With a lack of summer sunshine, the ongoing days of winter and frigid temperatures can leave families and children feeling stuck indoors. However, it’s important to get outside, no matter the weather.
Seattle Children’s Dr. Pooja Tandon encourages outdoor play, as it promotes opportunities for physical activity and motor development, boosts Vitamin D levels and improves mental health.
There are also added social interactions and sensory experiences that children experience when outdoors.
“Take advantage of the power of playing in nature—near your home or neighborhood, or wherever you feel comfortable,” shared Dr. Tandon with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “Remember to dress appropriately for the weather. It’s also a good idea to wash hands or use hand sanitizer during and after your adventure.”
On the Pulse spoke with the pediatrician, scientist and mother who shared her five key pieces of advice to help parents, caregivers and kids enjoy the outdoors, even during the cold weather months.
Enjoy the season
The wintertime offers unique outdoor experiences, especially in the Pacific Northwest. From winter sports and snow play to viewing scenic landscape in playgrounds and parks, it’s a great place to bundle up and explore.
Avoid thinking of cold, wet weather as ‘bad weather,’ and instead view it as the time of year when children and adults alike need fresh air and movement to keep their health and spirits up.
Dress for adventure
Even in traditionally mild climates, winter temperatures can frequently drop below freezing, and it’s important for kids and babies to be properly and safely dressed for cold weather.
All of us will enjoy the outdoors more if we are warm and dry, so it’s best to dress in layers. Wearing warm and waterproof gear such as boots, a cap, jackets and gloves will create a more positive experience.
Invite family and friends
Kids and adults often have more fun when outdoor experiences are shared with others. Invite relatives, friends, classmates or neighbors to join an afterschool or weekend activity such as walking or hiking, or plan a day trip with family and friends.
Involve other caregivers
Most children spend a substantial amount of time during the day with other adults – from childcare providers and teachers to grandparents and neighbors. Often, this time is during peak daylight hours when it’s typically easiest to get outdoors.
Express the importance of daily outdoor play with them to ask for help in getting kids outdoors at times when you may not be able to do so.
Keep it simple
Plan simple activities like a nature walk or play tag to engage children. By keeping cold weather playtime informal and local, getting everyone outdoors will be less stressful. There is no need to buy expensive gear to take a walk around the neighborhood and have a nature scavenger hunt with your child.
By encouraging more outdoor playtime and physical activity no matter the weather, parents and caregivers can promote their child’s overall health and well-being, while embracing their naturally curious and creative minds.