Open Discussion Forum

Expand all | Collapse all

Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

  • 1.  Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 12 days ago
    Hi There,

    I have been an ECE for a decade, but when I moved provinces, I discovered that my education background did not qualify me to practice as an ECE here. I am currently completing an expedited ECE diploma program to remedy that problem.

    That said, I am currently a student intern in a Toddler classroom. On my first day, I learned that the Toddler educators have a practice of only taking a small group of children outdoors each morning for play. Their reasoning is that the Toddlers spend most of their outdoor play time crying and that they don't want to force the children to do something they don't want to do.

    For me, this is problematic not only because the province's licensing regulations require two outdoor play periods each day, but also because of my own personal values and beliefs about outdoor play as an essential part of childhood and as an important setting for developing resiliency and other key skills and dispositions.

    I am looking for advice about how to broach this conversation with the educators (should I?), and any suggestions for how to engage Toddlers in outdoor play in Canadian winters. I recognize that winter gear/clothing is very restrictive for small bodies and limits the children in their explorations. How can I circumvent that challenge and support the Toddlers to successfully explore the outdoors in winter?

    Thank you kindly for your time and input!

    Kayla de Groot
    Early Childhood Educator
    Halifax NS

  • 2.  RE: Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 12 days ago
    Good evening Kayla,

    I think you should let your educators know that being outside helps them to get out the monkey-ness in them.  Just because they are crying doesn't mean that it is because of being outside,  it could be that don't like wearing all the gear.  We go outside everyday, weather permitting two times a day.  I would try to talk with them first and if they won't listen then go to your director or supervisor. I have had a number of teachers that didn't want to go outside but it was because of their own reason it takes a while to get their gear on, and then you go out for a few moments just to take it off again.  So many teachers refuse to do it.  If they get the children motivated to do things outside with the snow, they will also have less tears.  Have them sit in the snow with cups and they can scoop and dump-cause and effect learning, fine motor skills, and sensory, they can touch, look and more. outside.  if it is too cold for them to go out, bring the out inside at the sensory table.  We have many times brought in snow for the little ones to explore. bring out cookie cutters and let them make snow cookies outside,  the sky's the limit!

    I hope this helps you out!

    Have a blessed evening,

    Linda Strub
    Assistant Toddler Teacher
    Little Saints
    New Prague MN

  • 3.  RE: Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 11 days ago
    My toddler program is in Colorado and we get outdoors twice a day in all weather. We tailor the time to the weather and how the toddlers are feeling. First of all, proper clothing. We have lots of back ups particularly hats and mittens. Secondly dry boots. I just ordered at boot dryer found on Etsy. Third we have lots of activities such as snow shovels, walking in the snow, building structures as well as rides on the saucer. We had to add a rope to pull the saucer around. The toddlers like to pull each other around.
    If children are crying, the environment is not working for them.
    Good luck!

    Susan Smith
    Heart and Hands Montessori
    Lafayette CO

  • 4.  RE: Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 11 days ago
    Hello Kayla,
    Before breaching this subject with your colleagues, Do The Research on benefits of Outdoor Play.  Prepare your comments so that you come across as understanding of their position BUT even for children "Life is about learning!  It's continuous!"

    Yes, Canada has cold winters.  Playing outdoors in winter doesn't have to be dreaded.  Make snow angels, snow people,  snow as sand - dig in it!  Maybe even think about a group project of building an igloo.

    How about scienceing with winter?  Fill two pails with packed snow.  Leave one pail outside.  Measure how deep the snow is in the pail.  Record it.

    With the other snow filled pail bring it into the classroom.  Measure its depth and record it.  Pose a question, "What do you think will happen to the snow.  I or the Teacher Assistant would record each answer.

    The following day, at group we examined the pail from outside.  Compared it's depth to the previous day.  With the indoor pail we examined it!  We asked children, "What do you think happened?"  Recording all responses.  We compared the amount of snow to the water that now occupied the pail.

    I like reading The Snowy Day by Eric Carle.

    Be prepared for nay sayers about outdoor play.  Have your facts to support your position.

    Patricia Landry
    Jamaica Plain MA

  • 5.  RE: Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 11 days ago
    You should definitely push for getting them out. Say you'd like to try some fun activities out there with them. Try filling spray bottles with water and coloring and paint the snow. We are in the thick of winter here in Michigan and outside 3 times a day with our older toddlers. One time is usually a walk. The other two on the playground where we pull out sleds and snow shovels, use the snow in the playhouse and make prints. What kid doesn't like to get pulled on a sled? The biggest dilemma we face is the time it takes to put on snow gear (a great fine/motor activity :) ! It cuts into the time we are out there, but if teachers get their snow gear on and involve them self you should get a sense of excitement.

    Lisa Moen
    Grosse Pointe Nursery School
    Grosse Pointe Woods MI

  • 6.  RE: Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 10 days ago
    When I worked in Maine, I found that just getting around the playground was a challenge for some children. I brought out a sensory table and placed it near the front of the playground. This engaged some of the children who were not enjoying the snow. Sand or nut-free birdseed could be good choices for the table. Individual tubs might be necessary due to covid. Placing them on benches or low tables might make them more accessible to children who dislike the snow. Cold but snowless days were harder. This year I bought a bubble machine, since I couldn't encourage the children to blow their own bubbles. It can be a nice novelty on days when the playground is not appealing.

    Anne Jaegerman
    2's & 3's teacher
    Clarendon Child Care Center
    Arlington, VA

    Anne Jaegerman
    Arlington VA

  • 7.  RE: Toddler Outdoor Play in Canadian Winters

    Posted 8 days ago
    Anne, I love your ideas of individual (when necessary) sand sensory tubs and a bubble machine to support active play and wonder!
    Would ice cubes in the sensory tubs work well on days cold enough to keep the ice frozen (to avoid sopping wet mittens)?
    I have seen children become engaged in tossing small squares of a very light fabric such as silk on windy days, chasing them, picking them up and throwing again.

    Peggy Ashbrook
    Early childhood science teacher
    Alexandria, VA
    NSTA The Early Years columnist, Science and Children
    Early Years blogger,
    Author: Science Learning in the Early Years, and
    Science Is Simple