Originally published: November 2021

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As fall turns to winter, some kids can’t wait to venture out into the cold, wind, and snow. They’re unfazed by the weather and ready to build snow forts, skate, and explore. Others can be much more reluctant.

It’s natural to have different comfort levels when it comes to spending time outside. Some kids need more support than others to brave the cold, but everyone benefits from heading out. When young people are physically active outdoors, they move and play more, sit less, and feel better. Help your kids and family keep active outdoors this winter, whatever the weather! Here’s how to make it happen.

Layer up

Make sure your child knows how to dress for the weather. As temperatures drop, focus on keeping their head, hands, and feet warm and dry. It’s okay to skip the big clothing brands—just try to find gear that fits well and keeps moisture out. Second-hand jackets and toques, mittens or gloves, and boots will do!

Teach your child to dress in layers, so they can add or remove clothing to keep comfortable. Watch for long scarves or drawstrings – they can get in the way of safe play.Younger kids may need some practice getting their gear on and off. Be patient and let them try independently.

Older kids might resist layering up at all. Listen to their concerns, and try to offer flexibility and choice. For example, negotiate a temperature range for when winter jackets and toques are required, and another when they can wear hoodies and ball caps.

Explore the great outdoors

As much as you can, give your child time, space, and opportunity to be outside. Resist the temptation to direct their activities. Let them be curious, playful, and imaginative.

Each season presents unique opportunities for play and leisure. Whether they’re splashing in rain, sliding on ice, or knee-deep in mud, kids can create their own ways to wonder, learn, and move outside. Young people of all ages benefit from spending time in nature in ways that make sense to them.

Follow your child’s lead and join in the fun. Together, you can explore and play creatively with the weather! For example:

  • On a windy day, fly a kite or make a wind sock
  • On a wet day, jump in puddles or make a rain catcher
  • On a snowy day, make a snow maze or build a snow sculpture

Shift the status quo

As a family, challenge the notion that outdoor activities are only possible in nice weather. Be intentional about getting out there, and take pride in adapting for all kinds of conditions. These ideas can help:

  • Set a family goal for spending time outside each day. Start small and build up to longer outings as you find your groove.
  • Get everyone involved in planning outdoor activities. Kids are more likely to get excited about venturing out when they have a say in the decision-making. 
  • Challenge yourselves to try new activities—go ice fishing, shovel driveways in your community, or try stargazing! Use the My Active Family Bucket List for inspiration.
  • Focus on having fun and being social. Some kids are more likely to head out when friends are involved. Look for after-school clubs and sports that involve spending time outdoors, and be sure to follow public health guidance.
  • Keep doing routine daily activities outside, even when it’s cold and wet. Walk the dog together, bike to school or work, or go to the park! Instead of dwelling on the challenges the weather brings, focus on how good it feels to get moving outside.
  • Celebrate coming back inside on a cold weather day! Peel off the layers, admire the rosy cheeks, and settle in with a warm drink or snack.

No matter what your family gets up to this winter, remember that it’s not the activity or the destination that matters. The real win is quality time outside.

Get tips to keep your kids and family safe this winter at MyHealth.Alberta.ca:

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