It’s Day 7 of our challenge and so far it’s gone really well, enthusiasm levels are still high and we’re coping with the cold Scottish weather. This challenge and our daily Instagram posts have helped motivate us to get outside, when we wouldn’t necessarily have done so in the past. Declaring this challenge to you all has actually made it easier for us because our mindset has changed to When, not If. We consciously plan it into our day first thing in the morning and there’s no opting out.
That’s not to say we always relish the idea of going out when we’re still inside in the warmth but a little (or sometimes more than a little) preparation means we’re happy when we do. In winter, preparation is key so here are my 5 top tips for getting kids outside in Winter.
Top 5 Tips for Getting Kids Outside in Winter.
1.Dress for Success.
Layers are key to dressing for winter. Start with a warm base layer. At least a thermal vest and, for little ones, or in really cold weather, thermal leggings. Woolly tights do the trick just as well if you’re on a tight budget.
Next, layer “normal” clothes on top. T-shirt & tracksuit, thin jumper and leggings or a winter dress and leggings or thick tights. Your own winter style!
Next top this with a fleece or hoodie and finally a warm winter coat, preferably with a hood if rain looks likely.
Hands need gloves and feet need warm boots or shoes. If you’re going for wellies, thick, warm socks will keep toes warm for jumping in the mud. Hats and scarves can be added here if need be, but I find my kids resist them unless it’s really cold.
I almost always wear my waterproof trousers outside because they are lined and cosy and I feel the cold more than my kids. It has to be raining before the kids will even look at waterproof trousers so they always come in the backpack with me, along with hats, scarves and spare gloves, just in case.
Layers really are key to getting kids outside in winter and keeping them happy.
Don’t be afraid to let them take their coat or even their fleece layer off if they’re running about and playing. If they get too hot, they can sweat, which would make them colder when it cools. If your kids are starting a very active game, like football for example, you could even encourage them to take off their top layers before they start to avoid overheating. Once they finish they can bundle themselves up warmly again before they cool down.
If my kids are resisting putting a layer on before we go, I often pop it into my ubiquitous rucksack to have in case the start complaining of the cold.
2.Fuel your inner heating system
Food! Glorious Food! Putting a few minutes thought into food when taking kids outside in winter is worth an extra hour outside playing.
When we are cold our bodies burn energy to heat us and those calories need to be replaced. Having healthy snacks on hand helps keep kids and adults alike, topped up and warm.
If you’re staying outside longer or a little further from home, hot chocolate in a thermos is always a winner. Little food flasks can also keep soup or pasta warm for outdoor winter picnics.
If you’re not staying outside long enough to need a meal, it’s always a good idea to have food planned for quick eating on your return home. That keeps cold kids and parents alike happy and sitting down to quick easy food on returning home helps keep the chat and the memories happy and positive. Once you’ve peeled off everyone’s layers that is!
We’re often hard-wired to see weather as good or bad and getting kids outside in winter requires us to challenge this. Weather can be very varied but generally in Winter, we can predict Winter weather. Considering it can last for months on end it should just be weather. As Linda Åkeson McGurk says in her book, There’s no such thing as Bad Weather, only bad clothes. Well perhaps we could add bad attitudes or bad social programming to that.
We need to change our mindset on winter weather. It’s the weather we expect in winter and I don’t want to miss out on the big wide world of the outdoors just because someone tells me it’s bad.
Let’s tell ourselves and our kids, “it’s just weather, let’s get outside!” Fresh air and exercise lift our mood and boost our mental and physical wellbeing. We want to get those benefits all year round, not just in Summer.
Let your imagination run wild. Literally wild. You don’t need to bring anything (other than snacks, bring snacks!) into the woods or the fields or the park with you, nature is there to provide inspiration and props. Sticks, leaves, grass, pebbles, shells and mud are all there to be played with.
Ignore the dirty clothes and look at the smiles, listen to the imaginative ideas and join in the magical stories. This is what lasting memories are made of. Fun outside is what will make it easier to go outside again and again. If you feel there might be resistance to your request, don’t ask your kids if they want to go outside, ask them if they want to make mud pies, build a fairy house or hunt haggis!
“Remember that time we made wild art with sticks and stones? You were really good at that. Let’s go do that again.”
This isn’t a must but it can really help, especially if enthusiasm is low. Spending time outside as a family is a wonderful way of solidifying positive relationships and creating memories but sometimes we need a bit of external distraction. Getting outside with friends is a great way to keep kids and parents engaged and happier. It’s also harder to opt out when you’ve made plans. When playing in the park or in the street, my kids stay outside much longer when they’ve got friends with them. For parents too it can be lovely to have some adult chat while the kids play. When enthusiasm or motivation is low pick up the phone and get your friends outside too!
So gather your warm clothes, warm food and friends and add a positive mindset and some imagination and you have everything you need to get your kids outside in winter. Let’s #getoutside!