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Benefits of Playing Outdoors in Winter

Winter. Whether you love it or hate it, playing outdoors this time of year offers benefits that you don’t want your children to miss out on.

Research has shown that children who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than children who spend more time indoors.

Although there are numerous benefits of outdoor play, here are


#10 Unique Learning Opportunities

Learning about nature, seasons, and weather in class is one thing, seeing and experiencing them is another. The changes that occur outside in winter stimulate children to ask questions about the world around them.

How is snow formed? Where do animals live in the winter? What made these tracks?

Nature in winter creates a unique sense of wonder for children that no other environment can provide.

#9 Building Confidence

Playing outdoors in winter provides many opportunities for children to build confidence by exploring new interests and trying new skills. The more they practice, the stronger they become and their confidence grows as they learn what their body is capable of.

Unlike many indoor activities, outdoor play is usually less structured, allowing children to interact with nature in a more meaningful way. Being able to make choices in how they play gives children the power to control their actions. This unstructured style of play builds confidence as children become more aware of their strengths and limits.

#8 Inspiring Creativity

Winter stimulates creativity through play with resources that are not available at any other time of the year. Snow can be used to build snowmen, forts, and tunnels. Tracks can be found, followed, and investigated. Ice can be stomped and broken. Snow can be painted with watercolors. The opportunities are endless for children to develop creativity while playing outdoors in winter.

#7 Practicing Risk Management Skills

Cold air, slippery surfaces, and wet clothing are all opportunities that encourage children to assess risk and adapt their play to ensure safety. This is an important part of child development.

Children learn by doing so they need to be exposed to safe risk-taking in winter to know what their limits are.

Risky play actually helps keep children safer than having no risk-taking opportunities. Winter provides many opportunities to practice risk management skills.

#6 Stimulating the Senses

Taste, touch sight, sound and smell are all stimulated when playing outdoors in winter, along with providing input to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems. This is becoming more important as children are spending less time outdoors and their sensory systems are becoming affected.

Cold, crisp, fresh air. Sun glittering off snow crystals. Birds flittering and ice cracking. High steps in deep snow. Sledding. Frozen nose hair. Visible breath. Building Snowmen.

Stimulating the senses in winter play allows children to integrate sensory input and experience the richness of nature play that cannot be found in any other season of the year.

#5 Problem-Solving Opportunities

Patches of ice and snow-covered landscapes provide children with new opportunities to develop their problem-solving skills. “What is the best way to build an igloo?” “How do I keep snow out of my boots?” “What is the best way to get across the ice without slipping?”

Children love challenges, and the winter months provide them with many new problems, challenges, and outcomes for them to explore.

#4 Providing Vitamin D

Children get Vitamin D through sun exposure, which helps regulate their mental and emotional moods. This means that the more children sit inside, the lower their vitamin D levels are, and this leads to fatigue, low moods, and irritability.

It is recommended that children spend about half an hour outdoors each day in winter to keep vitamin D levels up. However, research has found that in as little as 15 minutes of playing outside, children can get their daily dosage of vitamin D and reap the benefits.

#3 Reducing Illness

Nothing is more refreshing than that first deep breath of cold, winter air before starting hours of fun with outdoor play.

Being outside allows your child to develop a stronger immune system and a resistance to allergies. Studies have shown that children in rural areas or those who are active outside have the best overall health.

Although the viruses that cause flu and colds are more common in the winter months, the increased time children spend indoors is to blame for most of our illnesses in the winter. The more time they spend inside, the more they are exposed.

Playing outside allows your child an escape from indoor germs and bacteria. In fresh, outdoor air, children reduce the chance of exposure and spreading infection.

#2 Exercising for the Joy of It

Playing outdoors in winter is a great way to get exercise without realizing it. Not only is exercise good for children’s bodies, but makes them more focused, which is especially beneficial for children with ADHD.

In addition, the changes winter brings to the outdoor environment mean muscles are used in different ways. Activities such as sledding, walking or running through the snow, or building a snowman put larger muscles to work and help develop gross motor skills. Children get the exercise they need while experiencing the joy of playing in nature.

THE #1 REASON to play outside this winter…


So, while staying indoors is the easier choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play this winter. The benefits outweigh any excuse not to.

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