Stay safe and have fun!
In Alberta, just because its winter doesn’t mean we stop playing outside. Winter can be a great time for camps to endorse outdoor activities and sports during weekend and day camps. By taking advantage of the fun winter has to offer we encourage staff, campers, and their families to stay happy and healthy in the great outdoors.
Staying safe in winter weather.
Staying safe during winter play is the most important. Although it’s great to play outside, dropping temperatures and wind chills can be dangerous if we are over exposed. As a general rule, keep your activities indoors if the temperature falls below -20 degrees Celsius and remember to always consider the wind chill factor. This is the temperature at which exposed skin starts to freeze in a matter of minutes.
Before heading out for an afternoon of skating or pond hockey, make sure the ice on your lake or pond is at least 20 cm thick. If the temperature has been on the rise, make sure you are check for thawing. This could weaken the ice surface even in the thickest parts. Regardless of the temperature, kids should be kept far away from the banks of lakes and ponds as we get closer to the spring thaw.
Outdoor clothing tips for winter weather.
Many winter games and sports require a lot of running around, or at least the good ones do! Even though the campers might feel warm from all the activity, make sure they are dress properly head to toe for the colder weather.
When advertising for your winter camp, or on your brochure or online registration system, include a “What-to-Bring” list to make sure all the kids have the right clothing for your winter activities. Bear in mind that there will be some campers who still come without appropriate clothing. If your camp offers winter programming, it’s a good idea to have a few spare items to loan out to those kids.
Your list should include:
- Warm toque or hat. The best are tightly woven and made out of a fiber like wool that traps heat in close to your head.
- Mittens, scarf or neck warmer. Protect your fingers and faces! Waterproof mitts are the best, but if they don’t have them then ask them to bring two pairs just in case one gets wet. Tube neck warmers are the safest, but if campers are wearing scarves, tuck them into their jackets so they don’t get caught up.
- Warm socks. Socks made of wool or are the best. Cotton socks are completely useless when wet and don’t hold heat. Socks that are TOO thick or wearing more than one pair of socks can restrict blood flow and air circulation around the toes and cause cold feet.
- Winter boots. Boots that cover the ankle and keep out snow are the best.
- Lots of layers. Unless they come from an outdoorsy family, most kids won’t come packing technical clothing. The best way to layer up for outdoor play is to have a wick away synthetic fabric next to your skin, a warm fleece or sweater for a mid-layer, and then a water and wind repellent outer layer. A warm sweater and a thick winter coat should do the trick. If there are lots of drawstrings on the hood and jacket, make sure they are tucked in so they don’t get caught on things.
Prepare before going outside.
Your body requires plenty of fluids to help maintain its temperature. It’s a good practice to have a glass of water before heading out and a nice, warm, sweet hot chocolate with marshmallows upon returning inside.
It’s also a good idea to wear sunscreen...yes, even in winter and even on cold cloudy days.
If your activities take several hours or all day, make sure you have planned several breaks so the campers can come in and heat up inside. This would be a good time for a snack and a hot drink.
Make lasting memories!
There are many activities you can include in your winter camp programming like ice skating, hockey, sledding and tobogganing, snow shoeing, cross country and downhill skiing. Consider playing snow soccer, winter capture the flag, having a scavenger hunt or planning a winter orientation lesson.
Teach your campers winter survival skills. Show them how to build a snow shelter, light a fire and look for animal tracks. Or keep it old school by building snow forts and snowmen.
Exploring and playing the outdoors in the winter time can be very rewarding. Make sure you prevent injuries the best you can, stay warm, stay safe, and have fun!