Are you dreading wintertime cries of, “I’m bored,” even though it’s only early fall? With Old Man Winter on the way, you might lament the approaching cabin fever and its impact on your child’s behavior. Why not let them play outdoors year-round?
Despite folk tales that you might have heard about cold weather causing illness, outdoor winter play can help prevent disease. It provides a host of other benefits as well. Here are nine reasons to bundle up the littles and say, “Do you want to build a snowman?”
1. Gets Them Fresh Air
If you have a sick family member, getting your kids out the door more often might protect them. According to multiple infectious disease experts, outdoor gatherings are safer than indoors — your children might run a higher risk by attending school.
COVID-19 isn’t the only nasty bug making the rounds this time of year. Improper ventilation can let ordinary cold and flu germs proliferate. Plus, exposure to indoor allergens can spur inflammation and lower the immune response, making your kids more susceptible to the strain-of-the-year.
2. Boosts Their Immune Function
You want your kids to have healthy immune systems now more than ever. Get them out in the fresh air, please.
Why? Plants emit phytoncides, which are antimicrobial organic compounds that help philodendrons and oak trees fight off herbivores seeking a snack. Your kids inhale these outdoors, killing some germs instantly and revving up their immune system to battle the rest.
3. Provides a Vitamin D Boost
Your kids need copious vitamin D supplies. The sunshine nutrient helps keep their mood on an even keel while supporting healthy bone growth. Some studies suggest that a deficiency in this substance might set them up for osteoporosis as they age.
As the days grow shorter, it’s more challenging to let kids play outdoors after dinner — the sun has long since set. Please encourage your child’s school to keep recess and P.E. These periods provide valuable opportunities for winter play in nature.
4. Encourages Physical Exercise
Even adults tend to move it more when they head outdoors. With their infinite curiosity, children can’t wait to explore every nook and cranny of the playground, which gets their little bodies in motion.
Even if your child takes gym class, they can only run so far. Plus, they might feel intimidated by kids who are larger and faster. Taking them to the park allows them to test their abilities and stretch their muscles free from fear of embarrassment.
5. Improves Stress Symptoms
According to a recent study in Frontiers in Psychology, spending at least 20 minutes in nature daily decreases cortisol levels. This stress hormone benefits you if you have to escape an angry bear. However, in our modern world, where you can’t run away from pressure, it can cause a score of health problems, from obesity to high blood pressure.
The cost of medical care hasn’t decreased in recent decades. Compared to the price of therapy, sending your kids outside to play is an inexpensive alternative.
6. Gives Their Eyes a Break
You spent hours in front of your computer preparing a budget report, and now your vision blurs, and your head pounds. What do you think happens to children who spend hours of screen time on homeschool?
Muscles around the eye can fatigue like any other — you wouldn’t try to do biceps curls for hours, even with 1-pound weights. Plus, extended staring at the screen could cause their focusing mechanism to freeze up and potentially increase their risk of nearsightedness. Let them head outdoors, where they can gaze at objects both near and far.
7. Inspires Their Creativity
You see a pile of snow. Your child, conversely, spies Mike Wazowski from “Monsters, Inc.”
Outdoor play inspires creativity in your child. Fortunately, colder weather means no end of building materials. They can construct a leaf fort in the fall and switch over to igloos once the snow flies.
8. Instills an Altruistic Attitude
Your child notices your 80-year-old neighbor struggling to shovel their walk and offers to help. Wouldn’t you be the proud parent when this event happens?
You don’t realize how challenging something is until you tackle it yourself. Let your child assist with outdoor chores — you can reward them with a bonus allowance or a small treat afterward. They’ll learn the value of work and may feel inspired to help others who don’t have the same physical dexterity.
9. Lets Them Have Old-Fashioned Fun
Going outside to play is fun — you rarely encounter kiddos who balk at the suggestion until they reach their moody teen years. Once adult responsibilities intervene, your child might have little-to-no playtime. Let them enjoy the downtime before the world sinks it’s “have-to” hooks in them.
You can recapture some of the magic by getting out there and playing with your child. While a silicone lubricant won’t make your sled super-fast like Clark W. Griswold’s in “Christmas Vacation,” you’ll still laugh up a storm when you fly down a slope.
Let Your Kid Play Outdoors Year-Round for These 9 Reasons
Letting your kid play outdoors year-round has considerable physical and mental health benefits. The next time they ask you if you want to build a snowman, please say yes!