Outside Play During the Winter
Once again, we are in the middle of winter. However, this year certainly feels a bit different. Ten months into this pandemic and a limited ability to spend time with people outside of our home circle has made many of us crave warmer weather more fervently than ever. As a mother and a pediatrician, I hear these sentiments daily from my own family and my patients. My parents, my teen patients, our school age virtual learners, my own toddlers: everyone is looking for an outlet. The good news is that time outside can provide this much needed outlet, despite the 30 degree temperatures.
Here are a few reasons that bundling up and spending time outdoors is important for all of us:
1. Sunshine - Being stuck indoors during a long winter can take a toll on our vitamin D levels. Living in the northeast certainly exacerbates the issue. Low vitamin D levels can be associated with depressive symptoms and other mental health issues, which are already exacerbated by the isolation and increased stress most are experiencing during this pandemic. Sun exposure is critical to our wellbeing. Get outside and lather on some sunscreen to any bit of skin that is not covered in your warm layers.
2. Physical exercise - Indoor play places are not an option during a pandemic and most organized sports are currently on hold. Taking a hike, playing tag in the back yard, or riding a bike are all excellent socially-distanced options that increase our exercise minutes. Children need exercise daily - an hour a day is ideal, especially when our kids don’t even get to walk to the bus-stop or between classrooms anymore.
3. Physical development - There is significantly more freedom outdoors, allowing children to develop their athletic abilities. Throwing a ball, skipping a rock, jumping, running- most of these are limited in the house and are naturally practiced and enjoyed if we get outside. The space outside allows children to test their own physical limits.
4. Cognitive development - Time spent outside provides new experiences and opportunities to face new challenges. Outdoor play allows kids to practice creative problem solving and nurtures curiosity about nature and the natural world.
Let’s get outside and move our bodies! If you dress appropriately in a warm coat, hat, and gloves, the cold weather does not have to be a barrier. Dress in layers so you can find a comfortable balance and don’t forget the water bottles!
For ideas on outdoor activities for your family:
For a list of local parks and trails in your county:
(it might be helpful to visit the website before you venture out - some counties have restroom facilities closed)