I am a firm believer in spending time with kids outside in the winter. But one problem that comes up repeatedly is the daylight hours lessening as winter pushes on. During the summer months, the days are long and the sunlight is plentiful, we’re typically outside by 7 am and the dark doesn’t force us inside until 9 or 10 pm. In the winter where we are, typically the sun starts setting by 5 pm. With school in session as well, this only leaves us roughly an hour of outside time during daylight hours, which is the busiest hour of our day as well, so finding the capacity to get outside can be hard.
But. If we make some changes and get outside even after the sun has gone down, it opens up so much time! It also proves to have its benefits as well. Simply changing up the lighting in which kids play, changes the way they have to think and problem solve. While riding their bike in the daylight hours eventually becomes a mindless activity to them, riding it during the dark forces them to pay extra attention to their surroundings and their bike, and use their intuition and senses to help guide them. Something that was once a mundane, everyday sport turns into an elaborate thinking process for them.
Our tips for getting outside during the dark hours:
Wear the right clothing. The warmer you are, the longer you’ll last. You can read more about clothing here.
Bring the light with you! Flashlights, lanterns, and glow sticks all work wonderfully. We like to buy our glowsticks on Amazon in bulk, making them more affordable. We’ve invested in LED light beanies also found on Amazon. We keep a handful of Dollar Store flashlights around for use as well as a few bigger, nicer ones that put off more light when needed. Pro tip: attach a glowstick to your child’s coat so you can always spot them. Flashlights are great for them to use, but can be easily dropped. Having something more secure that doesn’t require being held can be immensely helpful.
Get creative with the light. Add in Christmas lights, brighter LED porch lights, or bust open spotlights used for working on cars. Our set typically stays up close to the garage door in the winter so it’s easy to access for when we need them.
Have a set activity when you head outside. I talked about this before in my post about getting outside in the cold, but it’s relevant for the dark, too. Since it’s harder and takes a more active choice to go outside in the dark, choosing your activity before going outside can help.
Visit well-lit areas. Window shop downtown, take walks around college campuses if they’re available in your area, or visit well-lit parks.
Do you try to get your kids outside when it’s dark out? What tips would you add?
Photo by Tobi