Winter 2015 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Active Play Outdoors in Winter

Active Play Outdoors in Winter

Children need outdoor physical activity even when it is cold outside. Teach children about different climate conditions by going outside in varying conditions throughout the year. Infants may go outside in a stroller or carriage, but should be put on a tarp or similar ground cover to crawl or have tummy time outdoors too.

The national standards for the range of safe temperatures for outdoor play is very broad. Standard 3.1.3.2 in Caring for Our Children, 3rd edition says: “Weather that poses a significant health risk should include wind chill factor at or below minus 15°F and heat index at or above 90°F, as identified by the National Weather Service (NWS).” State regulations may differ and must be followed.

Children should wear warm, water resistant winter clothing. Putting on this clothing to go outside offers many instructional opportunities. For example, use the dressing and undressing time to teach about how to put on and remove the clothing, learn about the clothing’s fasteners, count and name the articles of clothing the children are wearing. 

Choose the right amount and type of clothing for the conditions. Overheating and getting wet by sweating or getting wet through clothing can cause rapid heat loss from the body. Ask parents to supply extras and donate outgrown clothing that the facility can use when needed. Wear layers for warmth, and wet-resistant outer garments. Wear boots to play in puddles or snow. Avoid clothing that could get caught and choke the child during play or block the child’s ability to see. Use hats or closely fitting hoods. Avoid long scarves, loose hoods and any dangling cords.

Remember to use SPF 15 or higher sunscreen to skin and lips in the winter too. Apply it 15-30 minutes before going outside and reapply it at least every 2 hours for additional time in the sun. Have the children wear sun glasses too. Reflection from snow or ice increases the risk of sunburn.