At Little Wild Tribe, we believe that children should have access to outdoor play on a daily basis, regardless of the weather! Research shows there are many benefits to playing outside, in rain or shine, across all the seasons. But what are the benefits? Just some of the advantages of this Scandinavian approach include:
- Breathing fresh air! It’s no secret that most people associate the colder, winter months with getting more colds and illnesses such as the flu. Although the viruses that cause flu and colds are more commonly spread in the colder months, it is not actually exposure to the cold that cause these viruses. In fact, it’s likely to be increased exposure to poorly ventilated indoor environments, where bacteria and viruses live that is the main cause of your child getting sick. Within indoor environments, all of the bacteria, dirt and other germs simply get recycled over and over and the more time you spend inside, the more you are exposed. By encouraging outdoor play in winter, children gain much needed exposure to fresh air and Vitamin D, while avoiding bacteria. Nothing is more refreshing than that first deep breath of cold air! In fresh, outdoor air, children do not have to rebreathe the germs of the group, and the chance for spreading infection is reduced.
- Strengthening the immune system! Playing outside allows your child an escape from indoor germs and bacteria. This will not only be good for the healthy bunch; the sick kids benefit from the fresh air as well. We just make sure they are properly layered up and moving around to capture and generate warmth. Being outside more often also allows your child to develop a stronger autoimmune system and a resistance to allergies. Studies have shown that children in rural areas or those who are active outside have the best overall health.
- Engaging in physical exercise! Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your children have lost their energy or desire to play. In fact, outdoor winter play “gives children an opportunity for a change of environment, a balance in play and routine, and large muscle activities (gross-motor development).” You must remember your child is still growing during these months, and prolonged sessions of inactivity are not conducive to their muscular development. Physical activity gives your immune system a power surge for a full 24 hours. A stronger immune system leads to less illness and less use of antibiotics.
- Stimulating the brain! Cold, wintry weather also offers a variety of ways to stimulate their imagination through play. These include the sensory experience of listening to and feeling different weather conditions such as the wind, rain, and snow; discovering about seasons and the changes that happen in the environment such as crunchy leaves falling off the trees; learning to manage the new risks that come with different weathers such as drinking lots of water and sun cream when it’s hot, or being careful of ice when it’s cold; discovering about living things in the environment when the weather changes e.g. frogs may come out when it rains. The cold and wet weather offers so many learning experiences for our little ones such as painting with wet mud when it’s raining or catching rain in containers and talking about quantities and numbers. It provides opportunities for so many fun activities such as den building to keep dry or to provide shelter from the sun, splashing in puddles, crunching leaves, minibeast hunting and much more.
- Seeing the outdoors through a new lens! During the spring and summer, children become familiar with bright green foliage, flowers in bloom, and a warmer climate. As the seasons change, they come to see different characteristics in their environment, such as brown grass, fallen leaves, and ice. These developments provide children with new experiences and opportunities, such as learning about the seasons, and the life cycles of plants. Children progress from being unconscious to conscious observers of their environment and enables them to gain an understanding and appreciation of nature – almost any child will find joy and wonder in natural things, such as the animals, birds, insects or whatever they find. Playing throughout the year also helps them become used to, and consequently, more tolerant of, different climates and temperatures. Provided they are adequately protected – be it against the cold or the sunshine – then this can only serve to make them more resilient in the long run!