National Play Outside Day: Winter

Written by: Holly Cooper

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As winter settles in, it can be tempting to stay indoors, snuggled up under a cozy blanket. But did you know that spending time outside can actually boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve your overall health? That’s right – fresh air and sunshine are just what the doctor ordered! And what better way to celebrate the great outdoors than with National Play Outside Day?

WHAT IS NATIONAL PLAY OUTSIDE DAY?

National Play Outside Day falls on the first Saturday of every month and encourages people of all ages to get outside and enjoy the world around them. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoors enthusiast or just looking to try something new, there’s no better time to embrace the beauty of nature. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the benefits of spending time outside, as well as some fun outdoor activities that you can do to celebrate this national day. Plus, Seattle Elderberry's founder Holly Cooper shares a few tips for motivating those who might not want to spend a chilly afternoon outdoors!
 

7 BENEFITS TO PLAYING OUTSIDE

There are countless benefits to spending time outside, especially during the winter months. For starters, exposure to sunlight not only FEELS GOOD but also  helps our bodies regulate several hormones which impact sleep, healthy bones, the immune system and more! Additionally, getting fresh air and exercise can improve our overall mood and decrease stress levels. Finally, spending time in nature has been linked to improved cognitive function and lower rates of depression and anxiety. So if you’re feeling a little down this winter, bundle up and head outside for a mood boost! Here are 7 benefits to playing outdoors!

  1. Boosts Wellness: Daily doses of fresh air and sunlight increase circulation and vitamin D levels, promoting overall wellness1.

     

  2. Promotes Physical Activity: Playing outside allows children to use their large muscles and work off extra energy, contributing to physical development2,3.

     

  3. Strengthens the Immune System: Contrary to popular belief, outdoor play in cold weather can actually strengthen the immune system45.

     

  4. Enhances Brain Development: Physical activity is crucial for brain development. When children are active, their brains work better, aiding in school readiness6.

  1. Improves Health Indicators: Outdoor physical activity is associated with improved cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and bone density7.

     

  2.  Fosters Creativity: Winter brings unique possibilities for creative play, imagination, and construction, enhancing kids' creativity8.

     

  3. Develops Problem-Solving Skills: New challenges posed by patches of ice and snow-covered hills provide children with opportunities to develop problem-solving skills9.

Family Hiking in Winter

6 OUTDOOR ACTIVITY IDEAS

  1. Winter Hike- Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails! Even if there’s snow on the ground, a winter hike can be a beautiful and invigorating experience.
  2. Winter Scavenger Hunt- We love this activity because it can easily be adapted to all ages! 
    1. For Young Kids: find a printable “Winter Bingo” sheet online, take a walk near your home and see how many things you can find! 
    2. For Elementary Kids: Upgrade your scavenger hunt into a TREASURE hunt by hiding a few special objects at a local park and give the kids a map so that their brains and bodies are active!
    3. For those wanting more: try a geocache! Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt for any age! 
  3. ICE ART Creations: Fill balloons with water and food coloring, then leave them outside to freeze overnight. The next day, peel off the balloon and voila - you have a beautiful ice sculpture! Isn't it AMAZING how simple things can turn into ART?
    1. For Young Kids : Follow the steps above, but use a loaf-pan to freeze the water instead of a balloon. Think about dropping in a few plastic toys so the kids can “dig” in the frozen ice for treasures!  *You can also replicate this by placing in the freezer if it's not quite cold enough!
  4. WINTER PICNIC: Bundle up, pack some hot cocoa and sandwiches, and enjoy a meal under the open sky. Can you think of a BETTER WAY to appreciate the beauty of winter?

If you have SNOW where you live:

  1. SLEDDING Rampage: Did you know that an hour of sledding is basically a super fun outdoor workout? Why not swap the treadmill for a sled and have some FUN on the slopes!
  2. SNOWMAN BUILDING Contest: Who can make the tallest snowman? How about the silliest? Grab your hats and gloves and let's find out! This is FUN exercise, CREATIVE play, and a dose of friendly competition all rolled into one!
Building Snowman in Winter

5 TIPS TO GET EVERYONE OUTDOORS

Hey all! Founder Holly Cooper here with  my favorite tips to motivate everyone to get outside! As a mom of 3 kids, I know how hard it is to get everyone on board with a wintertime activity, especially when the skies are grey and the temperatures are low. MY personal motivator is to bring a warm drink along. I can't tell you how many hours I've logged at the playground over the winter holding a travel mug full of hot coffee or tea to help keep me warm from the inside out!

  1. Don't Stress- seriously. If you approach heading outside with a fun, lighthearted attitude, your crew will be much more likely to willingly come along!
  2. Promise of a Warm Beverage- Whip up a batch of our Elderberry Cider or hot cocoa for the family after your outdoors excursion1 A warm mug will help them feel cozy as they recap their outdoor adventures
  3. Make it a Friendly Competition- can you time your kids to see who can get ready the fastest? Maybe there's a special prize for the kid who builds the tallest or silliest snowman! Many kids love the extra challenge of a little competition!
  4. “One Extra”- I love this one beacuse it's highly customizable! Got a kiddo who loves books? Maybe the promise of an extra bedtime story is all the motivation they need! For the elementary years, maybe 10 extra minutes of screen will win them over OR the opportunity to choose the movie for family movie night!
  5. Just Add Music- I gotta tell you… adding music to almost any activity makes it just a bit better. Get your music-loving teen to make a playlist for your adventure! Not only will you get a peek into their music tastes, but it can also help to set the “theme” of your aventure!

National Play Outside Day is an excellent reminder to get outside and enjoy the world around us. In addition to the mental and physical health benefits, spending time outside can be a fun and exciting way to explore new landscapes, connect with loved ones, and create lasting memories. Whether you prefer indoor activities or outdoor adventures, there’s a way for everyone to celebrate this national day. So bundle up, grab your friends and family, and let’s play outside!