As the temperature outdoors is changing, one common question that the parents have when they drop their child at their daycare or school is if their child will be going outside if it is cold. The common belief is that their child will not like being outdoors or will get sick being outdoors in the cold. Playing outside is so important for learning and has so many different opportunities for exploration. It is very important for early childhood development.
A MYTH – my child will get sick outdoors in the winter – Sickness is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. When children go outside, they are less likely to get sick since they are out in the open fresh air with an abundance of Vitamin D. The environment indoors is usually poorly ventilated where germs transmit easily. Viruses are transmitted by direct contact and children share toys, hug each other and touch each other so the propensity to spread infection is higher indoors than outdoors due to the type of activities they engage in and the equipment used.
Exercise & physical benefits – Outdoor exercise contributes to the overall health of a child and helps them develop physically everyday. They get a chance to explore jumping, hopping, climbing etc. in a safe environment and this helps their overall growth and development. Through activities like riding tricycles, balancing on a beam, running and jumping they are working their larger muscles to build strength and endurance. They develop an appetite and eat better as well. This overall leads to a better ability to fight off infections and not cause them.
Emotional benefits – Outdoor play encourages children to learn a different set of techniques and abilities than indoor time. It works different muscle groups and helps them learn how to assess risks. They also learn new ways to work together in a challenging environment such as snow and ice and build problem solving skills much required as they grow and develop.
Social skills – Finally, playing outdoors encourages collaboration and further enhances social skills for children. They need to figure things out together- whether it is sharing tricycles or making a snowman or working together as a group on other activities outside. It helps children develop socially in an environment different from their classroom.