Being outdoors comes with many benefits and opportunities for exploration and learning. But what about heading outside during these colder months?
While it might feel like those rainy days restrict us from enjoying outdoor play, the truth is there are so many great benefits from popping on your boots, dressing warm and getting out into nature, even in winter!
Many parents may be worried that their children won’t enjoy being outside when it’s cold, or that they will get sick. This is why it’s even more important for children to enjoy being outdoor in all seasons from early. Research shows that being outdoors is excellent for kids’ immune systems. Constantly being stuck indoors may mean an increased exposure to poorly ventilated indoor environments where bacteria and viruses live. Going outside means exposing our children to fresh air and boosts vitamin D levels.
In winter, kids can be stuck indoors for a period of time (hello cabin fever!), children need to get outside to run, jump and wiggle using their big muscles! These muscles are different to the ones used during other seasons as there is an increase in physical activity to support their gross motor development . For example, compare balancing on a wet, slippery log to a dry one over the warmer months.
Outdoors in nature also provides lots of space for active play and different environments to explore and creates a greater connection to nature. Fresh air and a constantly changing environment means there is always something new to experience and learn. If it’s your baby’s first winter, this is an exciting time as everything is new – going outside and exploring together means new things to see, touch, smell and talk about. So make sure you dress them up warm and include them in on the outdoor fun too.
We may not realise it, but our kids are learning so much through play. Exploring the world in winter gives lots of opportunity for making discoveries and experimenting. Doing something simple like shaking the branches after it has rained teaches cause and effect.
Walking through puddles or running through them shows the different splashes that happen with different forces – all this is building science concepts. Noticing differences in sizes, shapes and colours and counting leaves /sticks / stones will help your child to develop their number and counting skills.
Being in different outdoor spaces provides simple challenges for children to practice risk assessment and problem-solving skills.
Winter is a great time for children to learn about what is safe, what is not safe and why when playing outside. Children love to explore risk-taking: through this they learn it’s OK to try new things and make mistakes – it’s how we learn!
Wet and slippery conditions in winter provide lots of opportunities to practice these skills. Clambering over logs and attempting to climb trees develops gross motor skills, strength and agility – so encourage this movement.
When children learn to solve problems on their own they develop independence and self-confidence as well as their thinking skills. So don’t be afraid to give your child some space and time to take the lead.
Research also suggests that children who play together in nature are more social with each other and have a greater connection to the environment. So why not head outside at your next playgroup session or play date?
Wanting more? We have developed a comprehensive online resource of play ideas for babies through to children – you can read more about winter play ideas and their benefits here.