*This post is sponsored by API Play. Some items have been gifted and are marked with a ‘*’. I have also included affiliate links (also marked with a ‘*’), which means I may be paid a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are my own*
Watch the video version of the #PlayMustStay Winter Campaign to save our outdoor play facilities below:
During the summer of 2019, Motherhood Diaries joined forces with The Association of Play Industries (API) to promote their #PlayMustStay campaign which highlighted the need to get children outdoors and playing in their parks and playgrounds. We explored how less screen time and more time spent on playgrounds positively impacted not only my boys’ lives but our entire family. I saw a dramatic difference in their health and wellbeing – they were happier, easier to handle and they slept better. (You can find the full article on the #PlayMustStay summer project here). During my research into this campaign to urge the government to invest more money in our parks and playgrounds, it startled me to learn how much outdoor play facilities benefit kids’ lives. We’re lucky to live in an area where there are lots of greenery around us, but, for urban children, outdoor play facilities may be their only chance of physical exercise. When API researched into the state of England’s parks and playgrounds back in 2016, they discovered that the government had closed 374 playgrounds across England since 2014 and they will continue to decrease their spend on play facilities by almost half (44%) by 2020/21 – that equates to around £25 million!
“ThisMark Hardy, API Chair.
couldbe the first generation who grow up without experiencing regular, unstructured outdoor play. Unless playground closures are reversed, this has serious implications for children’s mental health and development.”
API commissioned Mumsnet to create a survey of 1,111 parents with kids between two and twelve years old to find out how these closures and a decrease in spend impacted parents in the UK. They found that almost half (48%) of parents found it difficult to persuade their child to leave the screen (60% with kids aged 10-12 years old) and realised that the closure of outdoor play facilities were pulling kids indoors and onto the screens, thus leading to an epidemic of mental health issues, obesity and sleep problems.
Over half the parents surveyed said their child would be more active if they had more access to outdoor play facilities and a whopping 90% of those with no access to a local playground said that a local park would make their child play outside more. So, it is clear as day that parks and playgrounds are lacking and we must urge the government to increase their spend, so all children have a play facility where they could burn their energy – and grow as a human!
Winter campaign to save our outdoor play facilities – A Winter’s Tale
During winter, the situation is worse because the usual notion is for families to hibernate indoors and come out again in the spring when the weather picks up. And we have Christmas and rising playground closures which keeps us at home. Studies have shown that outdoor activities that encourage kids to exercise during the colder months help to ward off seasonal bugs and ailments more efficiently, and it keeps kids’ mental health in check too.
When I was younger, my mum used to keep me and my three siblings wrapped up and indoors during the cold season, and we ended up getting sick every time. I passed this mentality onto my kids, and I wrapped them u[ until they were sweating. This was terribly counterintuitive because they ended up getting sick too. One day, my then four-year-old decided he didn’t want me to drive him to nursery anymore and threw temper tantrums until I agreed that we’d walk. I thought to myself, why am I fighting a child who wants to walk the twenty-five minute journey to nursery and back every day?
“Ok, let’s walk! It’s freezing, but come on, you can experience getting sick for yourself then!”
So, we walked every single day, even during the harshest of weather in February. And, guess what? We didn’t get sick! We didn’t even have the sniffles. So, my 4-year-old had single-handedly changed my opinion on the cold. It’s not the cold that gives us the cold, it’s the bugs that surround the air and the fact that we are not equipping our bodies with enough immunity to fight off the germs. So, eating a healthy diet, getting in plenty of heart-pumping exercise, fresh air, and lots of sleep is key to warding off these winter bugs (and, of course, getting the flu shot).
It was then I realised that outdoor activities that get the kids exercising during the colder months were more beneficial to their physical and mental development than keeping them wrapped up at home. So, play facilities were just as important – if not, more important during the winter too!
More often than not, it is us parents who are the ones that:
- Don’t want to go out in the cold.
- Don’t want to get wet
- Worry about our kids catching a cold
- Want to crawl under the duvet and watch TV.
- Watch the rain from indoors
- Worry about getting dirty
- Want to hibernate and be lazy
When my children were four and five, I made a concerted effort that unless anyone of us was ill, I would push those above thoughts to the back of my mind and attempt to go out with them for various reasons, some of which are:
- I didn’t want them to get used to staying indoors just because the weather had turned
- I didn’t want them to get addicted to screens
- I wanted them to have a proactive attitude
- Keeping them on the screens was actually worse for my sanity because of the way they would act after they’d been on the screens, i.e anxious, angry and ready to fight!
- I would get a better night’s sleep if I burned their energy – and ‘me’ time a lot earlier in the evening!
- My boys would strengthen their immunity by being outside and exercising
- We would all feel less scared of harsh weather.
- We all got to try new things.
- They would enjoy nature for what it is and prefer to be outside rather than indoors and on the screens.
But why take them out during the winter?
