This past week, snow was on the ground in 49 states. Sorry, Florida, it just didn’t make it that far south. As we watched the snow fall in Texas and I personally observed my two little granddaughters find such joy in snow, I was reminded of all the benefits of nature and wondered how many parents and educators were looking for ways to get children outside instead simply saying, “No, it’s too cold.”
There are many great resources available to parents and educators to assist them with planning outdoor time. I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward is a great book of ideas. Planned activities are wonderful but don’t ever underestimate the value of children just running in wide open spaces, twirling freely, and breathing in fresh air with no agenda.
Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficient Disorder states that stress levels plummet when children are exposed to nature. He is clear that this means getting their feet wet and their hands dirty. Watching nature shows on TV doesn’t have the same impact. Involving the senses of smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste in nature provides what knowledge alone can never provide.
We realize that the winter months present some challenges for parents and educators. Our first priority is the physical health and safety of young children. Here are some helpful guidelines and resources for staying in touch with nature during the cold winter months:
1. Children need fresh air every day, so try to find a few minutes to play outside. In bitterly cold weather, remember to consider the wind chill factor as well as the temperature.
2. Dress children in layers during the winter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good rule of thumb is to dress infants and young children in one more layer of clothing than adults would wear.
3. The proper clothes are critical in cold weather. Children should not be dressed in clothing that allows them to sweat as this creates moisture close to the skin and allows their bodies to get wet. Take children inside and remove wet clothing as soon as possible.
4. Children should always wear hats in cold weather. Hats keep a tremendous amount of body heat from escaping.
5. Mittens are better for children than gloves because they keep their fingers in closer contact.
C – COVER (WEAR A HAT)
O – OVEREXERTION (DON’T…IT CREATES MOISTURE)
L – LAYERS (DRESS IN LAYERS)
D – DRY (SKIN MUST STAY DRY)
For more information you can go to www.healthychildren.org and look for winter safety tips.