Outdoor Activity Guidelines

Each year, we receive questions regarding outdoor play at recess for students during the winter season. Printed below are the guidelines that we follow to ensure the safety of our students while allowing them time during the school day to enjoy outdoor physical activities. These guidelines have been prepared by Larry Denk, M.D., School Physician and Mary Lou Pulcino, M.S., PNP School Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.


If children are properly clothed, they can participate in safe, vigorous play in an outdoor environment in most weather conditions. Increased caution is necessary however, due to a large body surface area to weight ratio. During cold temperatures less than 20 degrees F, children are at risk of cold related injury. In particular, the younger the child, the less physical adaptive reactions they have to cold stress. Shivering is one physical adaptive mechanism that alerts caretakers to the negative effects of cold exposure on the child. However, children can safely play outdoors in cold temperatures over 20 degrees F if properly dressed.


For elementary school-aged children we are concerned about periods of inactivity while outside. Therefore, we have chosen a temperature of 20 degrees F or higher for allowing children to be outside for a planned or structured sedentary activity (including standing in line). This does not apply to individual children who choose to stand around or sit around at a time when there is opportunity for play and running around; such children will be encouraged to be active at all temperatures. School personnel will not plan sedentary activities in cold weather and will not expect students to be inactive while outside in cold weather. When outdoor temperatures and wind chill factors are greater than or equal to 20 degrees F, children will be allowed to play outdoors with adult supervision if adequately dressed with hats, mittens or well insulated gloves, and boots. This applies to all children who are physically well enough to attend school.


In the spirit of cooperative learning, school personnel and parents have a shared responsibility to foster the health and well-being of all students.  It is the parent's responsibility to send children to school appropriately dressed for outdoor activities.  


Prevention of Cold Related Injury

• Keep hands and feet dry.

• Use mittens instead of gloves.

• Apply clothing in multiple layers.

• Avoid tight clothing.

• Increase fluid and calorie intake in cold weather.

• Cover lips with plain petroleum jelly to decrease risk of chapping.

• Wear a scarf around the nose and mouth to allow re-breathing

  of warmer air.

• Wear hats to prevent heat loss.

• Head covering should protect sensitive ear tissue.


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