Parents and guardians may be tempted to dial back outdoor activities for kids when cold temperatures arrive, but playing outside is good for children, even in the wintertime. Lucky the TurfMutt, a rescue dog and the face of the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship platform for kids in grades K-5, offers the following tips to help to make wintertime, learning playtime:
Do winter activities that are fun. Weather that adults consider to be “messy” can be a huge canvas for children and their imaginations. Snow balls, snow forts and trees covered in snow offer a wealth of opportunities for children to explore and experiment in our living landscapes.
Encourage exploration. Ask your child to look at how the landscape changes with the seasons. Talk about what happens after leaves fall, when snow arrives, when it’s windy, and more, linking these seasonable changes with basic science about clouds, rainfall, temperature changes and the earth.
Play with them. Get outside in the winter with your children. It’s healthy for both kids and adults to move! Have a snowball fight, build a snow man or fort, or go sledding.
Try something new. Try your hands at cross-country skiing, igloo-building, winter hiking, ice fishing, ice skating, snow sculpting, snowshoeing, or something else that your children want to try to give them an appreciation of the outdoors in all seasons.
Attend a community festival. There are many community festivals year-round, and winter festivals can be exceptionally fun and offer activities for kids.
Mention how happy it can make them. Even winter sunshine can make kids happy! Literally. Sunlight boosts Vitamin D, which helps regulate emotional and mental moods by increasing serotonin in the brain. Even exposure to the weaker sunlight in the winter can cause this happiness boost.
Tolerate some mess. It’s a given that kids going outside in the snow will often return wet, muddy and messy. Be prepared for wet and cold kids and get them warmed up when they return from playing outside.
Process what they did. Ask kids to share about what they did outdoors. You can ask them to talk, write, or draw out their activities and observations. Did they observe something new? Did something surprise them? What was fun?
TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation and has reached more than 68 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and part of their global LEARNING LAB. TurfMutt is an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2017, the TurfMutt animated video series won the coveted Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award for Best Interstitial Series. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat is featured in the 2017 and 2018 Wildlife Habitat Council calendars. More information at www.TurfMutt.com.