While January brought some very un-wintery weather, it’s now February a and winter is back! While some people see winter as a time to snuggle up by a fire with a warm drink and hibernate, we do live in Canada! Regardless of the weather, getting outside has many benefits. A snuggle by the fire is a great reward after an engaging activity in the outdoors.
The benefits for children (and adults!) who play outdoors in all seasons are numerous: positive mental health; and improved concentration and confidence leading to better learning outcomes. Participaction’s Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play sums up the evidence this way:
When children are outside they move more, sit less and play longer — behaviours associated with improved cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body composition, bone density, cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal fitness and aspects of mental, social and environmental health.
Being cold is one of the biggest challenges for many when it comes to getting outdoors, so taking steps to stay warm will facilitate a more enjoyable experience for both you and your child as you venture outdoors.
Leaving snow suits out for young children to explore freely will encourage independence and allow your child to experiment with dressing him/herself to go outside. This is a great skill for children that will make outdoor play that much more enjoyable and exciting for all!
Engaging children outdoors includes adult participation and modeling. This is a great opportunity for us adults to let our inner child out and revisit the joys of winter! Some ideas to try include:
- Build a fort or igloo
- Make a snowman
- Make snow angels
- Have a snowball fight
- Build a winter obstacle course
- Create a skating rink in your own backyard
- Go tobogganing
- Skate or play shinny on the Canal or at the Lakefield Speed Skating Oval
- Try something new like snowshoeing, snowboarding, or Nordic skiing
- Hike in Jackson Park on the Rotary Trail
- Visit the animals at the Peterborough Zoo
- Visit your favourite Provincial Park and see how different it looks in winter!
- Build a snow slide and try sliding down it on your belly!
- Enjoy a winter picnic
- If allowed where you are build a fire and pretend to be trappers!
- Try Bird Watching (Set up bird feeders and the Chickadees will come… possibly even eat out of your hand once they are used to you!)
Finally, before heading outside for the day, make sure you have checked off these items:
- Ready-to-eat snacks that can easily be eaten with mittens to avoid freezing fingers.
- Bring more clothing than you think you will need – you can always shed layers as you warm up.
- Hot drinks or soup in a thermos can warm up cold bodies and give a little energy boost.
And most important of all – don’t forget the hot chocolate with marshmallows upon returning home from your winter adventure!