The winter season can be a challenging time for many of us – it gets dark early and it can be so cold outside that all we want to do is cuddle up beside our toasty heaters. While the weather outside may look frightful, spending time outdoors during the winter season can be delightful!
In fact, there are so many ways to have fun outside this season. One way is by participating in Winter Walk Day, a Canada-wide initiative that celebrates physical activity outdoors throughout the month of February!
Time Outside Boosts Children’s Happiness
Physical activity outdoors has immense benefits for children’s mental health. The Canadian Mental Health Association recognizes that spending time in nature lessens symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. This is because time outside reduces our body’s cortisol levels, a hormone that is responsible for many of our negative emotions. Furthermore, when walking or playing outdoors, our endorphin and dopamine levels increase, both of which are associated with higher levels of happiness.
Understanding that this is a difficult time for many children and their families, physical activity outside does not need to be high intensity or complicated to see these positive benefits. It can be as simple as a walk around the neighbourhood, to school, or parking and walking a block to your destination. Teachers can also opt for more frequent breaks in the classroom, during which they can lead students on a group walk, conduct outdoor learning, or give extra play time outside.
Join Winter Walk Day Celebrations
School administrators and teachers can encourage children to spend more time outdoors by celebrating Winter Walk Day! Registration is open throughout the entire month of February, and sign-ups can be done for the whole school or an individual classroom. Ontario-based schools can register to be entered into a draw to win one of five $200 Scholar’s Choice gift cards!
Once registered, it is easy to participate in Winter Walk Day! Green Communities Canada has created posters, graphics, and sticker designs for schools and classrooms to promote the event. Additionally, the Winter Walk Day resource page includes fun activities that children can engage with while outdoors. Some of the resources include:
- I-FEEL Activity Sheet: 9 sensory objects for children to find and feel
- I-SPY Bingo Card: 24 winter items that kids can search for outdoors
- Songs to Walk ‘n’ Roll to: A playlist of fun songs to listen to while walking or playing outside
- Dressing for Cold Weather: An infographic that explains how to layer and stay warm while outside
Get Creative in the Cold
Here are two bonus activity ideas for parents or teachers that are looking to have some outdoor fun with their child(ren) or students this winter.
1. Create a Frozen Bubble!
This is the perfect activity to try out on a very cold winter day. Grab a bottle of bubbles and leave it outside for 10 to 20 minutes to allow it to get really cold. Instead of blowing a bubble with your mouth, slowly wave the wand back and forth to create a bubble. If it is cold enough outside, you will see that the bubbles freeze almost immediately – leaving behind an unpoppable, frozen bubble!
2. Play Tic-Tac-Toe in the Snow
Find an area of untouched snow and draw out the Tic-Tac-Toe grid. Grab a friend or family member and have fun playing!
Strap on your snowshoes, skis, or trusty ol’ winter boots and get outside this winter! Share your journey outside on social media using the hashtags #WinterWalkDay, #WWD2022, and #JourneyOutside.
Please follow provincial/regional COVID-19 public health guidelines when organizing and/or participating in WWD.