After a long weekend of cold weather, my kids are getting stir-crazy inside. Is it safe to let them play outside in cold temperatures?
Children spend less time playing outside during the winter months in comparison to the other seasons. Shorter days and unfavorable weather conditions create more obstacles for getting outside. In most cases, however, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks so pile on the layers and take playtime outdoors.
A generation ago, nearly 75% of all children played outdoors daily. When one compares this number to 25% of today's youth, it becomes apparent that fond memories of being outside as a child may be more generational rather than regional. During current times, fewer children are walking to school and many schools are shortening recess. Simultaneously, childhood obesity is on the rise.
There are many other benefits to playing outside such as improved physical fitness, increased vitamin D levels, improved critical thinking skills and higher standardized test scores.
Finally, it is important to dispel a couple of myths about the risks of cold weather. Being outside in the cold weather does not cause a child to "catch a cold". Colds are caused by viruses and are transmitted person to person. Secondly, how cold is "too cold" to let children play outdoors? According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, children should be kept indoors when temperatures reach -25 celcius. This is not to say that I am promoting outdoor play in the bitter cold but merely to emphasize that our local temperatures are moderate and conducive to outdoor activity. For more information and outdoor safety tips please visit www.nwf.org.
Dr. Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic and past president of the Charlotte Pediatric Society. Dr. Patt answers questions from local parents in her weekly "Ask the Doctor" blog. If you’ve got a question you’d like answered please email Dr. Patt at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put “pediatrician” in the subject line.