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Getting Children Outdoors This Winter

 Stark figures from Sport England highlighted that in 2020 the number of children taking part in up to 60 minutes of exercise a day was just 19%.  As a business, we’ve been dedicated to tackling this issue through our Holiday Camp programmes. With the short days and plummeting temperatures, we know how difficult it can be to encourage children to embrace the outdoors. It is vital that we do so if we are going to continue combatting the current physical fitness crisis amongst young children.

Each season offers different opportunities for play and exploration. Winter is no different.  Read on to see why outdoor play should be embraced in all weathers. 

The physical benefits

  Regardless of the season, playing outdoors promotes healthy physical development and mental well-being. Outdoor play encourages children to use all of their muscles as they run, jump, skip and slide. Winter exercise, in particular, is essential as children are faced with a more challenging playscape. It is vital that children continue to develop their skills during a time that is crucial for their physical development. 

Emotional benefits 

 Outdoor play can have a wide range of benefits for your child’s emotional health. It can help children grow in confidence and increase their self-esteem as they tackle challenges. These benefits are particularly prominent during the winter months, as rain and frost can provide hazards that children need to learn to navigate. Thus, improving their problem-solving skills and their ability to assess risks. It’s also been proven that playing outside can help improve your child’s mental well-being – and this is true no matter the season. During the winter we have a much smaller window of opportunity to be exposed to sunlight and that all-important Vitamin D. Vitamin D provides us with energy and improves our mood, meaning it’s more important than ever to encourage children to get outside when they can.

Fresh- air is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. It helps us to refresh our minds, burn off energy and will help your child to establish a positive understanding of year-round exercise. 

Social Benefits 

  Outdoor play is a wonderful way for children to develop their social skills as they collaborate together. They learn to share, negotiate and problem solve as a group. The winter provides us with such a beautiful backdrop that can only enhance a child’s imagination. Think about how much joy we all get from a snow day! 

Now that’s all great in theory. But we know just how hard it is to convince your children to get outside when the weather is looking glum. So we’ve included some handy tips to help give your children the nudge they might need. 

Tip 1) dress them warm

This one might seem very obvious, but it will make a huge difference to your child’s enjoyment of their winter adventures. Aim to dress your child in layers that can easily be taken off (or put back on). We know how hard it can be to get children to keep on their big bulky coats (especially when they are busy running and playing). We recommend avoiding clothes that are cotton-based, as these can soak up sweat and moisture and cause a chill. Choice of footwear is important too. Ideally, it needs to be waterproof and suitable for mud – as this is almost inevitable when children are playing outside. 

Tip 2) keep upbeat

We know how easy it is for the long winters to have a dampening effect on our mood. However, if you have a bad attitude towards the weather, then this is likely to rub off on your children. Treat each day – no matter what the British weather might throw at you – as a new opportunity for an adventure

3) Organise easy/fun activities 

  Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunts are great as they can be tailored to each child’s age and interests. You can encourage your child to witness the beauty of the winter season by collecting seasonal items such as holly and acorns. Don’t forget to keep a lookout for animals that are out during the short sunshine hours, such as robins. This engaging activity is an easy way to get your children to enjoy the outdoors. In a time where it’s reported that the radius a child explores around the vicinity of their home has shrunk by 90% since 1970, activities like this are more important than ever. 

 Help your local wildlife

The winter months are a difficult time for our local wildlife too. Why not get your children involved in making a birdfeeder to help out the hungry birds in your garden. Click here for an easy-to-follow guide. Another option, if you have the space, is to create a ‘wild pile’ made up of twigs, logs, and leaves. This will make the perfect hibernating spot for wildlife such as frogs and hedgehogs. 

Activities like this can go a long way to combatting the ‘nature deficit disorder’ that many young people are currently experiencing. These are just a couple of ideas – there are many more – the only limit is your creativity. Click here for some inspiration.

 As a society, we need to alter the way we look at winter. Perhaps, we should take a leaf out of the book of countries like Germany and Sweden. Despite the bitterly cold winters, children in these countries are encouraged to be outside in all weathers. Instead of sheltering our children inside this winter, let’s see the changing seasons as another invaluable opportunity for learning and growth.