Winter and children: because they have to be outside even if it is cold or the weather is not nice

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"It doesn't matter whether it's summer or winter: unless he's sick, a child should never spend the afternoons indoors." Word of Laura Reali, family pediatrician in the city and member of the Pediatricians for a Possible World group of the Paediatricians Cultural Association. Which, therefore, immediately clarifies how we should behave with children in the first cold.

"Parents often think that when the temperatures drop and the sun disappears behind the new ones, the ideal is to stay holed up in the house, but that's not the case" he confirms Monica Castagnetti, psycho-pedagogist and trainer of the Trieste Child Health Center. She specifying that she is "neither from the point of view of health nor from the more general point of view of the needs of the child and of his opportunities for psychophysical development".

Unfortunately, since there is the emergency linked to Covid, much more time is spent at home. But experts say that, despite the delicate situation, however, the invitation to be outdoors with children is valid: this is achievable through some more organizational effort.

In this article


  • Healthier in the fresh air
  • Outdoor play: essential for growth
  • In contact with nature
  • You play in company
  • Covid-19 and school, because we should be outdoors as much as possible

Healthier in the fresh air

"Let's immediately dispel the myth that the cold makes you sick" says Reali. "Apart from that, with the ongoing climate change and the consequent global warming, the really cold periods are decreasing, the idea that cold is bad is a legacy of the past, when the houses were not heated well and the clothing was not adequate ".

True: some germs, for example the flu virus, they are better off in the cold, but many others are actually worse off and therefore find it harder to multiply. In addition, the open environment significantly reduces the possibility of transmitting diseases. "In the warm and closed environments of kindergartens, kindergartens and schools, viruses and bacteria proliferate and, given the crowding and proximity, they have many chances to pass from one child to another. Outdoors, this is much more difficult. "underlines the pediatrician, according to whom it would be advisable for children to be able to spend much more time outdoors even in the nursery or kindergarten.

Read also: Kindergartens in the woods: what they are, how they work, where to find them

Not only that: thanks to exposure to sunlight, life in the open air helps fix vitamin D, which according to various studies is very important not only in calcium metabolism but also in infection prevention. Obviously, in winter and especially in the North, there is very little sunlight available - so much so that many pediatricians still recommend it vitamin D supplements - but even a little vitamin D collected in this way is better than nothing.


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Cold, cough, sore throat, earache and fever. Or vomiting and diarrhea. During the winter, children often get sick from influenza and non-influenza viruses. In most ...

Going outside to play - the ideal is the park, but the courtyards are also fine - also has another positive effect on health, this time indirect. The pediatrician explains: "Children who are outdoors on one side do more movement and on the other they pass less time in front of the TV (where, however, they often place themselves by nibbling junk food). Overall this reduces the risk of overweight and obesity".

If the environment is polluted

It's easy to say "go out and play". But how do we put it with city children, who often live under a constant in the colder months hood of smog and fine dust? Doesn't it become even more dangerous to spend time outdoors?

"Actually no, because even when environmental pollution is severe, it is difficult for the quality air outside is worse than inside the house "says the pediatrician Laura Reali, co-author of the book Pollution and health of children (Il Pensiero Scientifico editore)." Inside, in fact, both external pollutants accumulate, which in any case also pass through the windows closed, both internal ones. Not to mention that, indoors, the particles of pollutants become carriers of allergens, viruses and bacteria which - attached to these particles - are able to circulate more easily ".

This is why it is important change the air often. And that's why, even those who live in the city shouldn't give up going out. Maybe by choosing a park a little further away from traffic or industries. And if possible, offering children, on weekends, trips out of town to some nearby woods. "Possibly from reach by public transport, to reduce the polluting impact and raise awareness of the issue "suggests Reali.

Outdoor play: essential for growth

There would already be enough to clear the exit to the park even in the middle of winter. "Among other things, we are talking about a short time, an hour or so, because it gets dark quickly" Castagnetti points out. But the benefits of playing outdoors don't stop there.

"Being in open spaces - says the educator - is there natural life condition of the child, which in this way, learns better to take awareness of his body and the space it occupies and to interact independently with the external space. All functions that he needs to grow, but also for the future learning of mathematics and science, disciplines for which the concept of 'space' is fundamental ".

And yet: move outdoors - jumping rope, climbing a tree, chasing a friend - allows the body to freely experiment a wide range of movements, which will allow the child not to arrive unprepared, resulting in a feeling of inadequacy and shame, at gymnastics time middle school.

In contact with nature

Another fundamental aspect is the contact with nature, which obviously has its specific manifestations even in winter: "Being able to play all year round in a meadow, on the ground, near a tree is of immense value because it allows you to touch the passing of the seasons, verifying the modification of tactile, olfactory, auditory sensations "explains Castagnetti." Even with very young children you can play to feel the ground under your fingers, or the texture of the leaves, or to describe the different colors of a wood: all activities that , among other things, allow to enrich the child's vocabulary, that I will be able to concretely learn the meaning of terms such as dry, humid, lush and so on ".

Obviously, do not be afraid that the child will get cold or dirty. "Just make him wear nice comfortable clothes, in multiple layers - onion shaped - so that he can dress or undress depending on the external conditions," suggests Reali. And if there is a risk of him getting wet - because, let's face it, what's better for a baby than jumping into a puddle - just provide adequate clothing, with raincoat, hat, rain boots. "After all, how can a child learn to regulate himself, if not directly experiencing situations? Only by putting his feet in a pool of water will he discover that in this way he gets wet and that, perhaps, that feeling is annoying" says Castagnetti.

Read also: How to dress children in autumn and winter? The advice of the pediatrician

You play in company

The last aspect to consider is the possibility of play with others. "For older children, aged between / four and up, the ideal size for outdoor play is group play and we know well that it is precisely by playing in a group that the child learns fundamental skills for life, such as compliance with the rules or the ability to negotiate "clarifies Reali.

For Castagnetti, getting used to being in a group outdoors it might have an added advantage as well: "Pre-adolescents already have the habit of going to the park or gardens, but each one on their own, with the smartphone in hand. In part this is now inevitable, but it may be that this habit does not become so clear-cut and imperative for those who he got used to living the space with others in a more dynamic way ".

Covid-19 and school, because we should be outdoors as much as possible

The invitation to be outdoors is more valid than ever in the days of Covid-19, because among the many benefits of the outdoors there are also those for health. We talked about it with Stefano Prandoni, family pediatrician in Valdagno (Vicenza) and administrator of the Facebook page Influenza, this unknown, which since the beginning of the emergency has been dealing with the coronavirus issue in a thorough and competent way.

This year actually the anti-Covid restrictions - halving of numerous classes, spacing between counters, use of masks and sanitizing solutions, etc. - they should mitigate the risk factors associated with the "classical" school, but the fact remains that the concentration of viruses and bacteria outdoors is lower than that which can be found indoors.

Therefore, if there is a way to get children outdoors, even with a little more organizational effort, it is definitely worth doing. "Remembering that it is not necessary to cover too much children who are outside" Prandoni emphasizes. "Just cover them just right, they are always on the move".

Read also: Covid-19 and school: why we should be outdoors as much as possible

Questions and answers

Does being outdoors in winter make you sick? 

No, because the open environment significantly reduces the possibility of transmitting disease.

Is moving outdoors important for children? 

Yes, being in open spaces is the natural life condition of the child, who in this way learns better to become aware of his body and space and to interact independently with the external space.

  • 3-5 children years
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