Wild Child: The Importance of Outdoors in All Weather

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By Nancy Blakey

The weather outside is frightful with the damp gray dance of winter shortening the days and dropping the temperature. Cabin fever sets in and the kids are ornery and restless.   “Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls…” Erin Kenny declares, and that means the wall-less fence-less great outdoors where there are no wrong moves and everyone can yell in an outdoor voice. In fact, spending time outdoors in winter is even more important than the warm days of spring and summer. Here’s why:

Boost the Immune System

Kids raised on a farm are generally healthier because of their exposure to dirt, germs, bacteria and animals. While most parents try and protect their kids from these bugs, the reality is exposure on a regular basis, particularly in time spent outdoors, builds the immune system with the systematic exposure. Bit by bit the body fights the foreign microbes and develops a robust immune system that knows what to do with germs. I once heard our immune systems described as a teenager. Without a regular workout fighting lesser viruses and germs, it gets lazy and simply will not fight, but rolls over and lets the body get sick.

Master Emerging Physical SkillsIMG_2121

Children need space and time to fling their bodies into the world to swing, throw, climb, run, stoop and master emerging physical skills as well as develop the tendons and ligaments that surround the joints. This unchecked, unsupervised activity is critical for growing bodies and prepares them for a future of healthy functioning movement as adults.

Develop Problem Solving Skills in Real Life Situations

Outdoor play provides an arena for mixing kids in real life situations. How to build a fort, negotiate a peer’s bad behavior, climb a tree, follow rules in self-governed games—these are points of play that ask for real thinking and cooperation among children that simply do not happen as often in indoor settings where the lure of technology seizes time and attention.

FullSizeRender-3Provide Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for all human beings. It enhances our moods, increases energy levels, strengthens bones, and promotes memory. It is important that children get enough Vitamin D and the sun is the best source, even in winter. All it takes is 15-20 minutes a day!

Take away the walls hemming in your children and let them play without adult supervision. That’s right. Even a small child can play unsupervised in the backyard with a friend and that is where life blooms—just out of eyeshot of parents!

  • String up a hula hoop and have the kids throw snowballs through it, or if there is no snow, then plastic balls
  • Place a refrigerator box from the appliance store in the backyard or deck and give the kids felt tips to draw windows and drawers or make a garage
  • Make a tarp tent
  • Make chalk art on the driveway
  • Provide a box of balls to play with
  • Give them holiday lights to string where they wish
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