Don’t Put Outdoor Play on Ice: How to Make the Most of Your Playground Equipment in Winter

Make the Most of Your Playground in WinterCold weather is upon us, and your facility’s playground may be sitting sad, lonely, and covered in snow. At Play Mart, we say “no way!” to avoiding winter play! With the proper maintenance and safety precautions, the children in your care can reap the benefits of playground equipment all year long.

Studies show that today’s kids spend half the amount of time outdoors compared to older generations. This lack of outdoor play is taking a toll on their health, with increasing rates of obesity, asthma, and attention deficit disorder.

In fact, research proves that winter play is crucial for their well-being. Children who brave the cold and engage in outdoor activities are actually healthier and more active. Read on to learn why you should clear off your playground, bundle up the kids, and join Play Mart in some nippy outdoor play!

Benefits of Playground Equipment in Winter

Don’t let chilly temperatures confine your children indoors. There are countless benefits of playing outdoors all year long. Here are just a few of the reasons to make use of your playground equipment in the cold winter months:

Boost Children’s Physical Well-being

Shockingly, only about a quarter of kids aged 5 to 17 meet the recommended level of physical activity. Help your children thrive by getting them moving outside. Not only does outdoor play improve their learning and cognitive functions, motor development, fitness levels, and sleep, but it also enhances their overall health and quality of life. Plus, they’ll soak up essential Vitamin D while having fun, which is even harder to come by in the winter months.

The advantages of physical activity for children don’t stop at the obvious. Outdoor physical activity enhances brain health, cognition, and mental well-being. It even aids in reducing stress levels and symptoms of ADHD. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, time playing outdoors is linked with improved motor development, lower obesity, and even lessens the risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness)!

Encourage Limitless Imagination Through Outdoor Play

Use colder temperatures to warm up your children’s creativity! When children have the freedom to engage in imaginative play outside, they can explore, investigate, and fully immerse themselves in the natural world while having a blast.

Playing in the snow, for instance, gives them the chance to let their imaginations run wild and problem-solve. Snow provides the perfect canvas for imaginative play. Encourage your children to create whatever they can dream up, whether making snow angels or building an igloo. Many of our outdoor playsets, like the Caribbean Hideaway, offer great opportunities for your children to imagine themselves in warmer weather!

Outdoor Play Supports Emotional and Mental Health

Did you know that playing outside can contribute to your child’s emotional and mental well-being? Encourage them to participate in fun winter activities to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while boosting creativity, self-esteem, and self-worth. Additionally, using outdoor playground equipment helps develop their self-confidence and risk-taking skills.

According to Dr. Jason Hunziker from the University of Utah, being outdoors triggers physiological responses that help reduce stress levels. Our connection to nature is deeply rooted in our brain, which can bring about a sense of peace.

More studies reveal that spending as little as 120 minutes per week in nature can greatly improve our overall well-being. It doesn’t matter if your children are swinging to new heights or playing some holiday tunes on their outdoor musical instruments. Being outside is what counts!

Playing Outside Builds Essential Social Skills

During free play at the winter playground, children discover vital lessons that shape their character and social skills.

Children learn the art of fairness, turn-taking, and cooperation through interactive play with their peers. They develop persistence and resilience as they tackle challenges head-on.

Additionally, studies reveal that children naturally use more complex language when playing with others, sharpening their communication skills. Pretend play pushes them to communicate abstract ideas, fostering advanced language proficiency.

Engaging in unstructured group play sets the stage for cooperative thinking, nurturing a selfless mindset. Children acquire the tools they need to thrive socially by immersing themselves in interactive play.

And let’s not forget about the bonus benefits of winter! The changing seasons provide new opportunities for creative winter-themed games and socio-dramatic play.

Learn Outside the Box

Kids learn in ways that textbooks can’t possibly teach. Winter is an excellent time for your child to learn about nature, seasons, wildlife, and more. Outdoor play sparks their interest in science as they explore the world around them. Let them discover biology, different elements, freezing and melting, building structures, and temperature changes through hands-on experiences.

Let your child explore the magic of the season with new and exciting experiences. From ice on a pond to trees shedding their leaves, animals hibernating, and birds migrating, there’s so much to learn about how winter works in the natural world. Just like showing them spring flowers or summer bumblebees, playing outside in winter opens the door to endless opportunities for hands-on discovery. Play Mart believes every moment of play is an opportunity to learn, which is why many of our playsets include STEM components. This means no brain freeze for your little ones!

