By Natalie Maughan
We totally lucked out with the weather temperatures earlier this winter. We had a lovely holiday break with a few days warm enough to play outside. What a change from some previous years. Our family basked in the warm weather and played in the backyard with our new toys Christmas Day and loved every ounce of sunshine.
That being said, Old Man Winter has finally decided to pay us a visit. For those of us with little kids this can be a challenging and sometimes long period of the year as we have fewer options for burning energy throughout the day. Sometimes we worry that the temperature is too low or the winds too high to take young ones out to play. I know I have struggled with this dilemma numerous times over the years as well. I decided to get a better idea of what is “acceptable” outdoor temperatures for playtime.
So, what are the rules for being outside in the cold? According to ahealthiermichigan.org “As a rule of thumb, you should use the wind-chill as the best judge on if it’s too cold to play outside. In general, when the wind-chill is 32 degrees and above, it’s safe to be outside. In temperatures 13 degrees to 31 degrees, indoor breaks should happen every 20-30 minutes. For wind-chills of 13 degrees and below, you should move activities indoors and outside of the cold as frostbite can set in very quickly.”
As a parent we sometimes worry that by taking our kids outside to play we are only going to end up with stuffy nosed sick kids two days later. However, when dressed appropriately for the cold, spending time outside can help boost the immune system. I’m not talking about spending time in negative 5 temperatures, but if it’s safe to be outside for 10-15 minutes we should take advantage of that. Dressing appropriately means the whole kit and kaboodle: good coat, hat, scarf, gloves, boots, snow pants if necessary.
I remember watching the news one morning a few winters ago when the temperature for that day was a little above 0 degrees and the meteorologist said we should not be outside more than 10 minutes for fear of hypothermia or frostbite setting in. I’ve always used this as a gauge and will set a timer for 10 minutes, send the kids outside, then call them in when the timer goes off. I use common sense and only send them out if I feel like it’s safe. I make sure they are bundled and bring them in after 10 minutes for a cup of hot cocoa. At that point you have to get creative to find ways to burn off energy and get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise a day.
Help Boost the Immune System
There are plenty of other things we can do to help boost our little ones’ immune systems to help avoid sickness in the winter whether they are outside or inside. It’s true that eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps us stay healthy; those leafy greens and vitamin C from oranges can help support good health. Limiting sugar is always good for the body and probably needed after the holidays anyway, amiright? Getting enough sleep helps more than we realize. According to Live Science, school-aged kids should get 9-11 hours of sleep while preschool-aged kids require 10-13 hours of sleep. These little things can help fight off a cold or flu in frigid weather.
Get Outside When You Can
Bundle the kids up and enjoy a good old Iowa winter when the weather is tolerable. When the snow flies, build a snowman, make a fort, have a family snowball fight and then warm your toes by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book and snuggle close to those little ones while they still like to snuggle.
What’s your favorite thing about winter? Tell us in a comment below!