There are a multitude of benefits to getting your kids to their local outdoor play facility and using the playground equipment all year round. Some of these benefits include:
- Fostering relationships
- Increasing physical exercise
- Refreshing the mind
- Resetting the biological clock
- Increasing cognitive and emotional development
- Improving sensory skills
- Increasing attention spans
- Developing immunity
- Promoting happiness
- Encouraging creativity
- Promoting independence
This list isn’t exhaustive. There are so many more reasons why outdoor play is so beneficial to a child’s development, yet the government are trying to save money by decreasing their spend on our parks and playgrounds by around £25 million per year. What they don’t realise is that closing down play facilities will impact our children’s health and we’ll pay more for medical costs!
“They would enjoy nature for what it is and prefer to be outside rather than indoors and on the screens.”
This last statement was in fact what drove me to ‘make the sacrifice’. As I researched more into the effects of screen time and how discretionary screen time can be just as addictive as drugs and alcohol, I thought it was best I start them young, so when they got to 10 and 12 years old they wouldn’t become one of those statistics who preferred screen time to outdoor play. So far so good, but for how long? So, this project was all about just getting them out, even though sometimes we all didn’t want to.
There was a picture on Facebook of a child wrapped up to the nines; hats, wellies, scarf, you name it, with a caption that read:
“Don’t keep me locked up in winter. Wrap me up and take me out because I need to play.”
Kids don’t think like us. They don’t care about the weather or the cold or the mud. They just want to play. If you encourage your child to take their eyes off the screens for just a moment to witness the world they’re missing, then they may just become more positive to venturing outside. But, how do we take the plunge and make this first step?
Start with taking them to the park, even in the winter! Our winter tale
To start the process of screen time detoxing, rather than venturing around all the parks as we did during the summer project, we frequented our two favourite parks, Canons Park and Phillimore Park.
When the boys were at school, me and my little girl walked around our local area, taking in the beautiful greenery, especially during our walks to her baby classes.
For Children’s Mental Health Week, I posted a video about how the boys and I felt rubbish after catching a cold. So, one Saturday morning instead of staying at home and watching TV under the duvet, I got the boys out to the park and we played football for the first time in AGES. It was one of the most fun days I’ve had with them.
Soon after my kids got home, they told me that:
“Playing football with mummy was the best time we’ve had in ages!” and they…
“… would rather spend time with mummy than go on YouTube.”
Mumsnet’s survey found that parents of boys found it more difficult to persuade their child to get off the screen and that parents with children aged eight and twelve years old were significantly more likely than parents with younger children to say their child prefers screen time over other activities.
My boys are seven and nine and they didn’t want to go back on the screen afterwards. It can be done!
How did we get on?
Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones because the only people who complained about going out in the cold was myself and hubby. Even during Christmas, we went to the park where we couldn’t spy a single soul apart from our extended family. We enjoyed a VIP experience of all the playground equipment and the boys didn’t complain once that it was Christmas and we were meant to be at home. Quite the opposite in fact. And after enjoying a huge amount of Christmas dinner, we felt so good that we had burned most of it off in the park. I also have a five-month-old so a lot of the times I kept her home with her grandma as I felt she may be too young to experience this much cold. The key is to keep moving during play so the cold doesn’t catch up with you. But as she can’t move yet, I figured it would be better to get her accustomed to the cold next year when she starts walking. But, for me and the boys, there was no excuse! We tried to venture out for at least thirty minutes every day, except during Storm Dennis (that was a hard day – the boys were clawing the walls!) and the result was that we had a much calmer half-term holiday. We got to try so many more new activities and the boys were easier to handle all round. I now no longer hibernate in February – in fact, bring it on!
Check out my video below for more information:
It’s concerning how many children do not experience the world around them.
I can appreciate that my boys are sporty and enjoy being outdoors, but I also had a baby and found it difficult to take the three kids out on some days. I figured that my mentality needed to change and so I bought the right equipment, wrapped Ayla up and took the kids to their local outdoor play facility. I can also appreciate that this may not be so easy for others. Perhaps you are:
- Struggling with a multitude of tasks every day that you cannot take them out
- Don’t know where your local park or playground is
- Your child doesn’t want to go to the park.
- Don’t know where to start with getting your child off the screen
- Have no support with your kids or have a very young baby
- Are unable to venture to the park through some form of injury or disability
There are many reasons why you may find it difficult to take your kids the park (please share in the comments below what your reason is), but the change needs to start with you if we have a real shot at giving your children the best start in life. We are all in the same boat, we all struggle with the same lure of screens and we all have to work together with the government to make it easier for our children to enjoy being outdoors for all the reasons I’ve laid out above.
“Without access to free, local, high-quality outdoor play facilities, children can spend most of the winter cooped up indoors. The closure of hundreds of playgrounds across the UK means that the reality for many families is that children are not even getting the minimum recommended amount of daily exercise. Amid a childhood obesity epidemic and rising mental health problems, we are urgently calling on the government to invest in public play provision before it’s too late.”Mark Hardy, API Chair.
Sign the petition and urge the government to increase their spend on parks and playgrounds!
I created a petition to urge Robert Jenrick, MP, who serves as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to stop our local parks and playgrounds from closing down. We need 100 signatures and we have 55, so please, please sign the petition and let’s save our parks!