It’s All About Fun!

You may care about children’s health and development, but if you survey the kids who visit your playground, all they care about is fun! Winter is an opportunity to create lasting memories. From making a snow maze to watching your breath fog the air, there’s no shortage of fun activities to enjoy with children. Remember your childhood adventures and share the joy with your little ones!

Tips for Winter Playground Maintenance

Tips for Maintaining Your Playground in WinterAs the majority of the school year falls during autumn and winter, children rely on playgrounds even more to get outside during recess or at other childcare facilities. It’s their only place to swing, jump, climb, and slide! That’s why it’s crucial to continue caring for your playground throughout the winter to provide a safe and enjoyable space for play.

Winter brings harsh conditions, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, with snow and ice creating unsafe situations. Regular maintenance inspections and repairs are obligatory to prevent accidents and ensure that the playground remains in top shape.

Our Recycled Structural Plastic (RSP) is much lower maintenance than traditional wood or metal equipment, but there are still important steps to take to keep it safe for winter. Neglecting playground maintenance during winter can result in unsafe broken equipment, slips and falls, and potential liability issues for schools and parks. To prevent these hazards, it’s essential to follow safety standards all year long and take specific measures to protect your playground from winter weather.

Here are a few tips to keep your playground equipment kid-ready all year round:

Use Recycled Plastic Playground Equipment

Even though metal and wooden equipment is becoming antiquated, many older playgrounds still utilize metal and wood components. However, be cautious during the wetter months leading up to winter, as wooden structures can deteriorate and become hazardous. A wood preservative may be necessary to maintain the integrity and safety of wooden playground equipment.

If you live in a climate that experiences harsh winter weather, your best bet is to use recycled plastic equipment. Our proprietary Recycled Structural Plastic (RSP) at Play Mart is extremely durable even when exposed to snow, ice, and freezing temperatures.

Inspect Equipment for Wear

Keep your plastic playground in top condition by removing snow from play surfaces and inspecting for any damage or weak points. Carefully examine all components, including joints, connectors, and fasteners, for signs of wear or damage. Though they are rare, look for cracks, chips, or breaks in the plastic and check for any loose or rusted hardware. Pay special attention to areas that may have weakened over time, such as steps or platforms. If you spot any issues, it’s crucial to address them promptly to ensure the safety of children. This may involve repairing or replacing damaged parts or seeking professional assistance.

After the winter season, it’s important to thoroughly check your playground equipment to make sure there is no loose or missing hardware. The contraction and expansion caused by snow melting and refreezing can potentially shift essential hardware, which is necessary for maintaining playground safety. Conduct a post-winter equipment inspection to ensure that everything is securely in place. If you have any doubts about the safety of a particular piece of equipment or notice any broken or damaged parts, don’t hesitate to seek help from a Certified Playground Safety Inspector.

Clear Away Snow

Ice skating is a load of fun, just not on the playground! Ensure the safety of the playground by removing snow and ice. It is important to keep the area around equipment with fall heights free of snow and ice to prevent injuries. Snow affects the safe fall height even if you have playground safety surfacing, so it should be cleared away.

Be mindful of the tools you use to remove snow and ice. Metal shovels or scrapers can damage the rubber mats, so opt for brushes or rubber scrapers instead. Never use machinery like snowblowers on rubber playground tiles.

Avoid chemical de-icers. Chemical de-icing agents should not be used on playground surfaces. These chemicals can damage the plastic and rubber surfacing. Always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you are using approved tools and de-icers.

Removing snow and ice can take time, especially for larger playground areas. Clear the snow promptly to prevent it from melting and refreezing into ice. Make sure to relocate the snow away from the playground surface to prevent refreezing.

Safety Surfacing is Crucial in Winter

Having the right playground safety surfacing is crucial during cold winter months, especially when it comes to hidden dangers like slick ice patches. Beware of melted or melting ice and snow. It can make playground surfacing even more slippery, especially for children with mobility devices. Don’t forget to check all concrete and paved areas and shaded spots where ice may linger even after warmer weather. If your playground’s surfacing isn’t composed of poured rubber or rubber mulch, it may be time to consider a replacement.

Protecting Kids on the Playground During the Winter

Many childcare professionals understandably wonder if it’s safe for children to use the playground in winter. While you might prefer to hibernate this time of year, kids are prone to cabin fever and long to be outdoors. With the right winter playground safety, children can have a blast even in colder temperatures.

