Don’t let winter weather keep your family from enjoying the outdoors!
There’s a chill in the air and soon to be snow on the ground but that doesn’t mean you and your family should stay indoors. According to The Childhood League Center’s nurse, Ann Kolopus, outdoor play in the colder months has its benefits.
Kids can gain much from winter play, such as:
exercising large muscles,
escaping the germs that are trapped inside,
and stimulating the imagination.
FIRST CHECK THE WEATHER
Nurse Ann says to encourage kids to play outside when the weather is in the 20-40 degree zone but to take into account the outside temperature and wind chill.
“Wear appropriate layers. The rule of thumb is to dress a child in one more layer than you would as an adult,” Tara Keller, a physical therapist at The Center, says.
Tara suggests wearing mittens instead of gloves (fingers generate heat when they are not separated from each other); wearing a hat that covers the ears; and wearing boots that are waterproof.
So now that your kids are bundled up, what should you do while you’re outside?
“Try building a snowman, sledding, and pulling a sled,” Nurse Ann says.
“Larger muscles have to work harder in the snow. Sledding, walking in the snow, having snowball fights, building an igloo… even having kids use their own shovels to help clear the driveway or sidewalks is a great way to keep active,” she says.
Here are some additional ways to keep your kids playing outside, according to The Center’s physical therapists Tara Keller, Ashley Brown and Vicki Macklin.
- Take a hike! The Metro Park system has many opportunities for hikes at all skill levels.
- Invest in a pair of “bear claws” or snow shoes for the kids. These may entice kids to stay outside and explore more.
- Make a day of it. If you take the kids on a nature hike, provide them with a healthy snack to fuel their adventure. Let them prepare a “GORP” trail mix using granola, oats, raisins, peanuts. Save them as a treat for the “return” walk.
- Having an infant is no excuse to not go out. Go ahead and bundle up that baby! You don’t need an expensive carrier, you can even fashion one out of a sheet or curtains. The warmth from your chest will keep your baby warm, too. Bring a light blanket to drape over them to keep the wind out.
- Take your dog for a walk in your neighborhood or head over to one of your local parks.
- Feed the birds. Get some birdseed and feed the birds or go birdwatching. You can also make your own birdfeeders at home with pinecones, peanut butter and seeds and hang them up outside your window.
- Make a treasure map or scavenger hunt for your kids. Create a simple checklist (or pictures) of items that you might find outside like pinecones, leaves, sticks, seed pods, animal tracks.
- Set up an obstacle course in your own backyard. Make tunnels, use hula hoops or sticks to jump over, and create other challenges.
- Try one of your favorite summer activities in winter: blowing bubbles!
- Make “snow paint” by using food coloring and water in spray bottles. Spray the snow and make designs or decorate a snowman with paint.
- Instead of a snowball fight, have a snowball target contest. Set up a target in your yard and throw snowballs at it.
Just be sure to keep your kids hydrated during activities.
“You are still exercising even when it’s cold and your body is still losing fluid and electrolytes,” Tara says.
Another important reason to keep kids outside is to help them get their vitamins.
“Outdoor sun exposure is an excellent source of Vitamin D and stimulates serotonin, which can stabilize mood swings, reduce negative behavior, and decrease tiredness,” Nurse Ann says.
“Vitamin D from the sun promotes calcium absorption and bone development as well,” Tara says.
Of course, there are days when it is too cold to play outside. Wind chill, negative temperatures and excessive snow can keep you in. Susan Shuff, a physical therapist at The Center, suggests bringing your motor play indoors.
“Set up an obstacle course in the living room and get the kids to help you. Have pillows that can be crawled over, crawl under the table or through a pop up tunnel, step onto a step stool and jump off, step over toys… be creative by using things you already have at home,” she says.
Here are more activities to try when inside from physical therapists Susan Shuff and Vicki Macklin:
- Pretend to be different animals – crawl on your hands and knees, walk on hands and feet, slither like a snake, jump like a frog with hands and feet on the ground, hop like a kangaroo, or walk like a crab.
- Host a dance party! Turn off the lights, turn up the music. Kids love to dance and would love to see you dance with them.
- Find medium or large size cardboard boxes. These are great for imaginative play. Kids can build ships, make rockets, trains, cars out of them.
- Build a fort indoors using blankets, pillows, couch cushions. Pretend you’re camping outside and serve up hot chocolate on your pretend campfire.
- If you can safely leave the house, there are lots of indoor playgrounds and places to visit such as the library, Graeter’s Ice Cream on Bethel Rd., indoor swimming at the recreation center or YMCA, COSI and the indoor exhibits at the Columbus Zoo.
No matter what the weather, winter provides lots of opportunities for fun both inside and out!