Nurture Family Relationships Through Outdoor Winter Play
Winter play offers families a chance to bond through the exploration of nature’s beauty. A wintery white world of wonder calls families to explore the magic of the winter season. Winter play walks families along pathways for healthy living that will stay with them for life. Families who nurture a love for outdoor winter play share a special connection that brings them closer to the world of nature.
Social, Emotional & Physical Benefits
When families connect with one another through outdoor play, the entire family benefits emotionally, socially, and physically. Connecting with nature nourishes the emotional wellness of human beings and for children it enhances a sense of alignment to the calm that nature offers. It is an opportunity for families to strike a balance between the everyday bustle of life and the harmony and peacefulness that nature provides. Through the outdoors, children and their families discover opportunities to engage with one another in conversation, laughter, and active play. Nature offers the opportunity for children to move and express themselves in physical ways as they come to know a unique sensory play experience that the natural world of winter can offer. Parents who embrace winter play, open the door to an overall sense of health and well-being for themselves and their children.
Intellectual Growth in Children
The touch of a prickly cedar compared to the unexpected softness of the long needles of a white pine tree invites children’s curiosity and provokes them to wonder about and compare the discoveries they make about the many living things all around. Questions will arise such as what is that sticky textured liquid that seeps from the branches of certain trees? Why are some pine cones smooth and long while others are bumpy and short? How do they grow, and from where does the sap on them emerge; how and why is it produced? These are just a few of the questions that you and your children might ponder during a family walk in the forest or along a pathway in the park. For it is through nature, that an endless sense of wonder will emerge.
Connecting intellectually as a family over the wonders of nature makes for rich conversation and future opportunities for further explorations together. It helps children gain confidence in their reasoning skills, and their knowledge as they gain new insights from their questions, inquiry, discussions, and research they share with their families. As parents, the priority you place on such investigations sets the tone for the way in which your family will interact as curious co-constructors of learning throughout your lives. What a wonderful way to nurture another layer of rich connection within your family.
A Sense of Belonging
Making time for family relationships is one of the most important things we can do to nurture a sense of belonging in our children. Intentionally setting aside time to gather as a family to explore the outside world speaks volumes about the things that matter most. It gives children a place to be within the serenity of the natural world. It situates them in an environment that is always there, serene, and free to be explored. It roots children in the peace and joy of nature. Fostering a relationship between ourselves, our children, and nature puts everything into perspective. Setting aside our digital devices, making time in our calendar, and focusing on the simple pleasures of a nature-filled childhood helps children understand what truly matters in life.
Through these explorations, we send a message to children about the priorities we value as parents and those we wish to cherish as a family. Connecting in this way signals to children that their connections to nature count, their voices matter, and their questions, theories, and discoveries are well-worth exploring. It is through a relationship with nature that families come to know a secure place belonging that only nature can provide in so many magical ways.
Sharing common interests and finding time to explore these together helps to strengthen family bonds. The time and energy parents devote to their children weaves the threads of togetherness that keep families intact. For years to come, the enjoyment of conversation and explorations in nature play will help create an excitement and joy more powerful than the calls of boredom parents sometimes hear from children. This enjoyment for nature will be a part of your children’s thoughts, conversations, perspectives, and activities bringing to your family a culture of shared learning and growth throughout your lifetime.
Building Respect for Something Bigger Than Ourselves
When parents foster playful relationships with the living world, they show their children that connections to nature are worth making. They show children that through other living beings, and the elements we find in nature, our bonds with the natural world strengthen. As children begin to see the connections that we share with nature and they begin to recognize the impact our human ways can have upon the natural world, a respect begins to grow for the relationship we share with the Earth.
Over time, children begin to see how human beings are connected to the natural world and that we are in fact connected to something far bigger than ourselves. Coming to know the world in this interconnected way, helps children to develop a sense of stewardship for the Earth ~ a sense of purpose for the care and protection of our world. Through this connection, children start to see the importance of their own role in relation to other living beings that inhabit our planet. Children soon discover that their choices in relation to the natural world matter, and that they themselves can make a difference.