Make the Most of Your Playground in WinterStart with the Right Clothes

Freezing temperatures call for extra layers. Bundle up your little ones in snow pants, jackets, warm socks, waterproof boots, ski mittens, neck tubes, and hats. Make sure their extremities are well covered to keep them cozy.

Since your children will be wearing oodles of items, make sure to avoid accessories that can pose a strangulation risk. Stay away from loose scarves, items with drawstrings, mitten strings, and hats with strings. These can get caught on playground equipment and cause injury.

Check the Weather

While a little nip in the air is no problem, don’t let kids play outside in extreme temperatures. Stay informed with weather forecasts or use a weather app. Consider installing a thermometer near your door to make informed decisions about outdoor play. Ensure your facility has clear weather regulations, such as the Child Care Weather Watch.

Use an online calculator or consult the National Weather Service for the wind chill index. They issue advisories and warnings that should be taken seriously. Consider both the base temperature and the wind chill factor. Exposure-related problems increase when the temperature falls below 5F, and frostbite can occur in less than 30 minutes with a temperature and wind chill of -16F.

Watch for Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Cold weather brings the risk for certain health conditions. Keep an eye out for symptoms of frostbite in children, which include: cold, tingling, and painful skin. The most vulnerable are the toes, fingers, tip of the nose, outer ear, and cheeks.

Frostbite has different stages, so it’s important to catch it early.

  • Frostnip (mild frostbite) involves cold, tingling, and painful skin. No skin changes after re-warming.
  • 1st Degree frostbite will be white and hard while frozen, and show mild redness and swelling after re-warming.
  • 2nd and 3rd Degree will show blisters within 24 hours and may result in permanent damage.

Hypothermia results from a decrease in the body’s core temperature, usually less than 95° F (35° C). Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bright red, cold skin (in infants)

If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia in a child, get them indoors and immediately seek medical attention.

Test All Outdoor Surfaces and Equipment

Keep platforms and playground equipment free from ice and snow. Check ladder rungs, handrails, platforms, slides, and landing areas for ice during freezing temperatures. Watch out for ice on sidewalks, blacktops, and gutters. Make sure to have plenty of safe ice melt on hand. Use absorbent mats at entrances for kids to dry their shoes when coming back inside.

Outdoor Winter Playground Activities

The children in your care can experience the wonders of winter in a fun and educational way with captivating playground activities. If you need a little inspiration for keeping children active during the colder months, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Indulge in the Magic of Snow Ice Cream

Make your mud kitchen an ice cream shop! Unleash their inner chef and scientist by making their own pretend snow ice cream concoctions and serving them to friends. This engaging activity will build language and social skills as kids communicate with “coworkers” and “customers”!

Spark a Love of Physics with Sled-less Sledding!

Combine the thrill of slide “sledding” with a lesson in physics for an exhilarating experience. Explore concepts such as gravity, friction, and momentum while racing down the slides. Discover why certain kids go faster based on their size and clothing materials. The double slides on the Ashland, Boston, and Panther playsets are great for side-by-side comparison.

Embark on a Treasure Hunt for Winter Wonders

Embark on a nature-inspired treasure hunt and marvel at the beauty of winter. Lead your children to find the perfect pinecone, a striking feather, or an intriguing seed pod. Appreciate the often-overlooked allure of the colder months while searching for the longest icicle you’ve ever seen hanging from a nearby tree branch.

Make the Most of Your Playground in WinterTurn Snow into a Sandbox Wonderland

Your sandbox doesn’t have to take a winter vacation. Unleash your children’s creativity and imagination by using sand toys to build a snow city. Fill a dump truck, use sand shovels, and create roads, tunnels, and even snow bridges. Alternatively, get creative with kitchen tools like muffin tins, cookie cutters, scoops, and rolling pins.

Uncover the Mysteries of Animal Tracks

Help children search for animal tracks in freshly fallen snow. Even if your playground is located in an urban area, there’s never a shortage of pigeons, squirrels, or mouse prints to discover. Challenge your children to identify tracks from rabbits, deer, or coyotes. They might even be able to track down their friends’ footprints!

Experience the Wonders of Winter Playgrounds with Play Mart!

Experience year-round fun with Play Mart’s top-quality playground equipment! Our equipment is designed to withstand the cold and snowy weather, so the fun never has to stop. Unlike wooden playgrounds that are prone to winter damage or metal equipment that gets dangerously cold, our durable recycled plastic equipment is perfect for year-round use. Our snag-free safety hardware ensures that winter gear won’t get caught, and our Sure-Grip material allows for a secure hold, even with gloves or mittens.

