By Rebecca Roybal Jones

Cool Kids

Youngsters Can Safely Play Outside When Temperatures Turns Colder

Even when the temperatures dip outdoors, it’s a good idea to encourage kids to play outside. Just make sure they’re bundled up in warm clothing.

“Really, there’s no limit to how much kids can or should play outside, unless it’s below freezing outside,” says Kolby Gerling, MD, a staff pediatrician at UNM Family Health Westside Clinic.

Playing outside during these days of the pandemic is a safe activity as long as the kids wear a face mask, which can provide some warmth on a cold day, and practice social distancing to curb the spread of the virus. It’s harder for the virus to spread outdoors.

Go to a park, open field or playground and let the kids run free to explore. Gerling says she spends lots of time at a park near her home with her 18-month-old, whose favorite word is, “Outside!”

Even though families are cooped up, Gerling recommends staying as active as much as possible. Children six years and older should have 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and three of those days “should be vigorous physical activity, such as strength training or running – something that’s really going to engage their whole body,” she says.

Studies show fewer than half of children are getting that amount of outdoor playtime, Gerling says.

“Any kind of play is more than just a physical benefit,” she adds. “Having kids playing outside helps develop their brain and they’re learning how to mitigate risk and learning how to do imaginative play and think about their world as more than a screen on their phone.”

Older kids usually prefer structure when spending time outside. “My experience as a coach is kids are inherently competitive,” says Gerling, a former volleyball coach. Incorporating a race or a timed activity can make the idea of being outside more engaging for older youths.

Kids who regularly get time to play, whether it’s for recess at school or in their neighborhood, are more attentive with their school work.

And, all of the New Mexico sunny days provide much-needed vitamin D, which promotes strong bone structure, she says.

“There’s a myth that the cold makes you sick,” she says. “It doesn’t.”

Instead, she says, being outside will give your health a boost.


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