How cold is too cold?

There are times when trying to stay physically active during the winter months can take a lot of creativity, especially for school age children.  It is difficult to go outside and play when it is snowing, raining and/or freezing temperatures, which brings me to my post for today- what is considered to be too cold for children to go outside and play during recess at school?


A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with some of my colleagues who are also parents and whose child went outside for recess during frigid weather which they considered to be too cold.  It seems that most  states have policies in place on what the temperature should be for outdoor recess, in turn school districts follow those policies and set guidelines of their own.  wp-1483833760973.jpg

For instance in the state of New York unless it is snowing or there is ice on the ground, outdoor recess can take place even though it is less than 32 degrees outside as long as children are dressed properly.   Most guidelines are specific, for instance a school district in Connecticut the temperature must be 20 degrees or above with wind chill factor taken into consideration  recess is

In Illinois a school district policy states that it has to be 15 degrees or higher including wind chill, meaning if the weather is 22 degrees and the wind chill is 14 degrees then students stay in.  All the requirements have one thing is common they require the students to be dressed appropriately in coats, hats, scarves, boots and gloves.

Basically good judgement has to be used.   Schools are encouraged to provide at least 20 to 30 minutes a day of supervised recess outdoors if possible.  It should be moderate to vigorous activity, meaning they have to be moving around rather than standing still, allowing them little opportunity to feel the cold.


Going outside for recess is critical for children especially since childhood obesity poses as a threat to their overall health and wellbeing.  Research indicates there is a link between physical activity and academic performance.  With the cuts in funding, schools can no longer depend solely on physical education classes to provide opportunities for children to be physically active.

Here are some things parents can do, first check with your child ‘s school about their policy on outdoor recess.   Next on those low temperature days in addition to the hat and gloves make sure your child has that extra layer (hoodie, sweater, long-sleeve shirt) that they can wear underneath their coat, but can shed easily in the case they become too warm in class.


Make sure all medical conditions such as Asthma are on file with the nurse so appropriate accommodations can be made regarding the child.  Hopefully with this information you are better informed and prepared for when your child has to go outside for recess during cold weather.


About smallfitness

I am Dr. Martha Higgins, but my friends call me “Doc”. I teach physical education to elementary students and have been doing so for the past 15 years.

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One Response to How cold is too cold?

  1. Great post. I agree. I live in a rainforest, so it’s often…raining! We go outside anyway. 😀

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