In my native country of Sweden, people live by the old Scandinavian saying “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” and dressing for the weather is akin to a national sport. This is especially true when it comes to children, who are expected and encouraged to play outside regardless of the weather. Although Sweden is spared from tornadoes, hurricanes and extreme heat, winters can be brutally long and the rainfall epic. Rather than waiting for the weather to improve (which could potentially lead to long-term hibernation), harsh or unfavorable conditions usually mean business as usual in Sweden. And yes, kids still play outside – spring, summer, fall, winter.
But when I lived in the American Midwest, my habit of taking my daughters outside every day, rain or shine, sometimes caused people to question my sanity.
One day, when my first daughter was a baby, we were out for a walk on a beautiful, but cold, winter day when a white SUV pulled up next to us and a woman popped out her head. “Would you like a ride? It’s really cold out there,” she said with concern in her voice. I thanked her for the offer but politely declined, explaining that we were both well bundled up and enjoyed the fresh air. She nodded, but I could tell that the idea that I would voluntarily walk with my daughter in 15-degree weather (-9 C) was beyond her. And that’s not the only time I’ve been offered a ride from passers-by taking pity on me with the assumption that I simply didn’t have access to a car.
A lot of people who are my age or older remember walking to school and having recess outside most days. Today students are often kept inside in the winter, watching movies or playing games in the classroom. I often hear people flat out say that kids “have no business being outside when it’s cold.” Others are slightly horrified that I let my girls play outside in the mud when it rains.
To get outside rain or shine is simply not the norm today.
I’m sure my “rain or shine” philosophy makes a lot of people think I’m either crazy or a sucker for punishment. So let me explain why I do it. The short answer is that the many benefits of playing outside don’t stop just because the weather takes a turn for the worse. More specifically, these are my top five reasons for making sure my kids play outside every day, regardless of the weather:
1. I want my children to become resilient.
2. I want them to experience the uniqueness of each season.
There’s something magical about exploring the shifting face of nature as one season turns into the next. In my experience, children are far less fazed by inclement weather than adults and many form a strong bond with nature while playing with rain, mud, snow or ice. Outdoor play in all seasons also fosters an understanding of the cycles of life. For example, going outside on a blustery day can trigger a lot of questions, like how plants cope with the cold and how animals find food in the winter.
3. I want them to be active.
Physical activity is key to children’s health but kids can only be so active within the confines of four walls, and let’s face it – the lure of TV, tablets and other electronic media is even stronger in the dark and cold winter months. Making outdoor time a daily routine is one way to make sure children stay active all year round. I find that the whole family does better if we all get outside for some active play and fresh air, even if it’s only for half an hour on nasty days.
4. I want them to be prepared.
When we were slammed with heavy snowfalls and frigid temperatures during last year’s Polar Vortex, weather forecasters and public officials warned people against leaving the house. So we bundled up and went out and played. Not for long – just long enough to give us an appreciation for how cold -15 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 C) really is. While the dangers of frostbite are real and should be taken seriously, it is possible to enjoy outdoor play in cold weather with the proper gear and precautions. Learning how to layer clothes and how to recognize early signs of frostbite can help both children and adults be better prepared in case of a real cold-weather emergency.
5. I want them to find joy in nature – all year round.
Time after time I find that the rewards of spending at least a little time outside every day by far outweigh the discomforts of inclement weather. The therapeutic effect of a walk in the woods is not diminished by rain or cold. In fact, sometimes the feeling of conquering those harsh conditions is what makes me feel alive. Or as this article from the Guardian so beautifully puts it, “winter is about the joy…of finding pleasure in discomfort.” And if my girls watch me finding joy in nature every day, regardless of the weather, chances are they will too.
29 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why My Kids Play Outside In (Almost) Any Weather”
As I get older I become less and less tolerant of the cold. I was reminded just this morning when my 9 year old asked if he could play outside despite the below freezing temperature, that I must set aside my own opinions to nurture my children’s love of the outdoors. If dressed appropriately, why should I not let him experience it?!
As strange as this may sound, I’m not really a cold-weather person either. I even bundle up and wear lambswool slippers inside at all times during the winter! But I’ve found that if I wear enough clothes I’m able to stay warm and enjoy the outdoors in pretty low temperatures as well. Totally worth it!
My children prefer to play outside in less than ideal weather. The “nice” days are the ones we have a harder time getting out. I grew up where it rains all the time so we were never restricted (or we’d never have gotten to get outside to play.) I do have a harder time getting out when it’s super cold, but when we make it out there it’s always fun. The bonus for me is there aren’t as many people out so we often have the places we go to ourselves. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
That’s funny – all kids are different! My youngest is much less tolerant of the cold than my oldest; not sure if it’s the age or just a difference in personality. And you’re right – we definitely don’t have to fight any crowds outdoors this time of the year!
This is a wonderful article and is so full of truths about the way we tend to experience inclement weather. Sometimes it seems a big hassle to get every one bundled up and outdoors in frigid temps but it is so worth it, for the energized feeling, the fresh air and connection with nature.
Thank you! Some days it takes almost as long to get prepared for going outside as the actual time spent outside, but it’s still totally worth it:o)
Fantastic. My kids have faired much better in different weather conditions since we gave up air conditioning and heat.
