Playing outside in all seasons

When I moved with my family to Norway, we quickly learned the Norwegian proverb: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”, and found that everyone followed this saying. Norwegians are outside all year long and they have clothing options for every type of weather you could encounter. At first I was forced to go outside because we didn’t have a car, so I had to walk to the store and bus stop several times a day, but as time went on I started to embrace the idea of going outside, even when it was cold and wet. Although I love being outside, I was not prone to play outside very often once winter came, but when I started playing outside with my daughter in cold weather I learned that I was always happy once I did go out. I also learned that the weather was never as bad as I imagined it to be before leaving the house. In the summer months it’s easy to send our children outside to play or to plan an outdoor activity, but no matter the season we should take our children outside to play.

Playing outside is good for health

One major reason why we should take our children outside is because of the positive health impact. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported that “air within homes and buildings can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, and in extreme cases, 1000 times more polluted.” Poor indoor air quality is caused by various pollutant sources in our homes, such as cleaning products, inadequate cooling and heating units, beauty products, electrical appliances. The harm of these pollutants are then amplified by poor ventilation, especially as we keep our windows closed throughout the cold months. Although there are times when outdoor air quality can also be poor, most of the time it is healthier to breathe in outdoor air rather than indoor air. Indoor air also amplifies the bacteria and viruses that cause sickness, which is one reason why colds and flus are more prone to be passed during the fall and winter months when everyone stays inside. Being outside also provides Vitamin D that our children so badly need.

Playing outside increases physical activity

Children are supposed to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. There’s limited space within a house for a child to fully exert themselves physically. Being outside provides a lot more freedom to run and most outdoor play revolves around physicality. In addition, when the normal playground equipment is inaccessible due to rain and snow, children are encouraged to use problem solving and imagination to create different play than they are used to. We recently had a big snowstorm where I live and my daughter has been asking to go outside more than she did when it was warm because she loves climbing on the snow hills, and making slides and snow angels. Children don’t seem to notice cold in the same way we do as adults, so we should indulge their desire to play in all weather whenever possible.

Playing outside is more fun when dressed for the weather

I attended an “introduction to Norway” class when we arrived and one of the papers I received was focused on how to dress for cold and wet weather. I thought it was comical because
it was colder where I came from than it was ever going to get in the southern, coastal town we were living in. But, they take their clothing seriously, which is a good thing not only for safety, but it really is more enjoyable to be outside when you are dressed right. Before going outside, assess how long you will be outside. This affects how many layers of clothing you will need. If it’s cold and wet, most of the time you will only be going outside for a short time, especially with younger children. If the time is unknown, then check on your children’s body temperature frequently and come inside for a break to warm up if needed. For the coldest temperatures, first dress your children with a loose, non-cotton base layer, such as wool or polyester. Add one more layer before dressing with a warm, waterproof coat and rain pants/snow pants, if needed. Avoid over-layering because it can also be dangerous if your child’s body temperature becomes too hot. Buy appropriate socks, boots, gloves, and hats. Tie-down hats are especially nice because they will stay tight around your child’s ears and not fall off while they are playing.

Now that winter is upon us, equip your children with the right gear and start exploring playgrounds and new sports so winter becomes a season to look forward to.

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