One of our missions at Camp Pinnacle is to foster a love of the outdoors. That is why we strive to make the time our campers spend outside challenging and engaging, but, most important, fun! Ultimately, we hope spending time outdoors on a regular basis becomes a lifelong passion.
Recently, we received our first snow day of the season. Snow fell through the night, and we woke up to six to eight inches of snow! By late morning, the sky was a brilliant blue. The kids were outside most of the day and couldn’t have been happier. However, for many of us, most winter weather is not as idyllic. Many days just aren’t ideal for getting our kids (and ourselves!) outside. Yet getting outside in the winter is just as important as when it’s 75 degrees and sunny.
Not quite sure how to accomplish this? We’re here to help: There are great reasons and easy ways to get outside this season. Let’s start with the reasons:
- Cold weather often gets a bad rap for causing colds and illnesses, but it’s often the warm, recirculating indoor air that more easily carries germs and viruses from person to person. Subjecting our bodies to varying temperatures, especially colder ones, helps build up our immune systems. Also, exposure to dirt and bacteria outside is actually good for us!
- Trudging through snow; moving carefully over uneven, slick surfaces; throwing snowballs; making snow angels; or simply avoiding wet, muddy terrain are all ways kids move and play during the wintertime. This type of movement tends to use the large muscles and support a child’s gross motor development. Increased exercise also promotes a better sleep cycle.
- Playing outside in the winter months stimulates the imagination. What to do in the rain? How to play soccer with two inches of snow and keep warm while waiting for your turn to kick? How to avoid (or not avoid!) the big puddles when jumping off the swing? How to make a snowman that won’t topple over? Many games and activities will need a little tweaking in the winter, and your children will have to think it through for the best option.
- When we stay indoors in the winter, we not only miss out on play, but also necessary vitamins that the outdoor environment gives us. Even though the sun isn’t as warm, it still provides vitamin D, which helps regulate mental and emotional moods. By increasing serotonin levels in the brain, exposure to the sun plays an important part in regulating mood and keeping us happy. And who doesn’t want a happy kid? Just 15 to 30 minutes a day does the trick!
We have all those reasons, now, what about the “how?” It can certainly take a little more coaxing to get everyone outside this time of year. In our opinion, the easiest, most important way is to change everyone’s perception of “bad” weather. Weather is only bad if you’re not prepared for it! Our campers learn this at camp and prepare for each day with this in mind. While the media often portrays weather events as bad and dangerous and something to “deal with,” most people enjoy a change in the weather. It makes those warm spring days all the sweeter!
Having your kids properly dressed for the weather is the single most important thing that you can do to keep them outside. That typically means layers (inner, middle, and outer) that are synthetic or water-repellent/proof, warm feet and hands, and a hat. Being cold or wet will send kids back inside long before you’re ready for them.
Winter is also the perfect time to try something new! Skiing, snowshoeing, or even hiking are great ways to get outdoors. Hiking in the winter can be very different than in the summer, but just as rewarding: it offers different views with less (or no) foliage, teaches us to use different muscles and learn new skills as we encounter weather, and usually has way fewer people!
When your kids do exhibit that extra resilience during the winter, the perfect reward is also part of the fun. There is nothing like a nice, hot cocoa to ensure that they’ll get outside again (and again!).