The Importance of Play Outside in Winter

As the cooler weather begins in Melbourne, something we often hear, is, the weather is ‘bad, too cold, too wet’ and we must stay inside. This idea, has been around for years, and as kids, we would often sing “Rain rain, go away, come again another day”, patiently waiting for the rain to stop or the weather to get better to go back outside. However, after having my own children, and needing them to get outside, for all our sanity, I have learnt that being outside in winter, has huge benefits for all. Whilst studying my Bachelor, I was introduced to a variety of theorists, as well as different cultures, and how children all over the world, continue to play outside in the cooler months as well as sleep outside too. The children are encouraged to wear warm, wet weather gear, and venture outside to explore the world around them. As our understanding of the benefits of outdoor play, in all weather, increases, we are seeing a shift in the Australian culture.

At EMCC, we encourage all our children and educators to be outside throughout the year, no matter the weather, as we run an indoor and outdoor program throughout the day. The flexible routine allows the  children who want to be outside the opportunity to do so, and other children to stay inside, if they chose. By having an open-door policy, children are able to have more agency in their own decisions. The most common myth is that children will get sick, if they play outside during winter. According to Dr Sorana Segal- Maurer (Chief of Infectious Disease at New York Hospital, 2019), it isn’t actually the cold that causes the common cold, it’s what we do when it is cold out “when the weather turns cold, we all run indoors, where air is recycled and we’re often in close quarters with other people and viruses. We all sneeze on top of each other”. Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses that are in invisible droplets in the air that we breathe or on things we touch. By encouraging outdoor play in winter, children will gain exposure to fresh air and vitamin D, whilst avoiding bacteria and viruses. Other benefits of children playing outside during winter, are:

Physical health

In Australia, the recommended level of physical activity each day ranges from 1-3hours of energetic play for 1-5years. Playing outdoors promotes physical development and wellbeing, because outdoor play promotes the use of the whole body, such as running, jumping, climbing, balancing and exercising key muscle groups. It is important for children to remain active in the cooler months, to continue to build their emerging skills that are crucial to their physical development as well as promote positive mental health and an establishment of good healthy habits for the long term. Jumping in puddles, is one of the favourite activities at EMCC, which builds on these physical skills, as well as development of thought processes around estimation, cause and effect and force and energy. Seeing the outdoors through a different lens During spring and summer, children see and become familiar with green foliage, flowers blooming and a warm climate. As the season changes, they will see the falling leaves, trees with no foliage, frost and fog. These developments provide children with new experiencesand opportunities, such as learning about the life cycle of plants and the seasons. Children will see the outdoor through a different lens, and progress from being an unconscious to conscious observer in their environment.

Social

Social outdoor play, provides children the opportunity to stretch their imaginations, with the colder month changes within the physical environment. Children who are encouraged to explore through play, will learn a variety of skills and overcome challenges, which will promote self-confidence, resilience and self- advocacy. Through the development of social skills, children develop healthy social relationships, communication skills and a strong sense of self.

Healthy risk taking

When children are inside, they are in a reasonably controlled safe environment, however when they are outside, there are a number of new risks that they need to negotiate, especially after it has rained. Learning that things are wet and slippery, such as rocks, climbing equipment, the kinder boat. The children will need to adjust how they will play on this equipment, this will support their decision making and problem solving as well as promoting their self-confidence and ability to identify risks in their environment. We, highly encourage you, to please send your children with warm clothes, hat, a jacket, gumboots/shoes and socks… and if they are like my children, they will probably take them off and splash in puddles in bare feet, anyway! Ensure there are several changes of clothes, so they can change when they are wet or dirty, as well as a wet bag. Alternatively, there are several places they sell waterproof puddle suits, such as Kmart $22, Next Australia $38, Cotton On $37. There are puddle suits in the Walert Room.

I look forward to seeing all the wonderful experiences the children and educators will enjoy, in the coolermonths.

 

By Stacey Macdonald

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed