It’s cold, wet and muddy during winter in the UK, which doesn’t exactly make it too inviting to go and spend time outdoors. However, children thrive when they can spend time playing outside and you may have heard the recent advice that children need two hours outdoors daily! Don’t panic, use these ideas to help you get your children excited to play out in all weathers!
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing; so be prepared! Make sure everyone has appropriate clothing -wellies… coats…. hats, scarves, gloves… lots of layers… it seems obvious but if you know that the weather is wet, muddy or cold, but you will all be warm and dry; there’s no stopping you! It’s also worth thinking about having a change of clothes for anyone who is particularly likely to get very muddy… and a pack of wipes!
When children get plenty of time playing outdoors it reduces their anxiety and stress levels, and boosts their mood. And if they are running around outside and moving their bodies, it is obviously great exercise!
If you go down to the woods today…🎵
Find a local woods where you can spend a couple of hours; the trees will help protect you from the weather and children love to explore in a natural environment. Try these simple but fun ideas while you are there:
- Go on a bug hunt
- Listen to the birds
- Climb trees
- Play in the mud!
- Go on a bear hunt, a Gruffalo hunt, or even a dinosaur hunt!
- Look for wildlife.
- Collect sticks, leaves or stones and make patterns and pictures with them.
- Use big, loud, shouting voices (the type that would annoy the neighbours if you did it at home)!
Go to the playground!
Playgrounds and parks are always quiet during the colder months but children still benefit greatly from going! Waterproof trousers help with muddy and wet climbing frames and a flask with a warm drink in is a must for the grown-ups! Aside from the obvious physical development benefits that children get from going to the playground; children also learn co-operation skills, negotiation skills, turn-taking skills and perseverance.
Keep them moving!
Going for a walk is lovely in the cold weather, especially when you choose somewhere scenic, but most parents of young children know it is never long before they start to moan. So, as always, make it playful! Try these ideas:
- Challenge them to a race (if safe to do so).
- Can they hop like a bunny to the end of the footpath?
- Can they take giant steps?
- Can they move like a dinosaur, or a kangaroo, or a dolphin?!
- Can they skip?
- Can they jump?
- Try a colour hunt; for example, what can they spot that’s blue?
If you have a garden…
If you have a garden, it is not only for the warmer months. Try these activities to encourage children to still want to play in it.
- Warm, bubbly water in the sand tray instead of sand (make sure they are wearing a waterproof cover up and wellies for this one!) or a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge to wash their outdoor toys.
- Investigate the weather – look at what happens to their garden when it has rained or if it is freezing cold -what has changed and why? There might be ice to investigate or puddles to jump in! Maybe it’s windy and it is blowing everything around; quick can they catch them? Blowing bubbles in the wind is always fun!
- Movement activities – why not create an obstacle course? Or maybe you have a small space where they can scoot or use ride-on toys.
- Practise ball skills -bouncing, throwing and catching, kicking.
What are the learning opportunities?
Firstly, children don’t just learn through play, they also learn through experience and taking them outdoors will teach them so much more about the changes in the seasons and the weather than they could ever learn from a book or from making a weather chart.
Young children (birth to three) will be learning to… Explore and respond to different natural phenomena (such as rain). 3 and 4 year olds will be learning to … Talk about what they see, using a wide vocabulary. Children in Reception will be learning to… Explore the natural world around them and to describe what they see, hear and feel whilst outside.Development Matters, 2021, Area of Learning: Understanding the World
Secondly, being outside is a fantastic opportunity for Physical Development! Children naturally move and behave in a different way when they are outside compared to when they are inside.
Young children (birth to three) will be learning to… walk, run, jump and climb and use other large motor skills. 3 and 4 year olds will be learning to… continue to develop their movement skills. Children in reception will be… revising and refining the fundamental movement skills they have already acquired, progressing towards a more fluent style of movement and developing overall body strength, co-ordination, balance and agility.Development Matters, 2021, Physical Development
That the development of gross motor skills (large body movements) affects the development of fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil and writing; so if you are keen to help your child learn how to write, make sure they are spending enough time outside moving and playing first, even in the winter! Also, most of these outdoor play ideas cost nothing, or very little, so what are you waiting for? Wrap up and go and enjoy the great outdoors!
Follow this link to learn more about how children learn through play PlayWorth.uk