Reasons to Play Outside (even when it's cold!) + The Best Winter Play Spots in Topeka
The clocks have fallen back and now it’s getting dark earlier and the temperature is dropping. Parents and teachers might be tempted to limit outside play as we near the winter months, but with the average child spending up to 1,200 hours in front of a screen each year, outside play is crucial, even in the cold!
How is outdoor play beneficial to children in the winter months?
- Playing outside in the cold strengthens your child’s immune system! Many viruses are spread during the winter, so getting your children outside and breathing fresh air helps them to fight off infections.
- Children who sit indoors during the winter months may have pent-up energy that could cause them to act out more. Outdoor play will help them burn off that excess energy by using their large muscle groups to run, jump and play!
- Outdoor play promotes problem solving and cognitive thinking when children play in different weather conditions. Children can explore different types of play by experimenting with slick surfaces, frost, snow, rain, and fog. Let them experiment and discover what might happen if they step on a slippery rock, climb onto a rotten log, or slide down a snowy hill!
- Boost those vitamin D levels with an extra dose of winter sun! Sunlight provides vitamin D which regulates you and your child’s mental and emotional moods, increases energy, and helps develop brain memory. Children (and parents!) should get at least 15 minutes of natural vitamin D each day by the sunlight outside.
- Children get to see the world through a new lens as the environment changes. This new lens lets children explore and be creative in many different ways!
A great resource for outdoor play is 1000 Hours Outside. This website provides a printable tracker so you and your child can track how much time you’re spending outdoors. Do you have to reach 1000 hours of outdoor play? Of course not! However, tracking outdoor playtime is a fun activity to do together to help monitor how much outdoor play time everyone is achieving!
Cold Weather Play Ideas
- Take a fall hike and observe how nature has changed since summer.
- Check out a new playground that you haven’t been to before.
- Go on a letter hunt.
- Make a fall collection! Find different colored leaves, acorns, pinecones, sticks, seeds, and flowers, then make an art collage.
- Play with snow, inside or outside!
Our Favorite Winter Exploration Spots in Topeka
- The Kansas Children's Discovery Center: with 4.5 acres of outdoor adventure, the Discovery Center is the perfect spot for outdoor play
- Topeka Zoo: Home to nearly 400 animals from all over the world and open year-round.
- Washburn University: Washburn is a great location to walk or bike around, with lots of sculptures and gardens to explore.
- Kansas Historical Society's Nature Trail: fun 2.5 mile trail outside the Kansas Museum of History with a rope bridge!
- Rees Fruit Farm: Pick apples, have an apple slush, and check out their market for other fun fall produce.
- Iliff Commons: A great location for family hiking with lots of fun places to explore and discover.
- Kaw River State Park / MacLennan Park / Cedar Crest Trails: Another great hiking location with great views of nature and the Governor’s mansion.
- Quinton Heights Hill: Locals know this as the sledding hot spot!