Mother having fun with her two young sons in the snow

Why Outdoor Play is Beneficial for Children

The importance of physical activity for kids does not change just because the weather has gotten colder. Playing outside has a positive impact on children’s health, especially in the winter.

The Benefits of Outdoor Play in the Winter

  • Being outdoors and breathing fresh air strengthens the immune system. Research shows that children in regular contact with dirt, trees, grass and snow in an outdoor setting are less likely to develop autoimmune disorders and allergies.
  • Playing outside for 15-20 minutes a day provides children with the recommended daily dose of vitamin D, which promotes energy levels and better sleep.
  • Limiting large muscle exercise during the winter months can weaken children’s muscles.  Activities like riding bikes, playing tag, sledding, skating, jumping over piles of snow, building a snowman, throwing snowballs or making snow angels help children remain active and limit muscle loss.
  • Playing in the cold and snow offers different physical challenges than during the warmer months, which promotes problem solving and imagination. Learning how to pack snow tightly to make a snowman or a snow ball, balance when on ice or snow, steer a sled or shovel snow are lessons that can only be learned outside during the winter.
  • Children only burn about half as many calories in the winter as they do in the summer due to decreased activity and increased time spent inside. Outdoor activities for kids help them use up unused energy and extra calories.

Toddlers playing in outdoor in winter

Cold Weather Safety Tips for Children

It is perfectly fine for your children to go outside during the winter months as long as they are properly prepared. Below are a few safety tips for outdoor play during the winter from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Dress children in multiple loose layers so they stay dry and warm, adding one more layer than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
  • Make sure they have appropriate footwear and gloves to keep their feet and hands dry.  Don’t forget a hat!
  • Inspect the play area and check for any icy or slippery patches to ensure it is safe before sending children outside.
  • Set time limits and have children come inside periodically to warm up.

More tips for keeping children safe in the winter are available through Primrose Schools’ national charitable partner, Save the Children®.

Although cooler weather can be beneficial (and a lot of fun!), children should never be allowed outdoors in extreme cold. Check out these age-specific indoor activities for kids that you and your child can do together when indoor play is necessary.