By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
This week, the region got some long-awaited snowfall — seeing as the white flakes have been practically non-existent this season. The snow and the upcoming Valentine’s love holiday is the perfect opportunity for families to get outdoors, enjoy nature and bonding time. Families can warm both their bodies and their connection to one another through wintertime physical activities.
“Some of my best adventures as a kid happened while I was sledding and tobogganing on our side hill or skating on the town pond. Along with the perks of fresh air and sunshine, exercising and making memories, there are great benefits to winter outdoor play such as beating cabin fever and the general blues,” said Kirsten Freitag Murray, director of development and public relations at Creative Health Services in Pottstown.
Creative Health Services provides behavioral healthcare and promotes wellness within families. Murray began her career as a public education teacher and has an early childhood development degree. She said play, including wintertime play, is a very important part of a child’s development because it helps them to learn about their world. Murray said the benefits of play begin at infancy and continue throughout adulthood.
“Connection to our world and others through play and leisure activities is a building block for healthy development across the lifespan,” she said.
Murray said connection and belonging is also a very important part of a child’s development. Murray is on the steering committee of the Pottstown Trauma Informed Community Connection. The organization brings awareness about difficult childhood experiences and how things such as connection can help kids overcome those obstacles.
“Positive physical, emotional and intellectual contact and connection with others allows kids to grow into strong, caring and capable individuals. This is especially true of the connection between parents and children. Parents are first responders; models and safe havens as kids explore and navigate the world,” Murray said.
Three generations of a family got some serious bonding time when they competed in a snowshoe race together. Ed Duba along with his son Johan and his granddaughter Summer, 13, strapped on specialized footwear and ran through snow at Spring Mountain Ski Area in Upper Salford. The family also enjoys other winter activities with one another such as skiing.
Johan said it’s nice being outdoors together as a family. His mother, Suzanne, said getting outdoors make the wintertime fun instead of something to dread.
“So many people don’t like winter but when you have things to do, you like winter,” she said.
David Augustine, of Doylestown, took his 12-year-old son to Spring Mountain so that he could take snowboarding lessons. The duo was there as part of the Central Bucks Family YMCA Adventure Guides. Augustine said parents brought their child to the event to ski, snowboard and to do tubing. Augustine is an avid skier and said growing up in the Poconos encouraged him to enjoy outdoor activities. His sons are also into sports and very active outside, he said.
“It’s great for me because I get an opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with the two boys,” Augustine said adding that it also gets them away from the TV and electronics.
Murray said lately screen time has prevented kids from getting the proper amount of play time. She said this is why it’s important for parents to encourage other activities such as ice skating or hiking.
“We need to continue to play throughout our lives. It’s healthy for us to disconnect from work and worries to stretch our minds and bodies to achieve both familiar and new challenges,” Murray said.
Megan O’Connor overseas the Hatboro YMCA Adventure Guides. The YMCA has an active father-daughter program for children ages five to 14.
“Basically it is a bonding time for fathers and children using nature,” O’Conner said.
Program participants go fishing, camping and do other adventurous activities. This upcoming weekend, the group is going to a YMCA camp. O’Conner said her husband and daughter are part of the Adventure Guides. She said they are very excited about the camping trip especially since there’s now snow and the camp area has a sledding hill.
O’Conner said the Adventure Guides is a great way for her husband and daughter to bond and enjoy nature at the same time.
Murray said family togetherness is a time to express love for one another and have fun.
“The benefits of family bonding time go back to our built-in need for contact and belonging. We need to be intentional about maintaining a strong connection to our family unit as a whole and with each individual member of that group,” she said.
Murray said outdoor winter activities are a great way for parents to connect with children and have that family bonding time. She said this kind of play will help challenge kids physically and cognitively.
“Learning how to pack snow tightly to build things, to steer a sled or to avoid slippery and unsafe objects are lessons that can only be learned outside in the winter,” she said.
Murray said she developed a love for the outdoors at a young age and now shares this love with her own children.
“Whatever the age of my kids, we would bundle up in the cold months to take a walk, create an igloo, build snowmen and jump off of snow drifts. Get your snow gear on and have a blast! There’s always the promise of hot cocoa at the end of your adventure!” she said.
For more about creating and maintaining vital bonds including those between parents and children, contact Creative Health Services by calling 484-941-0500 or using the email firstname.lastname@example.org.