How to Get Outside During the Winter
Welcome to winter! It’s the middle of January, and we live in the Upper Midwest. Temperatures are hovering around freezing and most days we don’t see much sunshine. We have had pretty mild weather this winter, but quick! When I say “What should we do?” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I bet it’s not “go outside”!
We all know there are reasons WHY we should be outside on a regular basis. It’s beneficial to both our mental and physical health. Fresh air strengthens our immune system, helps us sleep better, and improves our mood. According to a study from the University of Exeter, it takes just 120 minutes of outside time each week for kids to reap the health, happiness and learning benefits of nature. I recently had my vitamin D level tested and was surprised that it was as low as it was with all of the time we are outside. Today, I’d like to share some tips HOW to get you and your family outside on a daily basis.
Tips for your family
Make it routine. Select a time of day that you will most likely spend outside. It could be after school, after supper, or before you start your day. We go outside every day after lunch. It can be discouraging to get everybody dressed and out the door only to come in a few minutes later, but trust me, it gets easier and it’s worth it! We go outside during other parts of the day too, but after lunch is our consistent time.
Make it easy. By the time children are 4-years-old, they should be able to dress themselves for outdoor winter play. We have a visual checklist that helps remind what order items should be put on. We also keep our gear accessible. It gets hung in the same spot, and boots are on the mat by the door. My kids can reach their hats and mittens independently. With the occasional help tucking in of a mitten, or covering a boot, my oldest 2 can be out the door on their own.
Make it fun! Call a friend to join your outdoor adventure! Add some fun equipment. Check out some snow shoes, add a headlamp for night time exploration, hit the local ice rink, find a park to explore or take a stroll down a new trail. Build a campfire! Fully embrace snow activities: sledding, shoveling, snowman-building, making snow angels, spraying snow with colored water...
Tips to get yourself outside
Have a positive attitude. When you think positive thoughts about being outside, it’s easier to get out the door. Focus on the sunshine instead of the temperature. Look at the frost on the trees instead of the ice on the car. Speaking positively about going outside rubs off on others too. Get bundled with a smile on your face! You don’t have to stay out all day.
Identify a goal. What’s one thing you can do outside each day? Can you shovel the steps, walk to the mailbox, or simply take a moment to engage your senses outside? Think of ways you can increase the time you spend outside. There’s a movement called “1000 Hours Outside” (1000hoursoutside.com) with participants from across the globe. People are setting goals to spend 1000 hours outdoors in a year. Does that seem too ambitious? Can you start with 100 hours? How about a collective hour this week?
Reward yourself! Treat yourself to a cup of hot cocoa or a hot bath when you come inside. Sometimes, for me, it’s simply to check “go outside” off my to do list.
Some days you might find that you just can’t get outside. Your workload might be too pressing, you’re not feeling great, or you just can’t muster up the ambition to bundle up. In that case, open the curtains, move your favorite chair to a sunny spot, or stand by the window and simply make some observations. While you’re there, make a plan to get outside tomorrow! It’s totally worth your time.