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20 ways to have your toddler safely enjoy outdoor play in winter

Winter can be a wonderful season, with snow adding to the fun (obviously only if you live in a somewhat northern climate), and it is a great opportunity to spend time outside with your children. Here are some tips and inspirations to make the most out of it and at the same time to keep it safe and fun for everybody.

Before even going outside you should make sure that you are well prepared.

Swinging in snow - outside1. Make sure to put toque, mittens and a scarf, ensure to put something waterproof on them, they are bound to land in the snow one way or the other. Do not forget the proper footwear, which should be well insulated against the cold.

2. While ensuring that they will not get cold, don’t over bundle them either, because if they get too hot, they will try to take off layers (mostly starting with the head) and if they sweated before, chances are increasing dramatically that they will catch a cold.

3. Just going outside and playing in the snow/cold weather actually will NOT give you a cold, but the germs you will usually collect somewhere indoors, getting wet or too cold will increase the chance that the cold virus will flare up.

4. Make sure to put sun screen on the face of the child (ensure that it is suitable for the age of the child), if it is sunny, the snow will amplify the sun’s rays and the UV rays also penetrate the clouds, something to always keep in mind.

Once outside, make sure to check the children at least every now and then:

5. When going outside, make sure that there is no ice hidden under the snow that the children (or yourself) could slip on and hurt yourselves. Even if it has not rained in a while before the new snow, thin films of ice can form and be a danger.

6. Educate the children about potential dangers by showing them the proper use of things and what can happen, if they do not use it right or venture into areas they are not supposed to. Examples for this are: Make sure they understand to only slide feet first, they have to sit on swings, not stand on them (click here for an example of swinging in winter).

7. Watch for signs indicating they are getting too cold. Wet mittens are a major contributor to cooling the child’s body off dramatically, plus you don’t want them to get frostbitten either. Also strongly increased redness in his face is something to be careful about. While it is normal to get flushed because of the temperatures and the exercise, it is important to check regularly, especially when it is windy. Check for them complaining about ache or numbness and for changes to their skin, such as whitish colour or waxiness.

Outdoor play in winter doesn’t always have to be structured or have an actual purpose :)

8. Get them a small snow shovel and broom, so they can help you clear the path to the door or the patio/deck, they will love to help Papa or Maman doing “grown-up” stuff.

9. If they decide he wants to eat snow, let them – just make sure before that it’s white ;)

Swinging in snow - swinging 410. If you have a swing set in the backyard, don’t think that it is just something for the warmer months, as long as the swing is accessible, it can give plenty of fun to be able to swing when there’s snow all around and digging it up can be part of the fun and the swinging being the reward for all the hard work.

11. It is great time for unstructured play, let them loose on your snow-covered deck and just watch what they will do instead of trying to suggest things left, right and center. It is amazing to see how much fun a kid can have by just pushing snow off the railing or moving clumps of snow from one side to the other.

12. Pile all the snow you collect on the deck or the path on a big mountain, tap it down with the shovel and use it as a big, natural slide.

Winter Kool-Aid13. Put some water mixed with Kool-Aid into a spray bottle (or several) and let them go at it, some amazing snow art could come from this (don’t forget to take photos!).

14. Give them some buckets, shovels or other toys you’d normally use in a sandbox and let the children’s creativity run free.

15. One of the easiest ways to exercise the outdoors is building a snowman. It is physical exercise, helps with perception (just think of making the three balls the same or different sizes and do them in the right order) and most of all – it’s fun!

16. If it has just snowed overnight, go out and look for animal tracks, it can be squirrels or cats, raccoons or birds, you can take photos and then investigate online or in books to see, which animal they belong to.

Winter snow angel17. Make a snow angel. Not just the children, but also you, join in the fun, the kids are going to love that you spend time with them just being silly!

Winter icicle18. If you have some icicles reachable, let them touch them without their gloves to see their reaction, since it is a sensation that is hard to describe. If the icicles are clean, they can use them like popsicles (like we did when we were children ourselves).

19. You can go shovel to shovel in “shovel wars”, where you try to shovel a spot and the child as well and see what ensues, with us it always creates a lot of gleeful laughter and tears in our eyes.

20. Snow is a wonderful medium for many different kinds of sensory discoveries, you can mould it, sculpt it, explore it, measure it, use it as a surface to play on, see and feel it melt, especially for younger children this can be a very educational experience as well. (5721)

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