Have you stopped to consider the many positive reasons for providing children with a properly-designed space for outdoor play at your facility? Playing outside is a positive contributing factor for the healthy growth and development of children everywhere. Commercial-grade playgrounds and outdoor playground equipment help to create a healthy play environment for children, which serves to improve physical health & motor skills, helps to develop needed social skills, grows their imagination & creativity, gives them a great place to burn off excess energy, and more. But what about leveraging playgrounds in the winter months?
Some locations experience more severe winters than others, but winter is a reality in every part of the country, including the South. “Cold” is a relative term, but colder weather is here for all of us, even for those of us located in Southeastern states. But does winter mean it’s too cold for children to play outside? Not at all! Here are just a few benefits of winter outdoor play for children:
Filling your lungs with some chilly, outdoor air is a refreshing experience; it can actually make you feel more awake, alive, and energized. The same applies to children, as well. There’s a common misconception that going outside when it’s cold makes you more susceptible to catching a cold, but the research actually indicates otherwise. While it’s true that some airborne viruses are more prevalent in winter, this is actually a product of the air being circulated inside closed environments and isn’t a result of breathing cooler outdoor air.
When children experience open-ended outdoor play options, their bodies aren’t the only things to benefit. Their minds are being exercised, too. Imaginative play helps children to flex their creativity and also develop better problem-solving skills. And during the winter, a blanket of snow can turn a playground into an otherworldly environment for children to be able to explore and discover.
Of course, outdoor exercise is good for the body, too. It gets your heart pumping and your limbs moving, and it helps children as they develop muscles and bones. Regular exercise has been shown to help kids develop lifelong healthy habits and also helps to prevent some serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Even though temperatures may be cooler, the sun still shines in the winter months. Spending just 10 minutes outdoors in a sunny environment can provide a healthy dose of vitamin D which all children need. And vitamin D doesn’t just help children’s bodies; it’s been shown to help improve overall mood, as well.
Winter presents children with some different opportunities for moving their bodies, including unique activities like sledding, building snowmen, throwing snowballs, and maintaining personal balance in some new ways. This translates to the playground, too. Different kinds of large-muscle use are helpful in supporting children’s physical development, and also benefit their overall state of health.
If you want the children who use your facility to be able to enjoy some happy winter playtime outdoors, it’s important that you also follow proper seasonal playground maintenance practices. A well-maintained playground environment ultimately helps to keep kids safer, not just during winter, but through every season of use. Here are a few steps you’ll want to follow for the winter season:
It’s a good idea to conduct a thorough inspection of your playground equipment before the arrival of a significant winter weather event. Look for things like any broken pieces, cracks, loose bolts, worn components, etc. You should also check the condition of your playground safety surfacing. Snow is soft, but it doesn’t provide any needed safety buffer in the event of a fall. Make sure you have a proper depth of safety surfacing in place in all play areas. Also, note that some playground safety surfaces lose their impact absorption abilities whenever they freeze. If your safety surfacing is frozen and hard, your best bet is to plan an alternate indoor play activity for children.
If you found any items in need of repair, make sure to repair or replace those items before sending any children out to the playground. And if there are any components of your playground or any individual outdoor play structures which can’t be repaired immediately, close those areas off to children until they are safe to use. And if you’re looking for the best material option for play component replacement, consider plastic or composite products. These materials won’t get brutally cold like metal, and they won’t splinter like wood, either.
Freezing rain, ice, and sleet can make practically any surface slippery and dangerous. Melting snow can have the same slippery effect, too. If a surface is too slippery for you to navigate safely, then it’s too slippery for children to play on, too. If this is the case, it would be wise for you to explore some other outdoor games or activities for children.
Snow is lots of fun to play in, but excess snow buildup can create some hazardous situations where playgrounds are concerned. Snow can serve to conceal any angled or potentially sharp objects, and can potentially present a suffocation hazard if it blocks the end of a tube slide. It’s best to remove snow accumulation from your playground equipment before granting children access. Reserve “snow play” time for locations apart from your playground itself.
It is perfectly acceptable – and even fun! – to allow children some outdoor playground time in the winter. But it’s also imperative that you encourage families and children to engage in winter outdoor play in a safe, thoughtful manner. Here are a few winter safety tips to keep in mind:
If you lead or manage a preschool facility, then you know that many state agencies dictate that it’s fine – and even expect – for you to give children daily outdoor play activities during the winter, as long as temperatures and wind chills will allow. You’ll want to get familiar with the specifics of the policies in place for your area where temperatures and weather conditions are concerned. But a good rule of thumb to follow is this – if the temperature and/or wind chill is above freezing, then it’s generally considered safe for children to play outside.
You may be a cold-natured person, but that doesn’t mean you can just send kids outside to the playground while you watch from indoors while sipping on a cup of warm coffee or cocoa. If the kids are going outside, then you need to be going outside, too. Essentially, children require adult supervision anytime they’re out playing on the playground.
Encourage children to dress in layers to stay warm. As children’s bodies begin to generate their own heat from rigorous play, a layer of clothing can be removed, weather permitting. Waterproof jackets and pants are the best options for playing in snowy weather. Also, encourage parents to send an extra pair of gloves along, in case the first set gets wet. And finally, no scarves are allowed on the playground equipment. A scarf could get tangled up in the play equipment and could end up presenting a strangulation hazard.
Safety first is always the best policy for any type of playground activity, and that’s even more true while playing outside during the winter months. If you have any doubt about the safety of your outdoor conditions, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Just let your children play inside for that day; there will be plenty of outdoor play opportunities through the course of winter!
Carolina Recreation & Design has plenty of fun commercial playground designs and shade structures to offer you. Our play products are specially designed & engineered to be age-appropriate, safe, fun, and long-lasting! But we also do much more than just sell playgrounds and play equipment. We also offer and install safety surfacing, along with handrails, barriers, sun shades, mounted cameras, and many other essentials.
In addition, we’re general contractors, which means we can take care of everything from site preparation, to permitting, to electrical, water, and sewer work, to fencing, brick, and stonework … whatever you may need! We deliver complete turnkey solutions, from start to finish!
Ready to get started on your perfect playground environment? Give us a call today at (704) 664-1833! You can also reach out to us online by filling out this simple form. Carolina Recreation & Design has all your play structure, installation, and site preparation needs to be covered!
Carolina Recreation & Design is a full-service general contracting company offering turnkey installation of recreational products for parks, schools, churches, clubs, daycares and amusement parks. We offer premium-quality commercial products that are safe, fun, and built to last.