Slowing Down to Embrace Joy
Celebrating the joy that children feel when they jump into a pile of snow, reach for an icicle in the low lying branch of a tree, or slide down a white-covered slippery hillside tells children that the gifts of winter are something to cherish. When we take time to slow our lives down enough to honour the gifts that emerge from the cold of winter, we send a message to children that the cycle of the seasons each bring with them their own beauty, wonder, and joy. Our embrace of the cold is enough to warm the hearts and spirits of children as we share time discovering all the awe that winter brings to our lives.
Creating Family Memories
As you play with your child in the outdoors, it’s important to remember that these are the memories you’ll have long after the moments have passed. Spending time together in the outdoors gives you a chance to breathe in the freshness of a new experience shared within your child while knowing that one day these memories will be the breath of fresh air you’ll be longing for long after your children have grown well past these early years.
As you show equal delight in nature play with your child, you are essentially creating a family culture that celebrates the beauty of the seasons while honouring the curiosity and excitement of your child. Your commitment to this time together will live forever in the soul of each member of your family. What a wonderful way to nurture a love for nature by sharing the heart-felt joy of winter outdoor play that brings you all together as a family!
Outdoor Play for Life
Nurturing a sense of curiosity and embracing the wonder that emerges so naturally from children who take time to play outdoors is something that will remain with your child throughout their lives. Teaching children that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather; only poorly selected clothing,’ children begin to learn that through careful preparation, they can embrace the awesomeness that awaits them as a family through winter play.
Connecting to nature in ways that nurture a sense of respect and love for the ever-changing conditions and temperatures of winter helps children build healthy relationships with the natural world. Taking time to celebrate a blustery snowfall invites children to see winter through a lens of excitement and possibility. It is a kind of growth mindset toward the ever-changing landscape of the seasons that parents can establish early on in life that helps their children embrace all that winter has to offer. We invite you to get outside and embrace all that nature has to offer this winter season.
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Such a wonderful post about all the benefits of exploring the outdoors as a family. I know my own children love the outdoors and we are inspired to continue to nurture their sense of wonder of the world around them. Life can be busy and this is a great reminder to get outside no matter what the weather is. Keep well.
Thank you for taking time for the blog! I know your love for the outdoors brings your family together. It’s wonderful to know that nature is a source of inspiration and wonder for you and your children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us here!
Stay warm and well,
What a great reminder. Super insightful during these challenging times when heavy topics loom all around us.
Thank you !
Yes, indeed. We are certainly facing challenging times! Thanks for your comment and for sharing how this blog post resonated with you. Nature provides us with endless gifts and possibilities that support children (and ourselves) as we face uncertain times.
As a Nurse Practitioner, it’s important to measure the growth and development of children, in more than one way. Nature-based outdoor activities are often evaluated to gauge environmental growth. As well, they are used as health teaching activities that are excellent tools, as they are affordable and fun methods to support growth and development.
The benefits of outdoor play for children’s development are vast and contribute to physical, mental, social and intellectual well-being.
Being active in nature reduces stress, anger and fear, and increases feel good hormones, such as endorphins. Physically it contributes to improved body mass index, muscle strength and general improvements in overall health, such as sleep, to name a few.
Outdoor activities enhance social development, as one grows an appreciation for the environment. Growth with interpersonal relationships occurs as well, as imagination and teamwork are often required to create imaginative play.
Encouraging outdoor play in the early years develops a health attitude about maintaining this type of activity into adulthood which gives life long benefits.
There are numerous benefits to outdoor nature-based play and I encourage parents to utilize this approach with their children as an adjunct to indoor activities, as it builds strong family ties, which is important to the safety and security of children as they go through the stages of development.
Wow! Thank you for this response to my blog post! As a Nurse Practitioner, your understanding of the benefits of outdoor play and nature play further support parents and educators in recognizing the value of nurturing the whole child. What better way to do this than through the free world of nature! Your insights to the growth and development of the child bring another layer to the value of outdoor nature-based play for our little ones! It’s through practitioners like yourself, that parents, teachers, early childhood educators, and other child-focused practitioners and therapists find further reason to embrace children in these open-ended and free play encounters.
Our “winter” is a tad less snowy on the pacific coast where -2 brings thoughts of frostbite to our unaccustomed exposed skin! But the seasons should not limit “play” but provide a new opportunity to try “different” even if the snowfall doesn’t quite get to 1cm….!