Is it ever too cold to Get Kids Outside?

Thursday was cold, very cold. Temps topped out at about 10 degrees with a nasty wind chill.

As a result, kids at Lowell and Emerson Elementary schools had no recess – their second in a row.

Now, it was my turn. Would I take 11 kids cross country skiing? We did the week before and the kids froze because we were out in the open.  Would today be a repeat?

After consulting with Molly, the lead instructor at Blackhawk Ski Club, I decided to go – even though my boss had already told the kids it was too cold. Molly’s plan was a good one – stay in the woods and keep ’em moving by sending them on a scavenger hunt.

It worked. The kids were not fazed by the cold and they had a great time on the scavenger hunt. No one complained.  Plus, it was safe.

Blackhawk Ski Club isn’t exactly wilderness. There’s a warm chalet, hot chocolate and snacks. If kids wanted to go inside they could, but none of them did. They all stayed out for a full hour.

The kids had a blast and they learned something about the cold – if you dress right, keep moving and stay out of the wind, you’ll be fine.

Meanwhile, students at Emerson and Lowell Elementary schools learned to fear the cold. While safety is always important, I disagree with this policy.

When kids don’t get enough exercise, they are less able to focus and more likely to act out in class. Inside recess focuses on board games, not on being active. So, I suggest the following:

Why not let parents make the choice?
Why not base the choice on outerwear?
Why not let them out for a short time under the supervision of  a trained teacher?

Why not structure a moving activity, such as a run around the playground?

It seems to me that going outside for recess is a lot like going skiing at Blackhawk Ridge:  Kids are close to a warm building and there’s supervision.

I think we’re doing our kids a disservice by not teaching them how to dress for the cold.

What  do you think?  When is it too cold to go outside? What are you doing to help kids enjoy winter in Wisconsin?

Diane Schwartz takes kids cross country skiing at Blackhawk Ski Club every week until March 4. You can also find her at Winterfest on February 19 teaching kids and families the joys of winter. Of course, that will be a lot easier now that a warm front is on the horizon.


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