The importance of outdoor play in winter is often underestimated. The cooler seasons have a bad rap for ‘getting sick’ as we often associate it with cold and flu season. However, it is not the exposure to the cold that causes 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 the winter with appropriate clothing, children and adults gain much-needed exposure to fresh air and vitamin D, while avoiding bacteria.
It’s important for young children to enjoy outdoor activities in early years learning services for environmental learning and exploration. Therefore, we should embrace outdoor play in all weather to promote children’s overall well-being.
Becoming observers and seeing the changes
Exploring outdoor spaces during the cooler seasons offers valuable learning opportunities for children to observe and understand the distinct contrasts from Spring/Summer. In these seasons, vibrant green leaves and blooming flowers give way to changing colors and textures, while bees and insects retreat. The cooler air of autumn and winter also brings fewer sightings of insects and birds. This exploration empowers children to develop skills tailored to each season and engage in responsible care-taking of their environments.
Physically active outdoors in winter
It is important that children remain active in the cooler months so that they continue to build emerging skills that are vital to their physical development.
Emotional benefits of outdoor play
When children play outside in winter, they have an opportunity to identify potential hazards like slippery surfaces and adjust their behaviour accordingly with support from an adult to ensure their safety. This process of hazard recognition enhances their self-awareness and decision-making skills.
Social benefits of outdoor play
Through play, they learn important group skills like sharing, negotiation, and conflict resolution.
Outdoor play in a social setting also provides children with ample opportunities to exercise their imagination. In winter, the physical transformations of the outdoor environment offer new avenues for socio-dramatic play and winter-themed games.
Encouraging children to explore increases their likelihood of learning new skills. It also helps with overcoming challenges, thereby developing self-confidence, resilience, and self-advocacy. These social skills are important for fostering healthy relationships, communication skills, and a sense of self in children.