Helping kids cope with extreme cold weather

For many of us, this winter has been the coldest, most brutal we’ve experienced in decades. From blackouts and burst pipes to the sensational excitement of the Polar Vortex, we’ve had a lot to deal with, and a lot to talk about. And we’re Canadian. We love to talk about the weather, and as long as nobody is in danger, we generally don’t mind dealing with it, either. We pride ourselves on our ability to deal with it – we’re hearty Canadians, after all, and there is camaraderie to be found in the snow forts, on the toboggan hills, and behind a shovel.

But recently, the discussion I have been involved in revolves around our smallest Canucks, and their wellbeing in the face of record-breaking weather conditions. How do we deal with the issues of keeping our kids healthy, safe and active when the mercury plunges? Should there be indoor recesses? Should the schools close? Should we keep our kids at home? Should we expect the kids to just suck it up and go outside?

For our school board, -18c seems to be the cutoff for outdoor recess. Issues of frostbite possibility, playground conditions and socio-economic factors (some children may not be sent to school with proper attire) also come into play. But if too many indoor recesses concern you as a parent, there are ways to get involved and help ensure that indoor doesn’t mean inactive. A few ways we, as parents can help:

-       Speak to your principal and teachers. Find out what the parameters are around deciding on an indoor recess, and offer your constructive feedback.

-       Volunteer your time. Can you come in during an indoor recess break and lead students in an activity? Coordinate with the principal to implement these ideas:

o   Coach students in a volleyball, dodgeball, or basketball game in the gym.

o   Utilize smart boards and play some Just Dance routines for kids to follow, or if a smart board isn’t available, use a TV and bring in your own gaming system to play interactive games.

o   If smart boards/gaming systems aren’t available, bring in some fun music, musical instruments, or your imagination and lead the kids in a wiggle break.

o   Lead the students in jump rope or hula hoop contests in the gym.

-       If bodies can’t be active, minds still can be. Consider these ideas:

o   Volunteer to lead a ‘club’ during indoor recesses. For older kids: drama, chess, Soduku, computer science/programming, photography, crafting. For younger kids: puppet making, crafting, art, drama, science, magic, etc.

o   Lead a workshop for students – mine your area of expertise and engage with the kids. Do you have an interesting job or hobby the students might like to hear about?

-       And if you can’t volunteer your time, you can still help out. Consider:

o   Donating those hula hoops or jump ropes

o   Donating new or gently used board games to play with during indoor recess

o   Donating fruits or veggies to ensure that kids have access to healthy snacks – doubly important when little bodies are not getting the outdoor exercise they need.

o   Donating new or gently used outerwear – it’s possible that indoor recesses are called because too many children do not have the proper winter clothing. Having enough extra hats, mittens, scarfs, boots, warm, dry socks, and snowpants on hand might make the difference between an outdoor or indoor recess.

Eventually, spring will come. But until it does, we each have a part to play in ensuring that our kids remain healthy, safe and warm.  



  1. This was very eye-opening, Karen. You are so right....instead of complaining about our indoor recesses, we can take some time out of our own hibernation to help teachers and school staff deal with it. Brilliant. Thank you for wisdom. My kiddos are lucky to be in a school with smart boards and Just Dance and they've been having some good fun finding other ways to keep moving.

    1. I'm the chair of our school's parent council and co-chair of our board's PIC - finding ways to engage parents is always our number one goal. If we can engage parents and at the same time help them understand and feel better about the decisions being made at school, win/win.

  2. great ideas Karen! thanks...and let's hope it warms up soon.


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