winter activities, just one thick jumper or coat will not cut it. They should be clad in a vest, a top, a jumper and then a coat, as a minimum. They should also always have their head, neck and hands covered using hats, scarves and gloves.
If a child is on the cusp of getting ill then cold, wet feet can be disastrous. You must ensure that they wear thick socks, or multiple pairs of socks. In addition to this, make sure their footwear can handle the elements. Therefore wellingtons or walking boots are an important investment.
Too much effort? Think of the benefits!
Once adorned in the appropriate attire, children can run, jump and splash outside enjoying everything the season has to offer.
Children who are only allowed to play outside in late spring and summer are only exposed to one type of environment. By allowing them to explore their surroundings in a new season, children will learn all about new phenomena.
For example, crunchy leaves, bare trees and brown grass give children a visual point-of-reference for their lessons on topics such as the life cycle of a plant. They’ll also be able to identify the signs of changing seasons. Again, helping to develop knowledge and build on skills.
The safest way to prevent child obesity is to encourage physical activity and healthy eating. Therefore, children should aim for at least one full hour of exercise per day to stay healthy.
As we know, in the winter months children are often pushed towards indoor play. However, whilst this is just as stimulating for the mind as outdoor activities, it does not offer the same physical benefits. On the other hand, children who play outdoors can get their daily hour of exercise from running, jumping and, all in all, having fun.
Furthermore, these outside winter activities are not only good for simply ‘ticking the exercise box’. Children who play outdoors in the winter will actually use different muscles to those during the summer months. This helps them to develop different aspects of their overall health and fitness.
How can Hand Made Places enable outside winter activities?
There are certain aspects of our equipment we do not advise you use during certain weather conditions (such as heavy rain fall, snow and ice) due to slip hazards. However, there are plenty of other pieces which are great for use all year round!
“Sensory Totems” are ideal during the winter months due to the the new learning opportunities they offer.
For example, new sights, smells, textures and sounds.
Sensory play using these activity posts enhances the rich experience of imaginative play.
This provides excellent mental stimulation as well as opportunity for exercise.
Children who enjoy outside winter activities can also take shelter in a large outdoor classroom, for short rest breaks in-between playing.
These shelters are great for keeping children dry and provide an area where teachers can give safety briefings before playtime begins. Furthermore, it provides a meeting space for children and teachers when/if the weather conditions alter.
Here at Hand Made Places we feel that it is essential for children to experience outdoor play all year round. Therefore we strive to encourage outdoor play no matter what the weather.
So long as it is safe to do so, we suggest that parents, carers and teachers all encourage children to carry on with their outdoor play, even during the winter months. Why not dedicate a couple of days a week during these winter months to allow children to experience what it is like outside during different seasons?