Why kids need to get outside and play, no matter the weather! Yes, kids CAN play outside safely in the cold and snow!
“Can we go outside and play in the snow??! Pleeeeeaaaassseeee!!!”
This week was one for the record book in Texas. I’ve lived here for over 15 years and never seen temperatures hit single digits!
I grew up in West Virginia, which has four seasons and snow every year. However, until now, my youngest two daughters had never seen real snow — and boy were they were excited!
With temperatures below freezing, I’ll admit I was a little slow getting ready to leave my warm house for the frigid wind and snow. But the girls begged and I didn’t want them to miss this chance to experience the one part of winter that I loved as a kid!
As we bundled up to go outside, I started worrying about whether they would be too cold. And then I caught myself and remembered all the times I played outside for HOURS in the snow as a kid! In way more snow than this and even colder temperatures. My kids can handle this!
As expected, the girls had a total blast! Snow was a hit!
After about an hour, their little noses started to turn red and runny and I asked if they wanted to go back inside. That silly question was met with an enthusiastic “NO!!!”
So we continued running around, throwing snowballs, and essentially turning all the beautiful powdery white snow in our backyard into muddy mush.
And then the kids realized…hey, we’re starting to feel pretty cold now. So they asked to go inside, we took off our wet outer layers of clothing, and warmed up with a snack.
What an awesome day! And everyone slept GREAT that night…even the littlest slept til 9am the next day!!
Yes, Kids Can Play Outside in Bad Weather
I find that the older I get, the more of a worrier I become. Is it too cold? Will our pipes freeze? Will this make their noses be too runny? But kids don’t worry about all that…they just want to have fun!
Look, kids will TELL you when they’re cold. Just like they tell you when they’re hungry. Or thirsty. Or bored. Or…well, you get the idea.
Not only that, but kids need to play. And not just video games or sitting on the floor playing with toys. They need to run. Jump. Be loud. Burn energy!
Why Kids NEED to Get Outside, No Matter the Weather
Kids need about an hour of physical activity every day. During the winter months, kids aren’t always getting enough activity because we tend to stay inside when the weather “is bad.” And we don’t always substitute outdoor play with other exercise because who really wants to encourage the kids to run around inside the house?
Aside from the obvious health consequences, lack of exercise also has a negative impact on kids’ mental health and overall well-being.
That’s why it’s important to get outside and play, even if the weather seems less than ideal. And honestly, our idea of “bad” weather is probably pretty different from what our kids think! I don’t know about you, but my kids see rain puddles and mud and BEG to go play in them!
There’s also evidence to suggest that outdoor play — especially the type of play that gets ’em muddy and dirty — can help build kids’ immune systems.
Can You Get Sick from Cold Weather?
Contrary to the old wive’s tale, you don’t catch a cold by being cold. Weather doesn’t cause colds, viruses do.
Yes, prolonged exposure to extreme temperature (we’re talking below freezing) can become dangerous. However, if you and your kids are properly dressed and you go outside in increments, you should be just fine.
Related: When to Call the Doctor for a Fever
What is the Best Winter Gear for Kids
Speaking of properly dressed, what kind of winter clothing do kids need to play outside?
- Hats — While it’s not true that we lose 80% of our body heat through our heads, if your head is uncovered, you will lose heat and become chilled faster. If you don’t have winter hats, a hoodie or any head covering will help!
- Waterproof Boots — Wet feet quickly turn into cold feet! Our kids all have a pair of inexpensive rain boots that they wear anytime they go outside. They don’t offer much in the way of insulation, but they do keep feet dry. We double up on socks to keep feet warm too.
- Gloves or Mittens — Hands are are away from our core body, so they will be the first thing that starts to get cold if they are exposed. Especially when kids are playing with snow and their hands get wet! Mittens are actually warmer than gloves, because all of the fingers are together in one toasty air pocket.
- Layers — You don’t necessarily need fancy winter wear to stay warm in cold temps. When you wear multiple layers of clothing, the space between each layer traps air, which in turn traps heat.
- Face Masks — Yep, those face masks! We actually found cloth face masks to be super handy for snow day play! They keep faces toasty and warm by blocking the wind.
TIP: If you don’t have rain boots, you can always use this trick we did as a kid: wrap regular shoes or boots with plastic bags. You can use either a shopping bag or a small trash bag — just make sure there are no holes. Tape around the top of the bag — not too tight but enough to keep some moisture out and the bags in place.
When is it TOO Cold to Play Outside?
It’s not so much the temperature itself that you have to worry about. Instead, pay attention to the wind chill.
If there’s little to no wind, it should be fine to play outside (warmly dressed of course), even if temperatures dip a little below freezing (32°F).
However, wind chill can increase the danger of frostbite or hyperthermia. Here’s a quick guide to wind chill temps and what is safe for outdoor play:
- Wind chill above 32°F — Good to go! Dress warm and enjoy the day!
- Wind chill between 13 – 31°F — Limit exposure to half hour intervals.
- Wind chill below 13°F — Stay indoors until it warms up a bit! We love making homemade play dough or slime on days where they weather is just plain nasty!
Again, kids will usually tell you if they’re cold. However, if you notice any bluish looking skin or that they start to act disoriented, it’s past time to get back inside and get warm!
By the way, none of that is to scare you! It really is safe to play outside in cold or wet weather, if you’re warmly dressed and take breaks periodically to warm up. Honestly, you’ll probably get cold before your kids do with all the running around they do!
So bundle up, get outside, and enjoy the day! And enjoy the fact that the kids wear themselves out and fall asleep faster!
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