5 Reasons Kids Should Play Outside in the Winter

by Josée

Winter has arrived and transformed the outdoor world into a magical place of snow, ice and twinkling stars. As the world outside becomes covered in fluffy snow and frosty ice, a deep quiet descends, but that hush, it seems, is more than the calming silence of snow. The wintry world, once a place where children of all ages played in with fervor and delight, has become a barren landscape without a child in sight!

What has happened to kids playing outside in the winter? 

Today’s parents and kids think twice before heading outside into wintry weather. It’s cold, dark, stormy, wet, snowy and icy outside. Parent worry about kids getting cold, or getting hurt on snow and ice. The safer alternative, many parents and educators believe, is to keep kids safely tucked inside away from harsh winter weather. However, sending kids outside in the winter months actually makes them healthier, happier and smarter, and here are the reasons why.

1. Winter provides kids with unique opportunities for being active outdoors.

Snow and ice provide kids with unique opportunities for active outdoor play. When kids go outside in the winter they can pull a sled up a hill, walk through deep snow, skate on an outdoor rink or push a large ball of snow along the ground. Snow and ice helps kids build strength, increase coordination and develop gross motor skills that will help them feel stronger and more confident. Not only does winter outdoor play help kids maintain a healthier body weight but it also helps their brains get better at concentrating, problem solving, making decisions, remembering things and learning.1

Winter is a great time to try an new winter sport or activity. Here are some suggestions:

  • Skiing (downhill or cross-country) or Snowboarding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Winter Hiking
  • Skating (outside)
  • Sledding
  • Ice fishing
  • Making snow sculptures (how-to video)

2. Wintery fresh air and sunshine keep kids healthy.

Playing outside in cold weather doesn’t make kids sick; the opposite is actually true. Kids that play outside in the winter stay healthier throughout the winter months.  This is because winter germs like to stay indoors so getting outside prevents kids from getting sick. When kids play outside in the winter they also  extra vitamin D when they go out in the winter which is important for healthy bones and a healthy immune system. Even babies can benefit from napping outside in the winter

3. Winter weather supplies kids with fun materials for play.

Winter time transforms the outside world in magical ways and provides kids with a whole new set of loose parts for play. Snow, ice, slush, snowflakes, pine-cones and sticks can be transformed and used in countless ways and help children use their creativity, imagination and problem solving skills.

4. Winter play gives kids a much needed a break from screen time.

Kids these days are spending a lot of time in front of screens and even more so during the winter when it tends to be colder and darker outside.  Kids 8 years old and younger spend an average two hours and 19 minutes on screens each day2 but by the time kids enter their teens they’re spending a whopping 7 to 9 hours on screens every day3 . In the last three years more and more studies are showing that increased screen time negatively impacts our kids’ health, academic learning, social skills, emotional well being and sleep.4, 5, 6

Getting our kids outside in the winter, even just a short walk around the block, gives them a much needed break from screen time and helps see all the fun winter activities just waiting for them to try.

Screen Time Guidelines for Kids:

  • Children under 2 years should have no screen time.
  • Children from 2 to 4 years old should have a 1 hour daily maximum but less is better.
  • Children and teens from 5 to 17 year old should have a 2 hour daily maximum but less is better

5. Winter outdoor play makes kids happy!

Playing outside improved kids’ mental well being and this is true in all seasons – especially in winter when the days are shorter. Outdoor active play helps kids feel less stressed, depressed, anxious and it improves their self-esteem too.7



1. The ParticipACTION Report Card on 2018 Physical Activity for Children and Youth (2018)

2. The Common Sense Census: Media Use By Kids Zero to Eight Years (2017)

3. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens (2015)

4. The Learning Habit Study.

5. Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time (2017)

6. Nature Canada: Screen Time vs Green Time (November 2018)

7.  Nature Canada: Screen Time vs Green Time (November 2018)

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1 comment

Emily Wilson March 10, 2019 - 1:59 pm

Great post! I plan the social media for Camp Couchiching, an overnight camp in Ontario dedicated to outdoor learning and youth empowerment. I would love to link to your post on the Camp Couchiching Facebook page, with your permission.

Emily Wilson
Special Projects Coordinator
Camp Couchiching


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