So when I walked outside this morning, the crisp cool air hit my face and it reminded me of how close fall actually is. I figured today would be a great day to set inside and get some work done since it was rainy and cold. As I am sitting here thinking about everything I need to get done for the new center I start to think about how so many parents would get upset about us taking our children out in cold weather at the center. For those of you who don’t know me I have worked in Early Education for around 19 years. I have worked in child care centers as a teacher, director, and owner. I have worked in the school system and currently I work for Head Start. The field of Early Education encourages providers to take children outside in all weather unless their is a weather advisory, but there was always issues with parents and even teachers about having children out in weather that was a little chilly. With that I thought that it would be very beneficial for not just my self to research this topic so that I would have back up, but I thought that it would be very beneficial for our followers to have the research and back up to better explain to parents the importance of having children outside playing in the cold weather.
So what I have found is that it is very important for our children to get play time outside!!! The following are several reasons why this decision is so important to our children and our families.
1. Children Can Escape Indoor Germs, Bacteria
It is impossible to keep children from all viruses or bacteria that cause them to get sick, especially in colder weather when it is so hard to take them outside. However, allowing children to come into contact with some of bacteria in a natural way can actually make them less likely to develop autoimmune disorders and allergies, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
“It strengthens the immune system by allowing your child an escape from indoor germs and bacteria and helps form a resistance to allergies,” the CDC said.
It is important to get fresh air because germs that are brought into the house get recycled over and over again through ventilation systems, according to the California Childcare Health Program (CCHP). Therefore, the more time you spend inside, the more you are exposed.
“When children spend a lot of time in indoor spaces that are poorly ventilated, germs and illnesses pass easily from one person to another,” the CCHP said.
2. More Opportunities for Play Outdoors
When children walk through snow, their large muscles get more of a work out and this enhances their gross motor skills. Health issues and stunt in growth can be a cause of loss of gross motor development for long periods of time.
Increased exercise will help promote a better sleep cycle and can lead to children growing stronger and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Going sledding, helping to shovel snow or building a snow fort or snowman are some fun physical activities for children during the winter.
Safety Tips for Outdoor Play During Winter
1. Set time limits and have children come inside periodically to warm up.
2. Watch out for common warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
3. Dress children in multiple loose layers so they stay dry and warm, and never let them play in extreme cold.
4. Rule of Thumb: Dress children in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
5. Check surroundings beforehand to see if there are any icy or slippery patches.
Information provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Problem Solving Skills
There are so many different challenges when it comes to playing in the winter weather, both cognitively and physically. Things that are available in the summer are usually not available in the Winter so children have to utilize their imagination to find new activities for Winter fun.
Playing and engaging in different environments like playing and packing snow, sledding and learning how to handle the different terrain to keep safe are all important lessons that can only be learned when you experience the environment and learn from hands on experiences.
4. Vitamin D is Essential
According to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, prevents rickets in children and prevents bones from becoming too thin or brittle.
Sun exposure is an important source of vitamin D, especially for children, since very few foods contain it naturally and the ones that do are unappealing to children such as fatty fish, according to ODS.
The amount of sunlight children are exposed to and the amount of vitamin D they absorb can have a large impact on their mood.
“Vitamin D, which is produced in skin exposed to the hormone of sunlight, has been found to change serotonin levels in the brain, which could account for changes in mood,” according to a 2008 study conducted by Jaap Denissen about the effects of weather on daily mood.
Serotonin is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating mood. Lower levels of serotonin, and higher levels of melatonin, could correspond with depression like symptoms. The less exposure you have to the sun, the lower your vitamin D and serotonin levels will be.
“Therefore, lower levels of vitamin D could be responsible for increases in negative affect and tiredness,” according to Denissen’s research.
When is it too cold to go out side?
When you are looking letting your children go outside to play in the cold weather think about what precautions should be taken. As a rule of thumb, you should use the wind-chill as the best judge on if it’s too cold to play outside. In general, when the wind-chill is 32 degrees and above, it’s safe to be outside. In temperatures 13 degrees to 31 degrees, indoor breaks should happen every 20-30 minutes. For wind-chills of 13 degrees and below, you should move activities indoors and outside of the cold as frostbite can set in very quickly.
Another factor to consider is when children are at school and participating in recess activities. Currently, there is not a national mandate on temperature standards for children being outside. The best way to prepare is to stock your child up with proper clothing and warm weather gear. Be sure to dress in layers to start with. Children should be equipped with hats, mittens, or gloves. A good option for kids are wraps that cover the head and neck at the same time. For babies and children not yet mobile, it’s important to check their hands and faces so as to make sure they aren’t getting too chilled.
So get your children outside! Let them get away from screens and have the time that they need to grow physically and mentally. Children need us to let them go outside and have fun and be engaged.