I am a huge proponent of getting kids outdoors, but the winter months make it challenging. Between the cold temps and my natural inclination to hibernate, I could easily say we just won’t play outside all winter, but the truth is that I know how good it is for my children, and for me, too! Sure, we play board games, read, and do puzzles for indoor fun, but the reset that happens from being in nature is unique and invaluable. Over the years I’ve discovered a few simple ways to make getting outside in the winter just a little easier.
This sounds obvious, but there’s nothing worse than packing up gloves and hats just to hear kiddos complaining about how cold their legs are. I dress my kids in 2-pairs of pants, 2-3 shirts, a winter coat, hat, gloves, and 2 pair of socks. Pro-tip: I let my kids keep their pajamas on and then put the other clothes on top. The kids think it’s silly, and I have slightly less laundry to do!
Set a Goal
I love goal setting as a family, and aiming for 1,000 Hours Outside helps to keep us motivated to get some time outside everyday, even in the winter. If 1,000 Hours Outside doesn’t work for your family, try Virginia State Parks’ Trail Quest and hike new trails to earn pins, or the 52 Hike Challenge.
Plan your Outing: Cold-Warm-Cold
On very cold days, I find playgrounds or parks near indoor activities. This way we can start outdoors, warm up, and then go to a second outdoor play space. It keeps the outing lively and my kids stay motivated. Here’s an example: Play at the Westhampton Green Park, walk to Westhampton Pastry and enjoy delicious pastries indoors, then drive to Westwood Park, less than 5 minutes away. Another idea is to visit a library between parks to keep your outing completely free.
This goes for anytime, but especially when the kids (and I) are more reluctant to get out of the house. If I invite another family and know we have to meet them, I am holding us accountable for getting where we need to be; thus, getting outside. Further, my kids always have more fun with friends (and complain less!).
As much as I appreciate our time outside, I am always cautious of very low temperatures, and pay attention to the best time of day to get out. For our family, we do not go outside if it’s under 34 degrees. When my children were younger, our threshold was 38*. Set a limit that works for your family. I also wait until afternoon to get outdoors as this is when temperatures are highest, and opt for sunny locations when possible.
This winter, make a point to get outdoors, even if you’re hesitant. The rejuvenation it will bring your family is irreplaceable!
Don’t know where to start? Try these inclusive playgrounds!