Thank you, Candy! Unfortunately giving up heat is not an option here, lol…
Brilliant and so true! Its adults who worry to much about the weather and children being outside. My daughter from a young age was always encouraged to be outside in all weathers and I’m convinced its why she is rarely ill and has had about six days off school with illness and she’s now nine. I think we should encourage it more and not worry about a little rain or the cold!
Absolutely, Kim:o) Virus infections spread much faster indoors because the children are contained in a small space. Unfortunately a lot of people still believe that you can get a cold from being out in the cold, but that’s nothing but a myth.
New Zealand, where we live, is much more outdoor focused than the US (part of the reason we moved here from the US). Last winter, on a truly miserable rainy day–ice, sleet, and rain whipped up by a gale force wind–my daughter’s teacher sent the kids out onto the playground for 5 minutes to write. They came back in with the most amazing writing–stuff they never would have been able to write on a warm sunny day.
Aaahh, I love New Zealand! Such an amazing country and culture, and yes, definitely more outdoor oriented than the US. Kudos to your daughter’s teacher for making something positive of the inclement weather, sounds like they had fun!
Thank you for posting this – its so important to get children outdoors in all weathers for so many reasons. Changing weather creates so many new play opportunities – imagine if you never had the opportunity to splash in puddles or build a snowman because you might get wet or cold! If you’re dressed for it you can go out in most weathers.
Absolutely! And good gear helps a lot. Thanks for stopping by – love your blog, by the way!
The word that stood out to me was, “Resilience”! Love it! So many times we try to protect our kids from everything, but they miss out on the opportunity to build the resilience they need to withstand the ups and downs of life. Great article and blog Linda! Keep it up!
Thank you, Shelby! The way I look at it is, if we’re outside and it starts to rain unexpectedly, do I want my kids to start whining about going inside or ask for their rain coats? And I mean that both literally and figuratively.
Glad to know I’m not alone. One of the greatest joys of my life has been teaching my boys to dance in the rain. Cold doesn’t make you sick, germs do. But in all actuality my boys are sick less often than other kids, and I’m thinking that’s due to the fact that they are exposed to absolutely everything I can find to introduce them to. I think a lot of times we stifle children’s creative and curious natures for convenience and I’m bound and determined not to do that.
This article makes me giggle.. People were concerned when you were walking your baby at -9c? That’s a warm winter day up here in northern Canada, one everyone is sure to get outside because you don’t dare miss getting out on a warm day! Lol Recess at school
Gets moved inside if it’s colder than -20c, which I agree with due to the adult:child ratio and making sure each kid is dressed appropriately. Everyone tries to avoid going out on the -40 or colder days, but they can last for a week sometimes, so inevitably, you will have to go out in it at some point..❄️⛄️
I know, right?!? It’s all about your own perspective and what you’re used to. I think the Canadians are even hardier than the Scandinavians, because the Gulf Stream is moderating the climate over there, making it much warmer than the Canadian provinces that are on the same latitude. Glad you enjoyed the article!
I was thinking the same thing! I’m Canadian too and yes, recess is only cancelled after it hits -20 celsius. We walk to school in all weather and I love it! Last week we watched and listened to two flocks of Canada Geese flying overhead on our morning walk. We talked about what letter their formations made, where they were going, when they’d be back…we would never have had that moment in a car. Winter can be absolutely beautiful! And there’s nothing better than coming inside for hot chocolate after being out in the cold!
Exactly, just walking to school can be full of magical moments in nature! Glad to hear that your kids are able to spend recess outside in the winter too:o)
Hey! Just found this brilliant piece as I’m researching a post for my own blog about the importance of getting outside on rainy days with my daughter. Just wanted to say…I love this post, thanks for saying everything I wanted to say! Couldn’t agree more about the bad clothes, either! We’re on holiday in the Spanish mountains and I’m cursing myself for not bringing wellies!
Great! I’m glad you found me:o) We’ve been getting a lot of use from our rain boots lately as well!
Linda, our countries have much in common. I grew up in the beautiful countryside of Argentina. We played and swam all summer, running like wild animals in packs of kids. When we went home we knew a different ethos prevailed. I remember sitting quietly by my grandmother patting her hand as she told me stories meant to teach me morality and ladylike behavior. These two modes of being made me feel whole.
I am the mother of a baby boy, but already I take him outside in every kind of weather. It’s not common here, but I read “Magic of Fresh Air for Babies” and was reminded of my own growing years. Here’s that link if you’re interested. http://lauragraceweldon.com/2015/01/21/the-magic-of-fresh-air-for-babies-other-beings/
Eliana, that’s so interesting; I didn’t know that about Argentina. Thanks for sharing! I think kids not spending enough time outside is a universal problem, unfortunately. Thanks for posting the link too, I’ll check it out!
This was such a great article! I work with preschoolers, and we often have families push back about taking the kids outside in the winter. When we do get to bring the kids out, they have so much fun!
I’m glad you enjoyed it! A lot of times parents worry because of misconceptions about being outside in the cold, for example that it will make the kids sick. But as long as the kids are dressed properly, they’re fine.
Love this! I giggle as I read this…we were just out in -11 weather wind chill value of -35 and kids loved it!! They’re happier and healthier and yes, learning resilience! They’re motto is “adventure awaits”. Walkie talkies were a new addition today!
Love your kids’ motto! We’ve had some very chilly weather here as well and were out for about an hour yesterday!