Why Outdoor Time Is Important for Kids When the Weather Cools Down

It’s easy to spend time outside when the weather is warm and pleasant. Even on those hot summer days, it can be difficult to get your kids to come back inside when they’re super busy using their imaginations, expending energy and playing with friends. But once it starts to cool off outside, it can be harder for them to venture outdoors. We get it — you have to wear more clothes and darn it, it’s just cold. However, you should still encourage your kids to spend time in the outdoors, and here’s why.

It’s easy to exercise outside

Kids should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, according to the CDC, and that doesn’t change just because it’s cold out. While they can get their heart rates up indoors, it’s far easier to be physically active outside (and can save your furniture in the process). 

"In most weather, children can still safely play and exercise outside; parents just need to ensure they are dressing them with more clothing layers to protect them from the elements," notes Gina Posner, MD, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center. In other words, while getting outside can be challenging when it’s cooler out, make sure your kids wear a warm hat — sherpa hats are extra cozy — and a plush pullover with plenty of pockets, and they’ll be good as gold. Dressed them right, and it’ll be easy to get the 60 minutes of activity a day that kids need to stay healthy.

Give kids a break from that ever-present tech

Kids are techy from a young age these days, and spending time indoors keeps those devices close at hand (and the temptation to use them can be hard to resist). When the weather gets cooler and wetter, it’s even more important to make an effort for your kids to stay physically occupied. Swap out lightweight coats for water-resistant jackets and cozy leggings. 

"Now, more than any time in history, parents are struggling to find the balance between digital connection and family connection," says Beatrice Tauber Prior, PsyD., a clinical psychologist, author and founder of Harborside Wellbeing. "Time outdoors each day gives children a brain break from the constant buzz of technology. You can regain some family connection time if the whole family spends some time outdoors."

Image: Athleta Girl.

Getting outdoors can keep kids healthier

While it’s a common misconception that being outside in the cold can make you or your kids sick, it’s known that staying indoors is actually a contributing factor to getting maladies like the flu. According to an article from Harvard, when your kids are inside all the time, they’re more likely to breathe in virus-laden air, especially if someone else in the house is sick. Also, when your kids are inside, they’re missing out on sunlight, which can decrease their levels of vitamin D and melatonin, which can negatively impact their immune system, making it harder to fight off any viruses they may come into contact with. 

Help keep kids calm — later

S. Daniel Ganjian, MD, a pediatric obesity specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, explains that kids have far more freedom to exercise outside the house than inside — instead of risking your lamps (and your sanity), kids can toss the ball as high as they want, play tag and ride their bikes. After a session of playing outdoors, Ganjian notes that there’s another benefit parents will love. "Such exercise allows children to use their energy in a positive way so that when they are finished exercising, they’ll be able to focus better and sit still longer," he says.

Great for the human brain

Yes, exercise is terrific for your child’s physical health, but Prior says it benefits their brain function in ways that you might not realize. "All the running, jumping and spinning kids do is also vitally important to help the brain form the connections between neurons (brain cells) that will help children pay attention and concentrate and excel in school," she explains.

Don’t let the cold scare you (or your kids) back indoors

While there are certain weather conditions you do not need to be outside for, our experts agree that outdoor playtime can — and should — still be a thing when it’s cooler outside. In addition to keeping your breakables safe, Ganjian says, there are other benefits for kids, too: "They like the free space and the crisp cool air." We can’t agree more.

This post is sponsored by Athleta Girl.

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