Updated: Jan 6, 2022
If you’re like most parents of young children, then you’re always looking for a better way to stay outside longer, especially in the winter months.
It's important to offer children plenty of time to play outside all year round, but it seems like they just can't last more than 30 minutes before wanting to come back in when temps get below 20 degrees.
Good news: now you can help keep your kids outside longer by following just 3 simple steps below. These steps include:
Step 1: Keep moving. This is simple really; a non-moving body will chill and grow bored much quicker.
Step 2: Offer a variety of activities. Write out a list of fun activities to keep your kids engaged and active.
Step 3: Dress properly. Having the right gear can make or break the amount of time spent outside.
Let’s take a look at each of these steps in a little more detail…
Step 1: Keep kids outside longer by moving around
This first step is pretty simple. If you want to keep warm, remember to keep moving and remain active. This includes parents and caregivers too!
For example, start off with a race to the nearest tree. We have a designated tree named "The Running Tree". When the kids start to appear chilly or still, we shout out "Let's all run around the running tree!"
This gets them moving and warms them up. It also encourages more ideas and movement.
You may find that your younger kids tend to struggle or even refuse to move around. Usually, you can avoid this by offering something physically active right around them instead.
For example, if you have a toddler with little legs and deep snow, offering a shovel or scoop of some sort will usually encourage them to start digging and moving the snow around them.
Remember that it helps to lead by example. Start by using the scoop yourself and digging around them, making observations about how heavy the snow is, or how big the pile is getting. Once your little shows interest, pass the scoop over to them and invite them to try.
If you can keep your kids (and yourself) moving, everyone will stay warmer longer and reduce the amount of time spent standing around and letting boredom set in.
Set a timer each time you go out, adding 10-15 minutes each time until you reach your desired daily outdoor time.
Not sure how much time kids need each day outdoors? Check out this great article by Ginny Yurich over at 1000 Hours Outside for some inspiration!
Step 2: offering a variety of activies helps kids stay outside longer
For this step you’ll need a plan. I don't mean spend hours laying out a rigid schedule but do have a handful of ideas to pull out when things start to slow down.
Engage with your kids enough to build momentum and then slowly remove yourself from their play.
It is very important to allow unstructured free play, but also be mindful that your kids may need encouragement and inspiration.
Encouraging uninterrupted play allows children to satisfy their natural curiosity and think creatively.
Let me share with you three tips for making this step go more smoothly...
Tip 1: Let your children take the lead. As you step outside, give your children the chance to decide what they'd like to do. You'll want to avoid immediately offering activities because your kids can become dependent on you for direction, limiting their creative ability. Allow them to explore as you ask open ended questions and let them invite you into their play.
Tip 2: Know when to step in. If your kids are deeply engaged in an activity, let them be. You may notice boredom or frustrations starting to set in but try not to immediately jump in with solutions. Give them time to come up with new ideas. If there is something you think they'd enjoy, try doing it on your own first and see if they join you.
Tip 3: Talk to your kids beforehand. As you're getting dressed to go outside, talk to your kids. Ask them questions about what they'd like to do, remind them of previous activities, or incomplete projects they might work on. This is great for communication skills and memory, as well as thoughtful planning abilities.
If you're new to this, and need some inspiration, check out this great article on Forest School Activities.
Step 3: if you want to stay outside longer, you must dress properly
This step may be last on my list, but definitely not the least.
Having the right winter gear for yourself and your kids is the most important part of being able to stay outside for longer periods of time. Without it, you just won't last.
Your kids will be miserable, they will resist going outside, and you certainly won't want to go out either.
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on winter gear, but you should absolutely invest in quality pieces where you can.
Here are some dos and don’ts when buying winter gear:
Don't buy "cute" winter gear. I've dressed a lot of kids in a lot of winter gear and the cute stuff just doesn't work. By cute, I am referring to things like hats that aren't lined, cotton mittens or socks, and fashionable snow boots that aren't waterproof.
Layers, layers, layers! This means a thin base layer, a thicker mid layer, and a top waterproof layer with insulation. You want to keep that heat in as much as possible. Avoid cotton too, as it does not do well when it gets wet or sweaty.
Do consider buying secondhand high-quality items over inexpensive brand-new items if cost is an issue. The great thing about winter gear for young kids is they grow out of it so fast; it hardly has time to wear out. You can often find great gear at second hand stores, marketplace, or even eBay for a fraction of the cost.
To learn more about layering for the winter, check out these 9 Winter Dressing Tips for Children by Kindercare.
So there you have it – a quick and easy 3-step process for getting your kids outside and staying there for longer periods of time.
Let’s recap the steps:
Step 1: Keep moving. A still body is a cold body.
Step 2: Planning activities in advance. Keep some quick ideas on hand to bust boredom when it arises.
Step 3: Dress appropriately. Keep fingers, faces, and toes nice and warm with quality gear and proper layering.
Now there’s just one thing left for you to do – take action!
So go ahead and bundle yourselves up for a snowy day of exploring and adventure. And do it today, because the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll make it part of your daily routine!