It’s time to head outside and discover the benefits of outdoor play in winter
We know it’s easy to stay indoors where it is warm and cosy, but it’s time to grab your children, pile on the warm woollies – there’s a winter wonderland just outside your front door, waiting to be discovered and explored!
It doesn’t matter if you live in the middle of a big city, or in a suburban community, there’s lots to see, do, smell and play outdoors in winter.
Playing outside in winter is good for your child’s health too. The fresh air and exercise that comes with outdoor play, can help them stay healthy (think Vitamin D) and stave off colds and flu.
Health benefits of outdoor play in winter
With the unstructured nature of outdoor play, your children won’t even realise they are exercising.
The endless activities and plenty of space, encourages your little one to move their bodies in so many ways – running, climbing, balancing, skipping, throwing, and kicking. This movement helps your child develop strong bones, improve muscle mass and increase their fitness levels.
When the sun comes out, they get their winter dose of Vitamin D, to boost your childs’ immune system and encourage bone development.
Studies have also found that exposure to bright daylight reduces your child’s risk of myopia, or near-sightedness. This light exposure can also enhance health and mental performance.
Emotional wellbeing benefits of winter outdoor play
The freedom to explore wider open spaces and fresh air helps your child feel happier, as well as quietening them. This calming effect assists them to regulate their moods, reduce stress levels, and improve their concentration.
With the wonder of nature and so many things to discover, the great outdoors can increase your child’s attention span. In fact, outdoor exercise is recommended for a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD).
The exposure to daylight can also improve your child’s sleeping patterns by resetting their biological clock and give them sleep inducing exercise and fresh air. This in turn can help regulate moods, encourage an appetite, and reduce insomnia.
Reggio Emilia and the benefits of winter outdoor play
So how do we incorporate the Reggio Emilia Approach with winter outdoor play?
The Reggio Emilia Approach recognises that your child has a deep curiosity and potential. This innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it. What better place than the great outdoors to spark this curiosity and encourage their learning and development.
Here are just some of the ways you can incorporate Reggio Emilia approach with winter outdoor play:
1) The environment is the third teacher
An integral element of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is the physical environment and immediate surrounds. The great outdoors offers a natural classroom filled with an abundance of unique stimulus to capture your child’s interest and attention.
See what your child can do with the different winter discoveries they find along the way… Climb a tree that has lost its leaves and view the world from the top, throw a pile of fallen autumn leaves and watch them slowly flutter down, pick sweetly perfumed winter bulbs for a favourite friend, or play hide and seek in the garden.
Watch your child come alive as nature provides countless play possibilities to explore new territory with curiosity.
The unpredictability of outdoor play allows your child to find moments to learn by trial and error, as well as failure and success and encountering risky situations – wet, mossy or icy ground, slippery stones or mud. These learning opportunities give them the confidence to overcome tricky situations or challenges by themselves.
2) Children are driven by their interests to understand and know more
Children are viewed as active and valuable members of the wider community who are capable members of society. The winter outdoor environment offers interesting conditions and activities to encourage your child’s natural ability to question, interpret and understand the world around them.
Let your child lead, to seek things and activities in the winter wonderland that spark their interest and creativity. Let them be free to search for objects and experiences they find along the way and be inventive in their play.
Winter sees the grass turning brown, the trees losing its leaves, the cold wind blowing the red and orange leaves off the tree, the grey, foggy mornings and frost on the ground. There are lots of questions to be asked and answered – what happens to the animals in winter? Are the clouds and sun different in winter? What can you smell as the wind blows?
3) Children are communicators
Children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through their interactions with others. Communication is a process, a way of discovering things, asking questions, using language as play. Playing with sounds and rhythm and rhyme; delighting in the process of communicating.
Playing outdoors can be less intimidating for little ones, with more space and a relaxed atmosphere, children are more inclined to step outside their comfort levels and be more social, make new friends. Through wintery activities, they are more comfortable talking with other children, more willing to play games in groups. Away from direct supervision, they are freer to learn new social skills and interact with other children.
By exploring outside and experiencing different activities physically, little ones learn new words through different movements and physical processes associated with winter outdoor adventures.
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Tips to get outside quicker
Ready, set, go, let’s go outside and start exploring! Here are some great tips to help you and your family get outside quicker:
- Keep your winter woollies at the front door (and make sure everyone leaves them there for their next adventure). Use wall hooks (try removable hooks) at your children’s height and open baskets to dump scarves, beanies and gloves. A space for everything helps your little ones tidy up and make it easier to go on more outdoor play adventures!
- Wear rubber boots – rubber boots can be quickly slipped on and off and are easy to keep clean and dry when your little ones do find the mud and rain puddles. It also keeps your good shoes and sneakers dry.
- Call on friends and family to join in the fun – if others are going outside, your child won’t want to miss out.
OK, here are some winter outdoor games to get the fun started
If you are having trouble getting your little one off the technology and outside, start with some fun games, they’ll soon be drawn to other fascinations in nature to allow them to explore and make their own fun.
Begin with a nature treasure hunt – draw some items on a paper bag for your child to find in the garden, the first to find all the ‘treasures’ wins a prize.
Grab a stick of chalk and play hopscotch, draw funny faces, write letters and messages on the path, or play a game of tic tac toe.
If you are brave, make mud pies! Simply add water and soil, and use sticks and old kitchen utensils to mix and create. For a less messy version, our little ones love making flower soup – water and flower petals mixed together with a stick.
Pack a picnic lunch – get your little one involved in choosing the food for the picnic and head outside to enjoy. Don’t forget a thermos of hot chocolate.
Once you have coaxed your little one outside, we bet you’ll have a hard time getting them back inside! And when all the fun is finished, there’s nothing like opening the front door, to a warm house, with rosy cheeks, and smelling of fresh air.
So come with us, let’s explore the great winter outdoors!