When it gets cold outside, it’s only natural to want to stay indoors. There’s television to watch and hot cocoa to drink. Why go outside and get cold or covered with snow? Plus, we have this unfounded idea that being in the cold contributes to us getting sick.
The truth is playing outside, especially in the winter months, is healthy for you and your children. Staying inside is bad for you mentally as well as physically. You should be thankful we don’t have to hibernate for three months like so many other living beings. So before you check what’s on TV, check out these benefits of playing outside in the winter.
Playing Is Exercise
We all need exercise. Getting out and playing in the snow will give your children exercise without them even thinking about it. Walking up a sledding hill will help them develop their leg muscles. Plus, walking through snow presents an extra challenge and the need for more exertion. Sitting on the couch doesn’t provide these benefits. In fact, sitting around and not getting any exercise can lead to a variety of health problems and conditions.
Of course, there is a limit or a happy medium to their outdoor play, Make sure they are dressed in layers and are wearing hats and gloves. Have them come in periodically to warm up and ask them how their toes and fingers feel.
Use your judgment about what temperatures are too cold for outdoor play. The colder it is, the less time they should spend outside. Other than that, let them have at it. Building a snowman, sledding and making a fort are all activities that will keep them happy and healthy. They will sleep better, too.
Outdoor Air Is Healthier
Many of us get sick this time of year. Cold and flu viruses spread in the dry, stale air of our homes and businesses. Because it is so cold, we don’t open the windows or enjoy a fresh breeze. The more people congregating in poorly ventilated, dry, heated air, the more likely germs can pass from one person to another.
There is no sure way to avoid getting sick, but getting outside and breathing healthier air will help. Let the inside germs find someone else to make miserable.
Bring New Life to Your Playset
Your playset may be covered in snow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it all winter. Encourage your child to find new ways to play with their playset. It can still make a great fort, maybe even a place to get away from the wind, depending on how extensive it is. Slides can be swept off and used.
It might be a little too cold for swinging, but you can give it a try. Just make sure your kids are wearing gloves, as chains, even covered ones, can get pretty cold. If your playset is multilevel, just be careful of slippery icy spots. Just like in the spring, run regular safety checks.
Check your playset and make sure the bolt caps are covered, bolts are tightened and the S hooks are completely closed. Remove any ropes your child may have added, as these can present strangulation hazards as well as give a false impression of safety when they are not original equipment.
Winter Rays Provide Vitamin D
Vitamin D doesn’t come naturally in too many foods, but you can get it from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and can prevent rickets, a bone disease that can cause bowing of the legs and other deformities.
Vitamin D can increase serotonin levels in the brain and will increase the chances your child will stay in a better mood. With the days being shorter, your child doesn’t get as many opportunities to enjoy the sunlight. They’ll be happier when they do.
Some Play Ideas
So, everything is frozen or covered in snow. What else can you do besides sled, make snowmen and play on your playset? Use the cold weather to your advantage.
Freeze Tupperware containers full of water in order to make ice blocks that can be used for forts or sculptures. Send smaller kids outside with a spray bottle full of water with food coloring added to it. They can make their snowman green, or create colorful designs that will last as long as the snow. You can freeze colored ice cubes or balloons full of water to make Christmas ornaments in your driveway.
Snow is great for treasure hunts. Throw a few big colorful items like hula hoops or plastic bowling pins into your yard, and have a contest to see who can find the most things. Come up with a prize that makes it worth all the rummaging in the snow.
Winter is a great time to go on family hikes, too. Your local park will have a whole new look in the winter. Your footsteps will crunch in the snow, and you will appreciate the peace winter offers in the woods. Snow-covered, leafless trees are beautiful natural artwork.
Instead of complaining about winter, make the best of it while it’s here. Whatever you decide to do, get out in the snow and play.