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Setting Realistic Expectations for Outdoor Play during the Winter Season

Updated: Jan 9

Let's talk about outdoor winter play for a bit and keep things real.

Yesterday you may have seen families posting about ALL the fun they had outside during our first snowstorm of 2024 in New England, including ours! While we did have fun, eventually, it took some trial and error to get there.

Our outdoor play session yesterday began with high hopes of a snowy walk down our quiet street. Kimmie, Daniel and I set off and didn't make it 3 feet without the realities of walking in winter hitting us, literally in the face with harsh winds. With Daniel having a hard time walking in the snow in shoes two sizes too big to fit those extra warm socks so necessary for winter, we shifted our plans.

We opted for the backyard instead of a walk, lighting the fire and gathering sticks to keep it going. We filled buckets with snow and while it wasn't traditional "snow friend" making snow, Kimmie made her own version with a mound on the ground and pinecones for arms and legs.

My advice to you when planning for outdoor winter play?

  1. Comfortable, warm, weather-proof layers. The first being a base layer consisting of wool/bamboo, the second a layer with fleece and then a waterproof outer layer. Same goes for shoeless explorers - wool/bamboo socks, fleece booties (we love Zutanos!) and a waterproof outerlayer (I can't vouch for these as I haven't tried them myself but I LOVE the idea/look of these booties!)

  2. Gloves - they don't really work, do they? opt for bear paws instead! Warm socks on the hands with extra pairs in your pocket for when they get wet. Also pack extra socks for feet when those pesky boots fall off.

  3. Set zero expectations for how long you'll be outside. It may take 30 minutes to get everyone dressed, but we may be outside for a mere 10 minutes. While it can absolutely be frustrating, it's a step in the right direction in terms of acclimating our kids to the weather and creating a mindset of persistence. Sometimes a goal helps, too. When my kids asked to go inside, we set a goal to head in when the fire went out.

  4. Be flexible. There may be plans for a walk that you soon realize is not going to happen. Be open to where the fun takes you even if it's not what you originally planned. If you're able, involve explorers in the choice as well. Giving them the freedom to decide how they want to play outside will likely have them engage in more meaningful play. Sometimes the reality is that explorers are too cold, and you will try again another day.

  5. Lastly, and perhaps a favorite activity for everyone; warm up with a cozy beverage after the outdoor play session. Make some tea, coffee or hot chocolate and have explorers help! It will become part of your outdoor play in winter routine and something every explorer looks forward to!

What realistic goals do you set for outdoor play in winter for your family? What are some BIG fails you want to share? We want to hear them because it's not always easy to get kids outside in all weather!

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