In Montessori, learning extends beyond school walls, embracing the world as a grand classroom. Winter’s serene beauty and inherent lessons make it an indispensable part of a Montessori education. Encouraging children to embrace winter’s wonders enriches their learning journey, fostering a lifelong connection with the environment and nurturing holistic development.

Why Get Outside?

We all know the stir-crazy feeling that sets in after too many hours cooped up inside.  The following are just some of the benefits to bundling up and heading out.

  • Soak up the sun for vitamin D: One simple way to boost our body’s’ supply of vitamin D is through sun exposure. While it is important to consider our skin’s need for sun protection, we all need some time to enjoy the benefits of the sun’s rays.
  • Reduce stress: A short walk – even just 20 minutes – can significantly lower stress hormones in the body. Findings from a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology suggest that such short-term visits to nature areas have positive effects on perceived stress.
  • Gain focus: One national study determined a clear link between children spending time outdoors and a decline in ADHD symptoms.
  • Improve immune function: In Japan “forest bathing,” called “Shinrinyoku” in Japanese, which refers to the activity of simply spending time in a forest or around trees, has been linked to an increase in immune function as documented in this study.
  • Boost your creativity: Regular time spent exercising outdoors has been linked to an increased capacity for creative reasoning. This study, for example, documents changes in higher-level cognitive function associated with immersion in nature.

Endless Options

So, what exactly is the best way to spend time outside when it’s chilly?  Winter provides us a huge range of opportunities:

  • Sledding: Dragging a sled up a hill while trudging through snow is a workout! The reward of sliding down a slippery slope each time is fun for all ages.
  • Star Gazing: Even younger children with earlier bedtimes can enjoy star gazing on crisp winter nights.
  • Skiing and Snowboarding: Whether you prefer the speed of the slopes of the quiet of cross-country, there are options for everyone. Many mountains offer lessons for children as young as three.
  • Visit local parks: Public parks stay open year-round. Go together and enjoy your local resources or make a day trip of it and visit a park that’s a bit farther away.
  • Feed the birds: Because many species migrate during the winter months, our area’s avian population will look different now than during the spring and summer. Borrow a field guide from the library and do some bird watching.  Set up or make your own bird feeders and place them outside a window of your home.
  • Make environmental art: Use what you find in nature to create inspiring pictures and sculptures!
  • Take a closer look: Use a magnifying glass to examine snowflakes, ice, or whatever else sparks curiosity.
  • Walk: Perhaps the simplest option, this can be made even more special if done while it’s snowing outside! Consider location as well – think about any access to nature nearby, whether it be a forest, river, or even a city park.

Shifting Our Mindset

The philosophy of friluftsliv is closely related to “kos” which is the unique Nordic word for having a good time. By preparing ourselves adequately, spending time outside can and should be enjoyable, no matter the season. As the old saying goes, “There really is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” So bundle up, head outside, and have a fun time!

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