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Benefits of Outdoor Winter Play

Posted: January 3, 2023

As the temperatures drop and our Canadian landscape is blanketed with snow and ice, we can easily find ourselves making less of an effort to get outdoors with our children. Although it may be easier and more comfortable to stay indoors where it is warm and cozy, getting outdoors in colder temperatures not only has its benefits, but is necessary. So, let’s bundle up in layers, slip on those snow pants, winter boots, toques, mitts, and get out to enjoy the winter wonderland!

Importance of Active Outdoor Play

Even in the winter months children require a minimum of 60 minutes of energetic play every day (CSEP, 2021) and although some energy expending activities are possible indoors – such as dancing or doing stretching exercises, the outdoors offers a wider variety of opportunities to promote physical health and practice gross motor skills safely. Outdoor exploration promotes whole-body play that is crucial to overall health and development, by exercising large muscle groups (Montessori Academy, 2022). Additionally, playing in the snow exposes children to engage in new activities that can enhance “creativity, imagination, dexterity, mobility, and social skills” (Masoori, 2022, para. 8).

Benefits of Outdoor Play

Another key benefit to outdoor physical play in the winter is mental health and wellness. Limited sunshine and shortened daylight results in a decrease of exposure to vitamin D, which can lead to what is known as the winter blues (My Modern Parents, n.d.). According to evidence highlighted by ParticipACTION (2018), physical activity reduces symptoms of “depression and anxiety, in helping with stress management and in improving self-esteem in children and youth” (p. 16).

Suggested Winter Activities:

  • Snowman building
  • Snow painting (Combine food colouring/watercolour paints in water and place in a spray bottle)
  • Winter trail walking
  • Tobogganing
  • Shoveling snow
  • Make a percussion wall in the backyard using an empty wall/fence. Hang random household items such as pots, pans, baking sheets, wooden spoons, colander, and silverware

References

CSEP. (2021). Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for the early years (0-4 years): An integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. 24-Hour Movement Guidelines. https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/early-years/

Masroori, M. (2022). The Importance of Outdoor Play, even in the winter. BrightPath Kids Corp. https://brightpathkids.com/family-blog/benefits-of-outdoor-play-in-the-winter

Montessori Academy. (2022). The Importance of Outdoor Play in Winter. Montessori Academy. https://montessoriacademy.com.au/outdoor-play-in-winter/

My Modern Parents (n.d.). Winter Blues and Children: What It Is and How to Fight the Winter Blues. https://www.mymodernparents.com/en/winter-blues-and-children-what-it-is-and-how-to-fight-the-winter-blues

ParticipACTION. (2018). Canadian Kids Need to Move More to Boost Their Brain Health. [PDF]. 2018_participaction_report_card_-_highlight_report_0-1.pdf