More tips to getting your kids outdoors this winter
Your child may love the cold and need no persuasion. Other children may avoid the cold like the plague. Some children may not want to get off the screens. So, below are some ways to help your child get off the screens and to their local outdoor play facility.
Kit the children out in warm clothing and wrap them up against the cold
It’s important to keep your body temperature as level as possible all the time, despite changes in external temperature. What I mean by this is, if you’re inside, you take your warm clothes off, so you don’t sweat, and if you’re outside, you wrap up, so your body stays warm. If you are running outside and heating, it’s better to take off a layer, so you don’t sweat, because once you cool down in the cold, that’s when the cold can hit you, and you may get sick.
TOG24* stocks an impressive array of winter clothing, so parents don’t have to worry about whether their kids are keeping warm outside. Some of our favourites are:
Kids winter jackets* should
Waterproof gloves are great as they allow kids to enjoy the snow without their hands turning into ice cubes.
I grew up being told that we lose forty to forty-five percent body heat from our head when this is, in fact, not true. The face, head and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than any other part of the body, which is why we feel colder if we don’t cover up our head. But in reality, we lose only ten percent through the head. But winter hats make you feel warm and cosy, so I always invest in them for the kids.
Suitable boots and shoes
Make sure kids are wearing proper boots and shoes that keep them safe, whatever the terrain. Snow boots are great for icy/snowy/sleet covered ground and wellington boots/waterproof shoes are useful for wet slippery floors. Make sure you’re also kitted out properly. I normally wear these very comfortable slip-on Lea Coffee Boots from Hey Dude, which is the most comfortable boots I’ve worn in a long time! Plus, they are so easy to put on, which is perfect when you’re carrying a baby, and they fare well against harsh terrain. I would definitely recommend getting a pair of these boots to keep up with the kids!
Keep kids fed and hydrated
Kids will run around and burning energy, which gets depleted fast, so feeding them the right amount of energy food and drink will keep them going for longer. I bought these great personalised lunch boxes* from Petit-Fernand, which are perfect for little outings in the cold. Each lunchbox comes with a main container, two removable containers, an ice pack (perfect for summer lunches), a bento layer, and a lid. I fill up the lunchboxes with lots of goodness, and when the kids need a break, they can enjoy their feast!
Other outdoor games for kids
Kit the children out in protective gear and take them rollerblading
Rollerblading is an excellent sport for kids, especially when travelling to the park because it promotes confidence, uber fitness (you burn a ton of calories when rollerblading), balance, socialising and
Check out the video below of skates.co.uk’s gear in action and when my boys rollerblade for the very first time!
Take the kids sledging in the park if it’s snowing!
The first time I encountered doing any sport in the snow was when we prepped ourselves in ski clothing from
Now whenever it snows, we take the boys to the park and go sledging. You will have so much fun!
Walk as much as you can
If a journey takes less than thirty minutes to get to, we walk and avoid the car as much as possible. Thanks to my youngest, who built up his leg muscles during nursery, our family embark upon 10k walks that involve lots of beautiful sightseeing on the way. We pack some snacks and drinks and take plenty of breaks, so the boys have enough energy to make it back home. By the end of the walk, we all feel nicely tired and happy because we got in plenty of fresh air during our exercise. It’s so cleansing for the soul, and it’s such a great way to teach the kids how to exercise for fun – it’s not always about going to the gym, but utilising nature itself to help you exercise and get fit and healthy!
Go for long bike rides
My boys are seven and nine, and in their time they have completed
If you all else
fails and you can’t get to a park, don’t give up. Use your back garden!
We want the kids outside as much as possible, not stuck indoors during the cold. So, if you can’t get to your park or playground, then building a climbing frame in your back garden means that the kids have the perfect excuse to invite their friends over for a great time in the backyard. The image above of the climbing frame is from manomano.co.uk* and was very tricky to build, so we used professionals from Crawfords Garden Maintenance to build the climbing frame for us. You can see them in action making the climbing frame in the video below:
Buy some goalposts for your back garden and encourage kids to play football with friends.
The boys are obsessed with football, so we bought some junior football goalposts* from manomano.co.uk, which have been used every day since – definitely a worthy investment for the back garden! Again, a little tricky to build, but we got there with no professionals!
After school and if there aren’t any extracurricular activities on, the boys head straight to their local park/playground or in the garden after they’ve had their snacks and play to their heart’s content until dinner time. This is how life for kids should be. They should never be indoors!
Video of my kids exercising outside
Kids need outdoor play, if not only for exercise but for developing their mind too. Without outdoor play facilities, we are looking at a real pandemic on our hands of obese children who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders. Screens are displacing all these natural activities and the result is our children will have little imagination, cannot foster relationships with others and are unable to keep a job because they don’t know how to fight for what they believe in. Balance is key and making sure kids are getting a balance of activities means that they can still enjoy their games on the screen, but not if screens take over their lives.
If we can show the government that enjoying our parks and playgrounds means that our kids can grow in every way, we may save our parks – because once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.
Watch the video that talks about our winter tale and the situation we are in with our lack of parks and playgrounds now.
*Photos by Preston Perfect Photography*
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