This will be the winter of outside play

For many reasons, there’s never been a better time for winter play

For many reasons there has never been a better time for winter play

As colder weather looms, and Covid-19 cases spike, forcing some schools to go virtual again, the warmth and comfort of home, the reliability of a controlled environment, might seem a tantalizing option for your kids’ playtime. However, Elizabeth Kwak-Hefferan, writing for the New York Times, strongly advises families to embrace outdoor winter play. Through interviews with parents who’ve been there before – in some remarkably extreme ways – she offers a wealth of tips. She begins with the reminder that outdoor playtime remains the safest playtime – for everyone.

“In the age of Covid-19,” she writes, “getting outside has become even more essential as an antidote to lockdowns and as one of the safest ways to have play dates… So if you’re staring down the barrel of the impending winter with dread, visions of cabin-fever-induced meltdowns dancing in your head, fear not. Yes, your kids can play outside in foul weather. And what’s more, they’ll love it.”

Of course, proper clothing is crucial. I am reminded of my four years working in a preschool and being amazed at how some parents seemed sadly clueless regarding proper cold-weather togs for their kids. I wish they’d had Kwak-Hefferan’s list.


Layering is important, yes, but, as she writes, “There’s more to it than just slipping a child into a puffy jacket and heading out the door.”

  • Hands, head, heart and feet are covered; out of those, the feet most importantly

  • Dry feet are warm feet, so think waterproof insulated boots or rubber boots paired with fleece or wool liners, plus cozy wool or synthetic socks (not cotton, which doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin and takes ages to dry). Speaking of socks: Pack an extra pair for each kid.

  • Mind the gaps. Dress kids in gauntlet-style gloves or mittens that cinch over their jacket’s cuffs, and keep cold winds from sneaking down their necks with a gaiter. A jacket overlapping with bib snow pants will be warmer than shorter layers that can gape open when

Some helpful tips on food: First and foremost, hydration is key. “A thermos full of something hot is the way to go,” Kwak-Hefferan writes. There’s also something pleasantly ritualistic to drinking something warm in the cold, especially if you can make it seem like a tea party.

Also, no food that’ll freeze. If it is very cold omit the granola bars, heavy energy bars or fruit pouches. Yes to fig bars, freeze-dried fruit, trail mix, fruit snacks.

As for family activities, Kwak-Hefferan suggests hikes and scavenger hunts, and simple games like Red Light Green Light and tag. Simple is key. While she acknowledges kids will very likely whine initially, she swears that the more they play outside, the more they’ll want to, the better they’ll feel, and sleep, and the happier everyone will be. 

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