How many of you just love being outdoors? I know for me, I love it.....when it's warm. Now that winter is around the corner, I'd prefer snuggling up with a blanket on the couch, in front of a fire. I often hear others say, "It's too cold to go outside." As much as I don't prefer the colder weather, I understand it's important to get children outside everyday, in every season.
Stocking up on the proper gear is essential to your child's enjoyment of the outdoors in all seasons. I love the saying, "there is no bad weather - only bad clothing." In really cold weather, think - wool socks, long johns, wool or fleece hat, mittens that are water proof, 3-in-1 jacket that is also waterproof, lined boots, face mask, neck warmer, and snow pants. Even though this is more work - it is critical that we still allow children the time to play outdoors in order to get adequate movement, sensory stimulation in the most natural way, and the chance to simply play and explore in nature. Just think of all the new things to investigate and explore that weren't available just a few months ago.
Forest Kindergartens are growing in popularity around the world and are starting to spread in America in recent years. These children spend at least 2-3 hours of their day outdoors, if not all of their time....no matter what the weather is! Research has stated that these children are less likely to get sick and have stronger immune systems, due to all the time they spend outdoors. I believe the more time children spend outdoors - the stronger they will get. They will also have increased tolerance to colder weather.
Soon there will be snow on the ground and your child's imagination will continue to go wild. Before they are gone, put some leaves and sticks aside for winter. They can be used to add character to snow forts and other snow-built creations. Children can build with snow just as they built with mud and dirt in the Springtime. Adding sticks, leaves, moss, and rocks can provide even more personality to their creations.
Don't be afraid to look for icicles. They've gotten a bad reputation since they can be sharp and used as "weapons." I remember taking my gloves off as a kid just to break one down off the porch and hold it in my hands. I still remember how cold and refreshing it felt. Sledding is always fun for children and something the older kids can do on their own, if you have a nice hill around your house or in your neighborhood. There are so many different types of sleds - all giving different types of much-needed vestibular input - not to mention the exercise it takes to go back up the hill each time in order to sled back down again.
Sometimes infants and toddlers aren't too fond of the snow at first. I see many parents and teachers give up and just decide to stay inside. The change in seasons can be hard at first for all ages, but if you go outside for a few minutes at a time, and then gradually increase the time you spend outside - everyone's tolerance will increase. Often times, you go outside with the intention of just spending a few minutes and end up having a blast - staying out there for hours!
I didn't mind the cold when I was a kid. I wonder what happened as I got older? Homework? Sports? Work? What started keeping me inside and eventually turned me from loving the different seasons, to dreading the cold? As adults - maybe it is important that we spend time outdoors in all seasons as well. Our play may look a little different. Maybe we take up snowshoeing, downhill skiing, or cross-country skiing, to name a few.
The worst thing we can do as adults is project our negative feelings about the cold on to our children. If we don't go outside or always complain about how cold it is, our children will pick up on this. Maybe it is time we take up some winter sports like ice skating or ice fishing and do this alongside our children. Make it a family tradition - something fun to look forward to in the winter months ahead.
Let's put aside our issues with the cold and get our children outside, in every season!
- Robin VanGundy
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