It’s 30 degrees outside and there is snow up to your kids’ knees. The recess bell rings and you glance towards the pile of coats hanging on the coat rack; you can already picture the line of students standing next to you to do up zippers, tie snowboots, or pull on a mitten. Do you:
A. Declare today an inside recess day and pull out all of the fun board games in your closet?
B. Take a deep breath and start zipping up coats.
Obviously keeping inside during the winter is easiest, whether you’re a mom of three kids or a teacher of 32 students, winter clothes will always be a chore. But rest assured, your hard work is not going to waste, the benefit these kids have by playing outside is well worth the work in the end.
Many schools are moving to a stance where recess is not an option, it just happens, given outside circumstances are not extreme. Teachers are no longer permitted to use less recess and outdoor time as a consequence in many schools across the nation, so choosing to stay indoors during the winter months is less common. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t teachers out there wishing they could choose option A and stay in sometimes.
Sending kids outside to play in the cold can boost their immune systems. Yes, really! Winter gets a bad rap on sickness because many think the cold weather brings the sniffles. But in reality, it’s us hiding from the cold that creates sick kids by cooping everyone up indoors and sharing more germs. Giving them a chance to be outdoors and in fresh air is just what we need to fight off sickness.
Kids that play outside are resilient kids that will continue to have outdoor winter hobbies throughout their lives. When they have experienced being outside often and how to deal with cold weather, wind, and snow, they have those tools for life and are more likely to continue to use them into adulthood. Providing opportunities for authentic outdoor play as a child pays off well into the adult years.
With warmer weather, it’s common to see teachers out with their students for various lessons, whether they are doing an activity for P.E. or switching it up with a math lesson on the basketball courts, being outside is a great change of pace for restless students. How often are we as teachers bringing our class outdoors in cold weather for lessons? It does take more time and effort to bring kids out in the winter, but again, the rewards are worth it.
Something that often holds us back from outdoor play is the lack of proper snow and cold gear. It can be difficult to spend too much time outside with cold toes and fingers, so making sure our mittens, boots, and coats are weather appropriate can have a great impact on the duration we and our students are willing to stay outside.
In this video, a school in Canada talks about how important outdoor play is. They even give multiple examples of things kids can do outside, such as paint in the snow or observe nature. Trees and ponds and even animals are not the same year-round and observing these changes can be very insightful to watch.
In what ways are you facilitating outdoor play and learning with your students?