It is that fun time of the year again in the northern hemisphere known as winter or if not yet winter soon will be coming to a place near you! It’s beginning to be freezing cold with a side of freezing rain or maybe snow for the luckier parts of the world. The outdoor class game plan changes during this season significantly for taking kids outdoors. So here are the five things to keep in mind to help you and your kids enjoy learning outdoors throughout this season. You and I both don’t want the kids cooped up inside all winter so take these tips and get the kids outdoors!
Dress for the Weather
Making sure they are properly dressed for the weather will go a long way with helping them have fun outdoors and be more willing to spend more time outside. Depending on where you live you can under do it or overdo it in the winter. The key in the winter is that balance between warmth and being able to move. You don’t want your kids dressed like the little brother from a Christmas story right?
“I can’t put my arms down!”
So here are some hacks for dressing kids for winter:
- Two pairs of dry clean socks with the outer sock layer being preferably wool and the inner layer being synthetic so your feet stay drier.
- Cotton is one of the worst materials to wear close to your skin. It traps moisture and that makes you get cold quicker which is especially miserable for you extremities.
- Make sure clothes especially the boots are not too tight because when circulation is constricted it makes you colder.
- Additionally if you are in an area without snow wearing leggings under jeans or light polar fleece under pants can help keep you warm without being in a lot of bulky layers.
- More flexible layers like leggings under snow pants can also make it easier for kids to walk and play.
- Lastly encourage wearing multiple layers because you can always take a layer off but you can’t always put a layer on you don’t have.
A tip for teachers is to have a collection of items to borrow to students who are not dressed for the weather. So that you are not constantly lending your own gloves or feeling the need to go buy stuff for your students to borrow in class. One way to get the items is at the end of the year before your school donates all the lost and found items see if you would be able to take some of those. Additionally, you can put a request out to parents to donate these things to your classroom if there is anything that doesn’t fit anymore and would otherwise just go to the thrift store.
Keep Them Moving
Winter is not the season to have kids sitting in a spot for a long time outdoors. When you stay still for too long your blood starts to slow down and your muscles cool off that is why your body starts to shiver to warm you back up. So make sure to keep them moving outdoors from one thing to the next it will also help prevent the dreaded “I’m Bored.” For teachers make sure to have a mix of activities, games, and discussions to keep it interesting as well!
Practice Good Cold Safety
Adults are a lot more tolerant to the cold than kids so keep that in mind when going outside in winter. Kids especially kids not dressed for the weather have a hard time spending long periods outdoors in the winter. So either make the expected period of time to spend outdoors shorter or find ways to split the activities up like maybe doing half the lesson outdoors in the morning and then the second half outdoors in the afternoon. Make sure to check the temperature with wind chill included throughout the day. Weather can sometimes change unexpectedly and if it is too cold for recess then it is probably too cold for class outdoors. If you have a thermometer designed for reading the temperature outdoors add that in as part of your class to cover some of the standards about using scientific tools.
Loss of Dexterity
Keep in mind that even if the kids are warm from moving around the cold will cause them to lose dexterity in their fingers. So when you are picking activities to do in the winter try not to include a lot of complex finger movements. So doing a lot of writing outdoors like nature journaling or using tools that will make students want to take off their gloves to hold better should probably just wait until spring.
Do Include the Snow
If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that has snow or get it occasionally it is a great thing to include as part of your class or winter activities. Speaking as a Minnesotan it always seemed to me that people enjoy winter more when there was something they could go outside and do especially if they could only do it in winter. I do in fact love winter but to be quite honest I don’t really have a favorite season. It is just whatever season we are currently in that I like most. Skiing and ice skating have always been the highlights of winter for me. I have a list below of activities you can do outside in the winter with you kids!
- History & engineering of quinzhees & igloos (don’t have snow? Use pre-made ice cubes from ice trays outdoors instead!)
- Physics & math of sledding or snowballs (kids constantly picking up snow? Hang up targets to test their snow throwing accuracy!)
- Snow sculpture art
- Poetry about winter or their own short stories “If I was a snowflake”
- Physical science of freezing freshwater & salt water
- Geology demonstration with kids rolling giant snowballs as “glaciers”
So I hope these tips can help you get your kids outdoors more this winter! Please comment below what activities you are interested in trying with your kids and if you have any questions!
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