With all of the incredible benefits of outdoor winter play, you wouldn’t want the children in your care to miss out! If your playground equipment isn’t suitable for the winter months, check out our extensive lines of all-weather RSP products made to stimulate your children’s development while being loads of fun. Make sure your children are playing in a winter wonderland with Play Mart!

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Testimonials

"I'm not sure whether the kids would have caused damage to the playset at some point, but the playground survived the hurricane. Your RSP™ is amazing."

Tim H. Gateway Services Community Development District

Ft Myers, FL

“I would just like to let you know Play Mart did a wonderful job on the packing/shipping and installation instructions. We have installed almost every manufacturer in the market and your company is the most installation friendly we have done in years.”

Playground Installation Crew

Kansas

“The contractor who assembled the set told me it was his first experience with recycled material in play sets and he was very impressed. He also told me it was very well packaged and user friendly for assembly.

It looks first class and blends in well with the wooded area surrounding our church. We like the fact we can accommodate so many kids with a set this size.”

Bruce P.

Topeka, KS

“This is cooler than big kids stuff!”

5 Year Old Child

Topeka, KS

“Congratulations on your extensive and impressive exhibit of your playground products. I was most impressed. If I were a child, I would spend a lot of time in the music section of your marvelous array of enticing things to do. But on the other hand, I could easily be enticed to the many other play opportunities for play and learning.

It is blatantly obvious that you have put a lot of careful thought into developing your engaging products for children. Congratulations and thank you for the tour of your exhibit at the trade show.”

Matthew Evans, FASLA Senior Landscape Architect & Horticulturist

US Capitol, Washington, DC

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to write a letter on behalf of Play Mart, Inc. On two different occasions in recent years, Play Mart constructed playground equipment on our school property. Play Mart representatives went out of their way to meet with the school playground committee so that we fully understand our options and the cost. We have been delighted with the equipment that Play Mart representatives recommended for our students. It is age appropriate and safe. We have had to make two minor repairs, which were quickly taken care of by the company.
In the process building the playground, we were very interested in using recycled materials. Availability of this via Play Mart was a big reason why we choose this company. Play Mart worked with us in obtaining exactly what we wanted. We were very pleased with the construction timeline and the value for the price. When we wanted to add more equipment, Play Mart was most helpful and made the changes cost effective for us. Our students spend many happy hours enjoying the playground.

We have been very happy with the entire project. It is with great satisfaction I write this letter on behalf of the company and their employees.”

Sister Laverne K., School Principal

Newark, DE

“We continue to be so pleased with our playscape! As soon as we open the door in preparation for outside play, the children head straight for the playscape. The teachers so enjoy watching the students play some of their favorite games which include: Pirate Ship (they all crowd on top of the playscape sailing off for adventure of the high seas), Shark! (similar to pirate ship but they all stand on top screaming “shark”), and Ice cream shop (sellers stand under the playscape and deliver ice cream cones to customers on the other side of the ‘counter’).
We thank you again for working so closely with us as we designed this safe and sturdy play area to fit the needs of our Nursery School. It has been one year and it still looks great, blending beautifully into our historic town green. Both our school and our community look forward to many, many more years of fun!”

Laurie H., Daycare Director

Washington, CT

“Our entire church is excited with the equipment and especially glad we saved 32,226 milk jugs from a landfill. We love the look of wood without the problems of termites and splintering.”

Joyce W.

Jacksonville, AR

“I wanted to drop you a quick note to commend you on your subcontractor’s performance…The combination of your quality equipment and the installation by Hammer Down has provided the staff, children and Marine Corp with an excellent play facility. The installation and application of the equipment has turned out superbly.  Hammer Down, Paul and his entire crew were pleasant to work with, knowledgeable of the equipment and codes and had an uncommon willingness to work well with us and other contractors. I commend them for an excellent install and terrific attitude.

As for the poured in place rubber; again a superb product paired with a great subcontractor. Clean Play, Allen and his crew provided a level of work that would be hard to surpass. The installation went smoothly and quickly. I appreciate their attention to detail and cleanliness. Though we may have stayed late, I never have an issue doing that for a contractor that works as hard and diligently as they did each and every day. There performance was outstanding and one I would look forward to seeing again.

I appreciate all of your help and you providing us with such high quality subcontractors. Thank you.”

Mike R., Superintendent

Sauer, Inc.