January rolls around and I always find it necessary to write a column that encourages and inspires families to get outside and embrace the cold and the snow including getting the winter gear on infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
Reflecting on my early years as a parent with my two young children, I often would get them dressed, take them out and then be stuck. What can I do with them out here?
I started having my husband make a path while snow blowing the front walk, connecting to the backyard with a straight line to our playset.
The children can walk without frustration and have a destination to the backyard. As they got older, they would make paths that led off the walkway. Having a trail allowed us to move around and get exercise.
Consider places for your toddlers where they can walk independently without holding hands like well-plowed sidewalks, bike paths, neighborhoods or cul-de-sacs. Allow them to run or walk, stop and explore items that fascinate them.
As simple as it sounds, having child-size shovels for children to push snow back and forth on the driveway is great for large motor development. Children love to imitate adults. When the weather lingers around 35 degrees and if children have decent dexterity with their gloves on or can take off their mittens outside, spray bottles with different colored water is a great way to keep kids occupied and also a fabulous way to decorate the freshly fallen snow.
Bring the paint outside. Washable paint of course, because we know most things with children is messy. Paint snow, paint the driveway, paint the steps. It is all about the process of the activity here. They are creating temporary art while using their small and large muscles to move.
Snow is moldable or very fluffy or grainy much like sand. It can turn into a science activity each day for preschool-age kiddo. Making predictions, writing them down and creating a hypothesis on why the snow might be more sticky or grainy helps develop science and math skills. Bring out some spoons and bowls to play in the snow, maybe even some dump trucks. Think outside of what you typically do.
Think about using sleds and tubes on flat ground, of course, to slip and slide on the snow. Children will think this is the best and giggles will be heard a block down the road.
Going outside in the winter, gives children time to get comfortable in their gear. They can learn so much each day while dressing and undressing. In fact, they learn the skills they need for a lifetime.
Expert tip: Hang up a visual representation of what winter gear goes on first. Ask your child, “Okay, look at the chart. What goes first?” Then ask, “What’s next?” This strategy is excellent for young children for many types of different transitions like morning rituals and bedtime routines. Creating a visual schedule or a “What goes first?” chart is an excellent strategy for helping any child learn.
Let’s face it. The hardest part is getting ourselves motivated to go outside. Don’t skimp on your own warm clothes either. There is nothing worse than being cold. I always think about the cold weather outdoor benefits including how well everyone will sleep, the fresh air that they have breathed in and the amount of exercise gained through playing. Get out there and have fun, then reward yourself with a big mug of cocoa with marshmallows.
Ellen Drolette, owner of Sunshine Daydream Child Care, has been an early educator for 24 years. Named one of 50 master leaders in the world by Exchange magazine in 2015 and a global leader in early care and education for the World Forum Foundation, she is co-owner of Positive Spin, offering professional development and empowerment workshops. Reach Ellen at email@example.com.