by Justin Cornett, Afterschool in Nature Education Director
During the last heavy snowfall, I began to once again contemplate how special Vermont winters are!
For all its challenges, the pure beauty and primordial nature of our winter season here is of immense importance to all of our state’s inhabitants, both culturally and ecologically.
With this in mind, I have written just a few reminders of why having unstructured outside time during the winter is so very important for healthy kids.
Winter is exciting!
There are so many things that you can only do in the cold of winter,
like ice skating, snowball fights, snow fort-building, ice fishing,
sledding, and simply sitting in the soft snow, taking in the silence of
the landscape as the snow is falling. Also, tracking animals becomes much easier and the warmth of an outside fire even more enjoyable.
Winter is beautiful!
Snow-covered trees and leafless silhouetted branches of maple and beech trees reaching to the sky like veins remind us that the land is still very much alive.
Whether it’s a day when the sun barely makes an appearance or one of a clear sky revealing the setting sun and night stars in a frozen landscape, it’s undeniable that Vermont winters are immensely
Nature helps us be present.
Winter instills a sense of its awesome power as cold wind freezes our faces and chills us through our layers of clothing.
We experience this surrounded by familiar trees and while living creatures are all around us, but hidden while taking cover from the cold.
Like thick summer heat or a heavy downpour, the frozen dead of winter can make us feel even more alive, reminding us of the incredible world we inhabit, and helping us be present in the moment.
Winter nurtures gratitude.
Spending a few hours outside in the cold and snow makes one even more thankful for the warmth of a fire and our comfortable homes.
Winter activities also work up an appetite for dinner like no other while encouraging a greater ability to relax once inside.
Winter offers life lessons.
Proper gear makes it possible to be comfortable outside! Over time, kids learn the necessity of gauging what may be needed in response to what the weather is telling them.
This is a great opportunity for self-empowerment and observation. It also helps them better identify their own needs while building self-awareness, self-confidence, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
Winter builds strength.
Winter can certainly be uncomfortable and challenge one’s perseverance. With enough support, all kids can do it. The self-empowerment that comes from learning to maneuver through our Vermont winters is immediate, as well as long-term.
The physical challenge of trekking along snowy paths builds physical strength, while the outright discomfort and cold lead to greater problem-solving abilities while safely enjoying the beauty, fun, and community that surrounds them.
Winter makes spring, summer and fall that much greater.
One of the main reasons Vermonters cherish summertime trips to ponds and cold treats on a hot summer day is the intensity and length of our winters!
Not the crispness of fall, the sweetness of spring, nor the warmth of summer means as much without the other..
Winter is still a time for kids to be outside!
The need for nature doesn’t go dormant during winter and neither should children.
Just as in Spring, Summer, and Fall, kids will still need plenty of unstructured outdoor play to be healthy.