“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Shorter days and colder temperatures can make even the most active kids stay indoors and take cover. Researchers examined three types of physical activity that kids participate in – unstructured out-of-home play, structured sports, and active transportation (getting to places under your own steam). They found the amount of unstructured playtime is affected by changes in daylight, though the other two types of activity are not.
Kids just don’t get enough playtime when days are shorter.
Still, cold weather is no excuse to be inactive. In fact, Canadian winters offer a wide range of exciting activities that cannot be done in warmer seasons. To stay active in winter, parents must know what outdoor winter activities are right for day and night. Kids also need the right tools to stay warm and hydrated, so they can enjoy this time of year.
Making sure you and your children are properly dressed allows the whole family to stay warm and have fun. The best way to dress for winter is in layers. More layers are better for warmth and ease of movement. Kids can take off a layer if they are getting warm or add one if they are cold.
It is easy to run out the door forgetting hats or mittens or both. Hats are a simple way to keep your kids warm. An uncovered head can lose a significant amount of body heat. Make sure your kids have the right hat and gloves, so that they can use their hands while playing. Mittens can sometimes limit the ability to handle snow or hold a hockey stick.
A good way to know whether kids are wearing the right clothing is to feel their hands and feet. If they feel warm, your child is properly clothed. Kids that are too warmly dressed may sweat and feel colder when they stop playing.
Don’t forget to bring water, even when the weather is chilly. Just because it’s cold outside does not mean you’re not losing fluids. Like any other time of the year, it’s important that you and your kids drink enough. Normal exertion and overdressing can cause mild cold-weather dehydration. This makes you tired, and limits the amount of enjoyable outdoor time. Staying properly hydrated makes your time outside more fun.
Canadian winters offer a host of play opportunities for kids. When properly dressed and sufficiently hydrated, kids can enjoy hours of outdoor playtime. Kids naturally play more during daylight hours – time which is often spent in the classroom or finishing schoolwork at home. When shorter days dampen enthusiasm for playing outdoors after dinner, make the after school period the time to get outside. Take advantage of the sunlight for playtime, and save homework for darker hours.
Put winter on ice - Skating at the local rink, either indoors or out, is one way to ramp up activity in winter months. Public facilities in Canada are abundant. Since they are usually well lit in the evening hours, physical activity opportunities can extend beyond sundown. What could be more Canadian than donning skates and taking some turns? Lacing up, and learning how to skate early on, becomes a skill that can be enjoyed throughout a lifetime. It has been shown that physical activity boosts your mood, gives you a sense of wellbeing, and makes you happier. Make an extra effort to get moving when dark and dreary winter days threaten to give you the blues. Remember to always wear a hockey helmet while skating and choose comfortable skates with good ankle support.
Supervise an outdoor after-school play date - Instead of turning on the television after school, make staying at the playground or local school yard an event. Invite friends and other families to join in a safe and fun play time. Active games, including making snow angels and building snowmen, will help to keep your child warm. School yards are also excellent places to have a scavenger hunt or play snow-tag (much harder than regular summer tag!).
Take a walk - If you can access trails or a park, a winter walk is a great way to stay active with your family. Winter provides an excellent stage for some winter hiking fun — animal tracking. Work with your kids to try identifying all of the animal tracks in the freshly fallen snow. Take a camera with you to log all of the tracks you find. Your kids will be begging to go for a hike so that they can discover new animals in your area.
Try a new sport - Winter is a great time to try a new family activity. It may be cold outside, but you will warm up quickly when you attempt any of the following:
Make shoveling a game - Needless to say, shoveling snow is hard work. It’s also a great way to be active — even for kids. Pick up a kid-sized shovel and have children help out by clearing a path in the snow or digging to make fun patterns.
If your kids enjoy shoveling, you can even offer to help neighbours out by shoveling their walkways and driveways.
Heading outdoors in winter can be both safe and fun – just remember to dress properly, experiment with different activities, and watch for signs that your children may be getting too cold. Enjoy the season!
|ParticipACTION is the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada. Originally established in 1971, ParticipACTION was re-launched in 2007 to help prevent the looming inactivity crisis facing Canada. A national not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to inspiring and supporting healthy and active living for Canadians, ParticipACTION works with many partners. These include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, The aim is to inspire and support Canadians to move more.||
ParticipACTION’s C-O-L-D TIPSCold hands, feet and skin, even shivering, could mean less coordination, feeling and motor control. In essence, you can become clumsier and accidentally trip or fumble and hurt yourself. There’s also a chance of strain injuries and less flexibility in the cold.