How cold is too cold for kids to play outside

With the Polar Vortex sweeping across the Midwest for the second time in less than a month, it can feel like winter is forcing us Michiganders to hibernate until March. For those with children, the winter months bring a whole new set of challenges as the temperature drops and it’s harder to spend time outdoors.

Getting in the recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day for your kid can be tough, but very necessary. Going outside helps prevent stir-craziness, allows for fresh air and adequate exercise. Although getting the kids outside is important and still an option in the winter, the temperature and wind-chill requires caution.

As a rule of thumb, you should use the wind-chill as the best judge on if it’s too cold to play outside. In general, when the wind-chill is 32 degrees and above, it’s safe to be outside. In temperatures 13 degrees to 31 degrees, indoor breaks should happen every 20-30 minutes. For wind-chills of 13 degrees and below, you should move activities indoors and outside of the cold as frostbite can set in very quickly.

Another factor to consider is when children are at school and participating in recess activities. Currently, there is not a national mandate on temperature standards for children being outside. The best way to prepare is to stock your child up with proper clothing and warm weather gear. Be sure to dress in layers to start with. Children should be equipped with hats, mittens, or gloves. A good option for kids are wraps that cover the head and neck at the same time. For babies and children not yet mobile, it’s important to check their hands and faces so as to make sure they aren’t getting too chilled.


Photo credit: Randen Pederson


Read 7 Comments

  1. Wish my daughters school would realize this!! I’ve called many many times because they’ve sent them outside when it’s bitter cold.

  2. We go outside twice a day for 35 minutes if the wind chill is above 25°. I only wish parents would send their children to school with appropriate articles of clothing. Any suggestions on how to get the parents on board?

    1. Hi Cindy, thanks for your input! We recommend sharing this blog with your friends so that they can learn the importance of dressing their kids appropriately for winter. Best, Catia

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