Reflections on Quality is an invitation to reflect by Anna Nguyen-Sgro, Quality Specialist, Children’s Services, Halton Region
“There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing”.
As we head into winter months predictions about our upcoming season have been making news headlines; with forewarnings about “a classic Canadian winter”, “a stormy winter ahead” and “the most snow we have seen in a decade!”. For those who are winter enthusiasts, this may stir excitement, while for others, might cause some alarm as one contemplates, “How might we provide opportunities for children to engage in outdoor play and inquiry? How might we connect with nature during the cold and frigid winter months?”
Under the Child Care and Early Years Act (CCEYA, 2014), licensed programs are required to provide at least two hours of outdoor time each day (see section 47 of the CCEYA). In addition to this legislative requirement, there are many more reasons why it is important to provide opportunities for children to play outside in all types of weather. Winter outdoor play strengthens the immune system, allows for increased physical activity and large-muscle play, and provides opportunities to connect to nature and observe the environment with a new lens. In addition to the benefits to children’s health and development, simply put, it is FUN!
What is your weather attitude?
To develop quality outdoor practices that have a positive impact on children’s health and development, it is fundamental to promote conditions where educators feel comfortable and motivated during time spent outside. Waite et al. (2011) suggests that adult attitudes are one of the main factors in determining children’s access to engaging outdoor experiences. As facilitators of children’s play, educators have the potential to be positive influences or barriers for children’s outdoor play. “The attitude and behaviour of adults outdoors has a profound impact on what happens there and on children’s learning. It is therefore vital that children have the support of attentive and engaged adults who are enthusiastic about the outdoors and understand the importance of outdoor learning.” (Early Years Foundation, 2008). How might your weather attitude influence how you advocate for children to connect to nature, in all kinds of weather?
Parents as Partners
As parents want their children to be healthy and safe, it is not uncommon parents and caregivers to wonder about their child “getting sick in the cold”. To partner with parents and promote quality outdoor play experiences, it is important to support parents in understanding the value of play in all types of weather and to dispel any myths about the winter temperatures causing illness (Caring for Kids, Canadian Paediatric Society). Educators must also work with parents to ensure that all children have the proper clothing and equipment to play outside in different weather conditions. How might your team partner with parents to advocate for children’s right to play during the winter months?
Winter is a time for exploration
In Canada, our four seasons affords us with endless opportunities for play, inquiry and exploration. In the winter, children become explorers and discoverers as they take notice of the environmental changes and mess about in the ice and snow. How might the winter months offer experiences that are not possible at other times of the year?
Invitation to reflect:
Reflect on your experiences and observations of children outdoors. In what ways does their play, movement and exploration change through the seasons? How does each season afford different opportunities to connect with nature?
The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice state that “RECES … use a variety of materials to intentionally create or adapt … outdoor learning environments that support children’s exploration and learning.” What materials would you offer to support children’s play outdoors during the winter months?
How Does Learning Happen describes that “Children thrive in programs where they can engage in vigorous physical play in natural outdoor spaces and playgrounds that present manageable levels of challenge. While these environments need to be safe, it is also important for them to provide children with interesting opportunities for a reasonable degree of risk taking”. How might you arrange the environment to encourage children to engage in activities that involve an element of manageable risk (appropriate for children’s varied capabilities)?
Anna Nguyen-Sgro, RECE, MA
Quality Specialist, Child Care System
Halton Region, Children’s Services