The importance of outdoor play in winter

Montessori Academy shares how important it is for children to continue outdoor play in the months of winter. It is common for adults to restrict children to indoor play, and only permit play outdoors when it is warm and sunny. The benefits explained in this article could lead you to reconsider children’s play outside in the colder months.

Many parents fear that their children will not “like” being outside in the cold, or that they will get sick from being outside in the cold fresh air. For this reason, it is particularly important that young children enjoy outdoor activities in their early childhood education service.

Playing outside in autumn, winter, and early spring, each present their own unique opportunities for exploration and learning. Therefore, outdoor play should be embraced in all types of weather, as it is crucial for children’s ongoing development.

The Most Common Winter Myth Dispelled

My child will get sick if they play outdoors in the cold

Most adults associate winter with getting colds and illnesses such as the flu. However, it is not exposure to the cold that cause these viruses. In fact, it’s likely to be increased exposure to poorly ventilated indoor environments, where bacteria and viruses live. By encouraging outdoor play in winter, children gain much needed exposure to fresh air and Vitamin D, while avoiding bacteria.

Why Outdoor Winter Play is Important

See the outdoors through a new lens

During the spring and summer, children become familiar with bright green foliage, flowers in bloom, and a warm climate. As the change in season, they come to see different characteristics in their environment, such as brown grass, fallen leaves, and ice.

These developments provide children with new experiences and opportunities, such as learning about the seasons, and the life cycles of plants. Through outdoor play in the winter, children also learn to see their environment through a different lens, and progress from being unconscious to conscious observers of their environment.

The physical health benefits of outdoor play

Playing outdoors in winter promotes physical development and well-being. This is because outdoor play encourages the use of the whole body by offering a safe space to run, jump, and exercise key muscle groups.

Through activities such as riding tricycles, swinging, and running, children increase their large muscle use. This increase in physical activity supports children’s gross motor development and overall health.

It is important that children remain active in the cooler months so that they continue to build emerging skills that are crucial to their physical development.

The emotional benefits of outdoor play

Outdoor activities also promote emotional health benefits, such as self-confidence, and the ability to assess risks. By encouraging outdoor play in the winter, children learn to identify hazards, such as slippery surfaces, and moderate their behaviour to ensure their safety.

Further, challenges associated with winter environments, such as icy leaves, and games played in fog, also provides children with new ways to develop their emotional skills. Through wintery games, children learn to explore, work together, and find harmony in endless problem-solving opportunities.

The social benefits of outdoor play

Finally, playing outdoors with others encourages social development and collaboration. This is because play teaches children how to work together in groups, which includes learning to share, negotiate, and solve conflict.

Social outdoor play also provides children the opportunity to exercise and stretch their imaginations. In winter, the physical changes to the outdoor environment provide children with new opportunities for socio-dramatic play, and winter-themed games.

Children who are encouraged to explore through play are also more likely to learn new skills and overcome challenges, which promotes self-confidence, resilience, and self-advocacy. The development of these social skills are highly important to the development of healthy social relationships, communication skills, and a strong sense of self.

The article was originally published on 10 June 2017 on the Montessori Academy blog. Read the original here.

ECA Recommends

Risk and adventure in early years outdoor play
By Sara Knight

This book will give you the confidence to offer the children in your setting adventurous and challenging outdoor activities, as well as ways to utilize natural resources to their best advantage. There is clear, practical advice on what you need to do, which is underpinned by the theory that supports the benefits of this approach. You can purchase a copy here and is a part of the ECA EOFY sale, view sale items here.

Early Childhood Australia'

4 thoughts on “The importance of outdoor play in winter”

    James Franco says:

    Playing outdooor is very important for today’s children, as they are so much now involved with technology. And we as parents should always encourage them to play and stay healthy.

    Eliana Gaup says:

    In Kautokeino, Norway, children play outdoors in 68 fahrenheit.

    Sue Leach says:

    I work as a Kindy teacher in a long day care setting and I make sure the children get outside as soon as I get on the floor. We feed the birds and set up the garden experiences for the children that arrive later in the morning. The children are now drawing and identifying the birds in the garden and they know to be still and watch them instead of chasing them away.

    Priyanshu Singh says:

    Children love to play outside.They ride bikes, jumping activities, run with friends make them happy. Playing in sand pit teach them social skills, taking and sharing, taking decisions make them happy and confident member of our society.

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