The Scandinavians have a saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
This concept of not only allowing, but encouraging, children to play outside in cold, wet weather sparks fear and horror in many American parents. But in Northern European countries, where the weather is often much colder and much wetter than here in the States, it is a common and recommended practice to take children outside in practically all weather conditions. Newborn babies (well-bundled, mind you) even nap in sub-zero temperatures.
In her new book There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hyyge), Swedish-born Linda McGurk chronicles her experience trying to raise her American children in the free-range, nature-centric style she grew up with in Sweden. As you might expect, she encounters some resistance along the way.
This book, combined with the recent rainstorms in San Francisco, got me thinking: why are we Americans so afraid of “bad weather”? I grew up in Northern California, so my experience with extreme weather events is admittedly limited. But after two-plus years of taking my students
outside year-round, I’ve learned a few things about how to make unpredictable weather your best friend in the forest.
1. Mindset is everything. Your kids will follow your lead. If you’re excited about getting wet, they’ll be excited too. If you are complaining about the cold, expect to hear a chorus of whining from your students. So go ahead and slap a smile on your face, even if you’d rather be supervising indoor recess in your hot, stuffy classroom.
2. Wear the right clothes. The Scandinavians are absolutely right about this one: bad clothing can really ruin your day. I wear mid-calf rubber boots from October through May, even when there is no sign of rain in the forecast. This way I have no hesitation about splashing through mud that may be lingering in shady spots from last week’s rain showers. On days when I know or suspect there will be rain, I throw on my water-resistant pants over a pair of leggings, a fleece pull-over, my water-proof rain coat, and, to top it all off, a baseball hat to keep the rain out of my face. With this ensemble I am able to stay outside comfortably for at least 3 hours. For the kids, I have heard great things about Oaki Wear. They sell everything your children will need to stay dry and warm, from waders to one-piece rain suits, to gloves.
3. Have extra clothes. No matter how well-prepared you are, you will likely still get wet if you stay outside in the rain or snow for an extended time period. (I learned this lesson the hard way a few weeks ago when the public bus stopped running during a rain storm, forcing me and my first graders to walk several miles back to school from a field trip). You can be having all the fun in the world while you’re out in the rain, but as soon as you get back inside you’re going to want to put on dry clothes. Especially socks.
If nothing else, have clean, dry socks for all your kids, and everything will be OK. (Side note: I always include “complete change of clothes, including shoes, socks, and underwear” as part of my Back to School supply list for students. These come in handy for bathroom accidents or art mishaps, too).
Check back next week for 5 more ways to make unpredictable weather your best friend.
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