As we get ready to launch into winter in our new pandemic world of education and child rearing, things are getting real. Winter in the north takes outdoor learning to a whole new level. We all know that playing outside is the safest way to be this year to see friends and family and to protect ourselves from the virus, so here are some guidelines from Fiddleheads on enjoying and making the most of outside time in winter.
Everyone, but especially children, can feel vulnerable in winter. And their instincts are right! They are. A cold child goes through a very predictable trajectory. They often don’t say that they are cold. They just get grumpy and then start to cry and want to go in, and as their distress progresses, they invariably cry for their mothers. It’s heartbreaking to see, (this is why we prevent getting cold and insist on such strict gearing up guidelines,) but the distress always disappears as soon as they get warm again. Even when we are warm though, winter in the north often means grey skies, rain, snow, wind, and early darkness. In the middle of the day the light can be slanted, muted, and it seems to never get bright. This is psychologically challenging, and affects our mood, our energy level, and our outlook on life and on the day. Winter is a time of challenges. Perhaps this year like no other before.
But because of this fact, it can also be a time of deep and transformative learning like no other. Enjoying ourselves outside, and learning to be comfortable and joyful outdoors during this dark and cold time of year is truly triumphant. It offers us enduring lessons of resilience and teaches us that we can have some control over our own response to adverse situations. These sure are good things to know.
Here are some tips for successful and happy family and school outdoor adventures for extended hours in winter:
As a reminder, we spend 3-4 hours, or more, outside every single day. This is prolonged exposure, which feels very different to our bodies than a quick 20 minute trip to the playground. If you don't generally spend prolonged periods of time outside in all weather, (and few of us do these days,) then please keep in mind that you may not be able to easily judge if your child has the appropriate clothes on, and so it would be best to pay extra close attention to and follow the guidelines below.
This is what your child MUST arrive wearing or bringing to school if the forecast is in the 40s or below (which it likely will be soon and for the rest of the winter):
-A warm winter hat
-Gloves or mittens, preferably wool or wool blend. Your child should have two pairs of mittens or gloves to wear every day, in case one gets dirty or lost. Please consider investing in wool gloves or mittens, as this is the only material that stays warm when it is wet. I'm sorry that so many mittens and gloves disappear. It is the way of the world. You wouldn't believe how much time teachers spend trying to keep track of everyone's things. Clippable gloves or the good old fashioned stringed mittens that go through the inside of the parka can be helpful. We also coach children that if they are warm and want to take their gloves off they should put them in their pockets, which may be a good thing to encourage at home as well. Waterproof mittens and gloves are great if you can find any that are comfortable enough to wear.
2 layers on the bottom if it's dry
1. longjohns or leggings
3 layers on the bottom if it's rainy or wet
1. longjohns or leggings
3. rainpants or rain suit
3-4 layers on the top
3 layers equals=
1.long sleeve shirt
2. sweatshirt or sweater
3. winter weight snow duty parka
4 layers equals=
1.long sleeves shirt
2. sweatshirt or sweater
3. fleece or light coat
4. light parka
If it is raining a fully waterproof layer must be worn over the top of these other layers. It cannot replace the above layering, just add it on.
If it is dry and highs in the high 40s to 50s it is fine to wear sneakers or hiking boots with 1 pair of warm, heavy socks.
If it is wet and highs in the high 40s to 50s it is ok to wear rain boots with 1-2 pairs of warm, heavy socks.
If the highs are below the mid forties and dry, please wear insulated winter shoes and one pair of warm, heavy socks. You can also try wearing rainboots, one to two pairs of warm heavy socks, and fleece rainboot liners. LL Bean makes these in children sizes.
If the highs are below the mid forties and it is wet, please wear WATERPROOF, not water resistant, insulated winter shoes and one to two layers of warm, heavy socks. Here you can also try wearing rainboots, one to two pairs of warm heavy socks, and fleece rainboot liners.
Once we get to highs in the low 40s and 30s, then switch to full snow gear, but please don't send snow gear for wet fall weather. It is heavy and most brands are not waterproof for rain.
Whew. Thanks for your attention and dedication to ensuring that your children are dressed appropriately so that they can fully appreciate and enjoy their outdoor school experience!
Here is an incomplete list of good gear brands, just to give some ideas for where to stock up if you need effective, durable items:
Recommended rain gear brands:
The North Face
Wool socks and mittens-
Fox River Double Ragg
Boots and rainboots-
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