Winter is a time for reflection and slowing down. And the extra downtime can feel like a blessing after a busy season of holiday parties and football games!
While the shorter, colder days may make it tempting to curl up under a blanket and go into hibernation mode, getting outside and staying active is important for you and your kids.
Studies show that kids today spend 50%-70% more time indoors than older generations. Smartphones and other tech distractions provide plenty of excuses to keep your child inside this winter. But the benefits of getting enough outdoor time as a child are enormous.
From strengthening their bones and muscles to releasing stress and improving social skills, making sure your child prioritizes outdoor play this winter is key to good physical and mental health. And we’ve got 5 fun games to make that easier for your family this winter!
How Outdoor Time Improves Your Child’s Health in Winter
Better Physical Health
- Kids burn more calories outside, strengthening their bones and muscles.
- Plus, they get extra Vitamin D, which many children are deficient in.
Improved Social Skills
- When kids play together outdoors with other kids, they learn positive behavioral and social skills.
- Whether learning to share the ball, take turns, or use their creativity to invent games with friends, your child must learn to communicate their ideas with their peers.
- An optometry and vision study showed kids who play outside regularly have better distance vision than ones who are always indoors.
Longer Attention Span
- Kids who spend time in the fresh air are more curious about the world and can stick with a task longer. Interacting with nature can have the same effect as meditating.
- And the best part? The findings were the same when it was 80 degrees outside as when it was 25 degrees!
Stronger Immune System
- As long as your child wears a good jacket that keeps them warm, they can strengthen their immune systems while spending time outdoors.
- This is because microbiomes need a diverse environment to become enriched.
- Being outside helps balance their immune system and protects them from developing allergies.
- The sun directly stimulates the part of your child’s brain that’s associated with an improved mood and happiness.
- During the winter, it can be easier to fall victim to seasonal depression, so soaking in the sun for a little while can help keep your child chipper.
Fun Ideas for New Activities
If these benefits are enough to make you abandon the hot coco and couch, we’ve got five outside games for kids to introduce to your family today!
1. Create an Edible Tree
This is a winter craft for kids and parents alike. If your children are curious about animals, this is a great option to get their creative juices going and to learn about the local wildlife near you.
What you’ll need:
- Unseasoned popcorn
- Fishing line or twine
- A good tree
What you’ll do:
- Preheat your oven to 175 degrees. Slice your fruit very thinly and bake for seven hours to dehydrate the fruit.
- Take your pinecones and dip them in honey. Once they have a good coating, sprinkle birdseed over them.
- Take dehydrated fruit, pinecones, and popcorn and thread them onto your fishing line or thread.
- Go outside and pick out the perfect tree together. Wrap your garland around the tree and see what kind of visitors you get!
2. Hike Through a Winter Wonderland
If you’re looking for things to do with kids this winter, one of the best activities you can do as a family to get outdoors is a walk in the woods!
You can use the website All Trails to find a hike near you. One of the best parts about the website and app is that you can read reviews left by other hikers and sort hikes by difficulty level. This ensures everyone in your family will have fun, no matter their age or skill level!
3. Fun Winter Games for Families
If you have snow:
- Use the crusty layer of snow as a drawing board for a game of tic tac toe, hangmen, or even Pictionary. All you need is a stick and some imagination!
- Footprint tag is also a blast. Essentially the person who is “it” can only follow footprints to chase and tag someone.
- If all else fails, a good old-fashioned snowball fight or sled race has been relied on for years when it comes to entertaining children outdoors.
If you don’t have snow:
- Become wilderness explorers by grabbing a pair of binoculars and looking at the trees. Animals will be easier to spot without snow in the way!
- Take turns guessing what the animals you spot are up to. This can be an educational game if you head to the library afterward and try to identify precisely what it was, or who it was, you saw.
4. Create a Winter Scavenger Hunt
If you have multiple kids and the oldest child likes to help, let them coordinate a winter scavenger hunt for your younger children. Empowering them to do this will nourish their leadership and organizational skills.
Help your children stay safe (and be successful) by setting boundaries on where the hunt will take place. Have them create a list with you or print out one from Pinterest.
For example, you can have your kids look for certain types of rare birds in your area, identify winter plants, or listen for wildlife!
5. Help a Neighbor
The quickest way to warm up during the cold season could be to start with your heart. Volunteering and helping neighbors in need demonstrates the value and importance of a loving community to your kids.
If it’s cold or snowy, volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog or grab a shovel and help clear the sidewalk. You can encourage your kids to leave kind messages in chalk outside a neighbor’s house or to make positive messages with construction paper to hang in your windows. It’s sure to bring a smile to your neighbors’ faces — and yours!
New Year, New Smiles
Speaking of smiles, the beginning of a new year is a great time for fresh starts. That can mean improving your family’s oral health routine! As you focus on keeping your kids healthy and happy this winter, don’t forget about dental health.
Along with scheduling a dental cleaning for your child, it may be time to replace their old toothbrush. Old toothbrushes are less effective at keeping their teeth healthy, and winter viruses and bacteria can lurk in the bristles.