Before you bundle the kids up to go outside to play this winter, you might want to read through these guidelines for outdoor winter play and then check the temperature.

Winter Bite

For many across Indiana, the winter months mean biting cold and often snow accumulation too. For those with kids or those who are kids at heart, you may want to do some sledding, build a snowman, or play in the snow. However, before you head outside, have you checked the outdoor temperature? It may actually be too cold to enjoy those winter activities safely.


Low Temperatures and Wicked Windchills

Before you head out to play, check the temperature. Unfortunately, it may actually be too cold, making any type of outdoor play downright dangerous. Many winter storms that bring snow also bring wind too. When you factor in the windchill it isn't unusual to see the windchill reach well into the negative temperatures.

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So How Cold is Too Cold?

So just exactly how cold is too cold to play outside? According to, in the winter, anything above 32 degrees (including the wind chill) is considered safe to be outside for play. Temperatures, including a wind chill between 13 and 31 degrees, are safe in small increments with breaks inside to warm up. Anything that feels like 13 degrees or below with the wind chill is considered dangerous and includes the risk of frostbite.

In general, when the wind chill is 32° and above, it’s safe to be outside. In temperatures 13° to 31°, indoor breaks should happen every 20-30 minutes. For wind chills of 13° and below, you should move activities indoors and outside of the cold as frostbite can set in very quickly.
attachment-outdoor winter play

What About Young Children, Toddlers, and Infants?

The guidelines above are for adults and older children but what about young children, toddlers, and infants? There is some conflicting information. According to, anything below -15 degrees is dangerous.

In general, playing outside in temperatures or wind chills below -15° Fahrenheit should be avoided. At these temperatures, exposed skin begins to freeze within minutes.

School and Daycare Guidelines

Many school and daycare resources across the country dictate different approaches for what is considered safe for children to play outdoors in the cold. In fact, according to, there is no national mandate for schools and daycares to adhere to regarding outdoor winter play. They recommend planning ahead when sending your children to school or daycare.

Currently, there is not a national mandate on temperature standards for children being outside. The <a class="MuiTypography-root MuiTypography-inherit MuiLink-root MuiLink-underlineAlways css-1whm3j5" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">best way to prepare</a> 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.
Photo by Jeremy McKnight on Unsplash

Watch for Hypothermia

If you do decide to allow your children outside to play, the American Academy of Pediatrics gives guidelines on what to look out for when it comes to spending too much time out in the cold. You want to watch for signs of hypothermia.

Because they are less able to regulate their body temperature than adults, children exposed to extreme cold can quickly develop a dangerously low body temperature (ie, become hypothermic). Newborn infants are prone to <a tabindex="0" href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-uw-rm-brl="false" data-uw-rm-ext-link="">hypothermia</a> because of their large body surface area, small amount of subcutaneous fat and decreased ability to shiver. Children and adults respond to cold extremes by shivering, developing "goose bumps," and experiencing lethargy and a slow heart rate.

Check the Temperature and the Windchill Before You Go

So before you or your child heads out to play, check the temperature and take into account the wind chill. If you still feel like it's a good idea to head out to play be sure that you bundle up, cover exposed skin, and take frequent breaks to warm back up. Calculate wind chill for yourself with the National Weather Service at

LOOK: 50 cozy towns to visit this winter

Stacker created a list of 50 cozy American towns to visit each winter. Towns were selected based on visitor opinions, ratings from nationwide publications, and tourist attractions.

Gallery Credit: Laura Ratliff


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