I always knew that I wanted my kids to value nature and that spending time outdoors would be a huge part of their childhood and our family’s lifestyle. I’ll admit, with temperatures dropping it is harder for me to stay motivated to go out with the kids. So, I have a few ways to encourage outdoor play in cold weather that I want to share as I prepare for this winter.
Growing up I remember spending hours upon hours outside playing with friends or exploring in my own backyard. My favorite outdoor memory is being about six or seven years old and walking to the hidden park through my aunt’s backyard. There was a wooded trail that led to this beautiful space surrounded by trees (and the other homes of course). Even in the winter, we would just bundle up and play in the snow. Now, as I am raising children, I notice outdoor play is disappearing and being replaced with screentime or more than enough structured extracurricular activities.
I’ll be honest, I am not a big fan of devices and technology, that’s just the old soul in me, but I am not against them. My husband is actually a huge tech person and gamer, and we plan to use technology and devices as a resource for our kids (with a healthy balance of non-screen/tech time). Once we figure out what that looks like for our specific kids and our specific family. But, back to our topic today.
How to Encourage Outdoor Play in Cold Weather
If you are not an outdoorsy person, it’s okay. Or maybe you like the outdoors but your kids don’t. I still encourage spending even just 15 minutes outside on a daily or regular basis for the many physical, emotional, and developmental health benefits. Nature is a gift that is being overlooked more and more.
Wearing Weather Appropriate Clothing and Gear
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” -Alfred Wainwright
Yesterday, while my girls were outside playing with playdoh, not a care in the world. I watched them create, laugh, and enjoy themselves as I stood in the corner shivering and thinking to myself, why in the world is it so cold and when are these kids going to be done with this playdoh, ha. I was also only wearing a hoodie and jeans in 35-degree weather.
Clothing is the key to spending time outdoors in cold weather. Kids won’t get sick from it being cold out, they get sick from germs. But, they can be harmed in freezing temperatures (or other weather) with unsuitable clothing and lack of knowledge. Teach the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Encourage them to trust their body and their comfort level.
So, last night, after warming up inside, I ordered the girls some Merlino Wool base and mid-layer clothing items, wool socks, and I ordered myself the same. Winter outdoor waterproof items (gloves, suits, etc.) are next on the list. Here is a great blog post from Maplewood Outside School on how to dress for cold weather.
Outdoor Play Equipment
Toys are just as fun with snow as they are with sand and dirt. Bring out the beach toys and shovels. Have a storage area already outside with this equipment (or in your trunk if traveling to your outdoor space).
Build a snow pile for sledding or forts for snowball fights. If you have the material, DIY an outdoor mud (or snow) kitchen. The point is to have toys and outdoor equipment available to encourage your kiddos to have fun and be creative. Staying still fiddling your thumbs will quickly have everyone running back in the house.
Natural loose parts are also great for outdoor play in cold weather. Have acorns, sticks, pine cones, rocks, etc. available for play.
Invite a Friend to Play
I mean, I’m a pretty fun mom (trying to be anyway) but kids definitely have more fun with friends. So, make it a playdate. Grab a friend or two and let them have fun and move their bodies to stay warm. Bond fires, s’mores, or cooking a meal over a fire can be fun as well with friends.
Go on an Adventure or Hike
Mix it up. Plan to go out for your adventure every so often. You can plan a trip to the zoo, a new outdoor park, or even a nature preserve or hiking trail. Scavenger hunts, nature journaling, or looking for animal tracks can be fun ways to encourage outdoor play in cold weather.
Prepare a Welcoming Return Indoors
Before heading outdoors to play in cold weather, be sure to prepare certain things for the transition back inside.
- Have warm dry clothes already laid out
- Make sure the washer (if dirty) or dryer (if still clean) is empty and ready to recieve wet suits, mittens, and jackets.
- Turn on a slow cooker with hot chocolate or apple cider inside
- Have cozy blankets and a basket of books, games, or a movie out on the sofa for an inviting cuddle session to warm up
Educate Yourself on the Benefits of Outdoor Play All Year Round
Have fun and challenge yourself to encourage outdoor play in cold weather this season. Don’t be discouraged. I know bundling little kids and yourself to get out of the door is less than exciting, but it will be oh so worth it.