Updated: Nov 14
Winter weather in Vancouver, BC, often comes with a reputation for rain and chill, but that doesn't mean the kids have to stay cooped up indoors all season long. In fact, encouraging your kiddos to play sports outside in the winter can be a rewarding and character-building experience. Outdoor sports, even in the cold and wet conditions, can offer numerous advantages, from promoting physical health to fostering resilience and accelerating skill development.
Physical Health Benefits
Playing sports in the cold and wet weather offers some unique physical health benefits for kids.
Boosted Immune System
Exposure to cold weather can help strengthen the immune system. While parents should take precautions to keep children dry and warm, moderate exposure to the cold can help kids build resistance to common illnesses at a time when they are generally spread indoors. Getting outside for a dose of fresh air is crucial and will minimize the likelihood of your little one catching whatever is going around.
Additionally, leaving the house on those bright but cold sunny days will help you and your kiddo’s bodies produce Vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for the effective function of our T-cells (the immune system’s virus-killer cells). (1)
Playing sports in winter encourages kids to get outside and stay physically active, which is imperative for their overall well-being. Team sports are a fun and effective way to combat the sedentary additional consumption habits that may come with colder months. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines indicate that children should be participating in 180 minutes of physical activity per day, at least 60 of which should be energetic play. (2)
The positive effects that exercise has on mental health are well documented. Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect children, as well as adults, so getting routine exercise can help improve your kiddo’s mood, focus and energy levels, while reducing stress and anxiety. (3)
Sleep is absolutely paramount for our little ones as it allows their immune system to combat illnesses while also driving their cognitive and physical development. Playing outside in cold weather uses more calories than normal, as the body burns extra to maintain a warm temperature. Children, therefore, are more likely to sleep better after exercising in the cold.
Dr Matthew Walker, a sleep specialist and author of Why We Sleep, suggests that one of the keys to achieving deep sleep, and all of the health benefits that come with it, is to lower the body's temperature by one degree Celsius before and during sleep. (4) Many nordic countries even take this to the extreme as parents will leave their children outside for extended periods of time to nap, regardless of the weather, so that mum, dad and child can all benefit. (5)
So, couple your little ones outdoor time with some energetic activity for a natural boost to the immune system.
Hard and Soft Skill Development
Playing soccer in less-than-ideal conditions can teach kids valuable life lessons such as resilience and teamwork. Winter weather can be unpredictable, but kiddos who brave the rain will learn to adapt to changing circumstances, developing perseverance.
Playing outside in wet or cold weather conditions can improve mental toughness, helping children overcome personal obstacles while staying focused on their goals. One cannot control the weather and so kiddos will learn that they must, instead, control their response to weather. When playing team sports, children can bond with their teammates over facing adversity together. If we can help our little ones become comfortable with being uncomfortable, they will be able to face future challenges with confidence.
Playing sports in wet conditions can actually benefit physical skill development as well. In ball sports such as soccer, playing on wet, slippery surfaces can help kids develop better balance, footwork and ball control, which are invaluable assets in dry conditions. Not to mention, winter is the time of year when soccer is traditionally played!
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”
Proper attire is essential to ensure kids stay warm and dry. Dress your little ones in quality rain gear such as muddy buddies and rain boots to keep them comfortable. We highly recommend our good friends, Jan & Jul, who make top quality (and adorable) raingear for little adventurers.
Some health professionals also suggest wearing a scarf or snood around the mouth and nose area to keep them warm. A warmer respiratory system helps with mucus production, which is great for flushing out viruses, and allows cell apoptosis (the act of infected cells destroying themselves to prevent virus spread) to function better. (6)
Playing outdoor sports in winter weather offers a multitude of benefits for kids. From improved physical health to character development and skill enhancement, the lessons learned on the wet, cold field can last a lifetime. So, don't let the rain and chill deter you and embrace the winter weather! Afterall, you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.
Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep, Allen Lane, London, 2017