It's a pleasure to share an article written by a cherished partner of ours, Child & Nature Alliance of Canada (CNAC). CNAC is a national charitable organization which fosters meaningful relationships between children and the Land through outdoor play.
Through Forest School Canada, its flagship program, CNAC provides professional learning opportunities for educators who wish to promote children’s healthy development and a sense of care and respect for the Land through unstructured play and learning in nature. Here they share, "6 Ways to Invite Outdoor Play for Kids this Winter."
As the weather gets colder, it might seem tempting to spend the season inside, watching movies or playing on the iPad. This winter, why not pack hot cocoa with snacks to-go and play outside in nature!
Not sure what to do? Here are some wonderful ways you can invite play outside with children this winter:
Introduce loose parts into your child’s play. A “loose part” is anything which can be used in play in multiple ways. For example, a stick can become a guitar, a fishing rod, a sword - you name it!
Not all loose parts are made of natural materials. For example, try replacing the usual toys with kitchen tools! Bring a ladle outside instead of a shovel. Offer a pot instead of a bucket. With some imagination, the possibilities are endless! Tip: Offer one loose part at a time, so each tool is new and exciting.
Get creative! Offer food colouring mixed with cold water in squeeze or spray bottles and watch as children “paint” masterpieces in the snow. That’s not all! When the coloured liquid freezes, it will create unique ice “jewels” and children can treasure hunt for days to come.
Sledding is always a family-favourite adventure in the winter! This season, why not make your own sled? Grab some cardboard, a few garbage bags, duct tape and rope and invite children to lead the construction! This is fun because there aren’t any instructions to follow - just your own creativity.
Test your creations out on your neighbourhood hill. What are some ways you can make the sled studier? Faster?
You’ve tried rolling balls of snow to build a snowman before. This winter, encourage children to use snow to make faces on nearby trees. Who did they bring to life? What are their personalities? Is there a story that can be told here?
Similarly, invite children to open an “ice museum” in the backyard and let them take you on a tour of their creations.
- In all cases, model play and do it yourself! If you’re just standing to the side, looking and feeling cold, children will emulate your energy. So adults: Get down and start crawling, look closely at the ground or roll a snowball yourself. In no time, the children will want to join you and see what you’re up to.
At the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, we support outdoor play and learning: play that’s emergent, led by children and driven by inquiry. As a result, try not to present these invitations as “what you’re going to do outside today.” From our experience, if you just start playing in front of children, they’re going to want to do it too!
Say “yes” to their suggestions as much as you can and don’t be afraid to veer off course! The best play and learning happens that way.