January 20th, 2021

Let the kids play outside

By Submitted Article on February 15, 2020.

Vicki Hazelwood




Do your children “bounce off the walls” when cooped up in winter? When the weather gets colder, many families hunker down. Bike rides end, as well as family hikes and playtime at the park. More days at school will be declared “indoor days” and children get less and less time to play outdoors.

But, as outdoor play advocate Erin Kenny declares; “Children cannot bounce off walls if we take the walls away.” Easier said than done in these colder months, especially when it can be such a hassle to get the coat and mittens and hat and boots on. You can do it and so can they!

Have you heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”? Playing outside in cold or any inclement weather such as extreme heat, rainfall or wind requires us to be prepared. Wearing the proper clothing for the weather and climate you are in is the best thing you can do to make your time outside enjoyable. It is imperative that children have adequate clothing to be outdoors when the temperature dips down to -30, but it does not mean that -30 is too cold to play.

Yes, inclement weather poses challenges and risks for children. If we don’t allow them outdoors, we rob children of the opportunity to overcome challenges and risks and thereby build resilience. As caregivers, we can support our child’s learning and risk taking by being prepared with backups. Pack the cotton mittens and the cold weather-rated ones and tell your child they can choose which they will wear. They may start with the cotton mittens and then switch to the warmer ones partway through their play. Or point out what you are noticing by sharing your observation that their ears are looking a little red and ask; “Would you like your toque now?”

A great local resource for idea of things to do outside is the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. Most young children love the adventure of searching for birds and animals like deer, porcupine and great horned owls. The great news is, wildlife is far easier to find in the winter months than they are in the spring and summer. A walk in the river valley forest is a great way to spend time outside, especially on those days when you feel you need a break from the winter wind.

Wind speeds are drastically reduced in the river valley. Follow the Nature Centre’s Facebook page and website to learn when a StoryWalk is being featured or when a family Discovery Walk is being offered. Helen Schuler Nature Centre change their exhibits regularly and provide inspiration for what you might see or experience on the trails. Be sure to plan a stop at the Natural Playground in Indian Battle Park. This is one of Lethbridge’s best open-ended playgrounds, great for physical and imaginative play.

Outdoor play is an important aspect of healthy childhood development. If you are passionate about children and their future, would like more information about Lethbridge Early Years Coalition, or have any questions, please visit http://www.lethbridgeearlyyears.ca or email us at: lethbridgeearlyyears@gmail.com.

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