I have a childhood memory of losing a boot in a snowstorm. My brother and the neighborhood kids found my lost boot and helped me home. I remember the exhilarating feeling brought on by the cold wind and blowing snow, by the sense of family out there in the elements. I could barely see across the yard. This is a fond memory. I have many more of these. I’m realizing the fondness I hold for them resonates from the joy and safety I felt spending, what seemed to be, endless hours outside. Mind you, I grew up in a rural neighborhood with houses close by, not totally a wild environment. Yet, during those seemingly endless hours playing outside something felt wild. I was happy.

Staying Out Longer. My childhood had a lot of free time. As an adult immersed in the world of childhood, I know that not all children get to experience seemingly endless hours of outdoor play. Families face a hefty task balancing work, school, and extracurricular activities (just to name a few). We do it. I also know that we can add a little more time to that outdoor play experience. Here are just some of the benefits of increasing the amounts of unstructured time in the outdoors: strengthened immune system, increased physical strength, longer attention spans, a willingness to take risks, lowered frustration levels, and expanded creativity. Shall we challenge ourselves to create a little more space supporting our children to spend more time playing outside?

One thing we can do to ensure winter outdoor success is to dress properly for the elements. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”. We all know that a cold, wet child is not a happy child.

Here are some winter outdoor clothing tips:

* Base layers – long underwear (maybe a mid–layer if you know your child tends to run cold- another layer on top of the base layer)
* Waterproof snow pants and jacket
* Waterproof boots that rise above the ankles
* Waterproof mittens that cover the wrists and stay on
* Lightweight neck gator (a scarf tends to be cumbersome)
* Finally, a hat to cover the ears (on warmer days, wear a lightweight hat)

Always trust yourself, you know how your child’s body temperature runs. Remember that not all young children know how to read their body temperature until they are too cold or too hot.

May your outdoor adventures be just that; adventurous.

Looking for an outdoor game to play? Try chasing the sun and soaking up its warmth or chasing shadows.

Have fun!

– Lori Whipple