Outdoor Play in Winter - a Season of Possibilities
It might be cold, damp and grey but the outdoors in winter can be an inspiring place to play and learn. Winter offers us new experiences which are in stark contrast to spring, summer and autumn. The change of season enables us as educators to empower children to be adventurous, explore and discover and ignite their innate drive to be curious. We can engage in sustained shared thinking as we observe our environment, wondering where the leaves have gone, when they will come back, why the logs are slippery, why we can see our breath and where the frost and ice have come from. All of these experiences offer time to talk and think and what we observe gives the children a point of reference for future play.
Some families might be reluctant for their children to play outdoors in the colder winter months. A common misconception is that exposure to cold and rain means children are likely to come down with coughs and colds. It’s important to banish this myth as coughs and colds are viruses, unrelated to a child playing outdoors in winter. In fact, the outdoors is a safer place to play, especially in these times of COVID. Many settings and schools are switching to purely outdoor based sessions. The benefits of this aren’t just on children’s academic development but also on their physical and mental health. Children need the freedom of the outdoors to run, play, jump, climb and let off steam. A space away from the restrictions of the classroom. The natural light and fresh air is a source of vitamin D which impacts on a child’s mood and emotions.
Outdoor play in the winter is lots of fun but we must ensure children are fully prepared. Wrapping up warm is essential! Children will need to wear lots of layers as well as a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Wellies are important if children will be playing in mud or wet areas. Muddy shoes are no fun! Ensuring children are appropriately dressed is where we can involve families. Sharing our ethos around outdoor play right from the outset is important. It helps parents and carers to understand why you value outdoor play and if it clashes with their ideals and opinions then you know that perhaps you’re not a right fit for each other.
Settings and schools and work together to involve families, sharing the benefits of outdoor play for the children. Perhaps share your fun and photos in a newsletter, on your social media pages, on your website, through online learning journey systems and offer winter play ideas for home. We really need to be promoting the message that outdoor play in winter is beneficial. However, we must also recognise that for some families, opportunities for outdoor play may be limited, especially for those without their own garden. This makes it even more valuable for all children to have extended time to play outdoors through the winter when in a setting or school.
Winter play comes with it’s own unique experiences and challenges. Our outdoor play areas look different and for many weeks, might not look as inviting. However, we just need to view it as an alternative canvas for some valuable outdoor fun. We can make the most of the chilly months by embracing the opportunities winter offers us.
Here are some ideas for outdoor play opportunities….
- Have a go at making bird feeders. The birds need us in the winter!
- Leaving a tuff spot out overnight with a small amount of water in. If it freezes overnight then you can use it for ice painting.
- Have a go at mark making in the frost or ice. Use paintbrushes, ice scrapers, sticks, fingers and toothbrushes.
- Make rain gauges to measure the amount of rain you get.
- Try a winter scavenger hunt.
- Build a den to shelter from the cold or rain.
- Freeze water in balloons and have a game of ice bowling.
- If you’re lucky enough to get snow, try snow painting using brushes or spray bottles filled with coloured water.
However you choose to play outdoors this winter, remember to make it fun. If children see we’re having fun, they’re more likely to embrace the season as an exciting time to play outdoors.
Outdoor Play in Winter...don’t forget to share your outdoor fun with us!
With thanks to The Cosy Creatives for this blog post and our Cosy Club Members for their input.