If you're familiar with the Montessori, Waldorf, or Reggio Emilia approaches to teaching young children you may have heard the phrase: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." This celebrated Scandinavian mantra is rooted deep in one of the sub region's core values- children should play outside every day. Even in 0 degree weather, adults and children alike spend hours outside- one with their surroundings. These Scandinavian countries have a special phrase for this style of life called Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) which can be interpreted in English as "open-air living".
For children, this time spent outdoors provides rich opportunities for physical, emotional, and cognitive development that can't be replicated in indoor environments. (See right)
The World Health Organization recommends children play outside for at least one hour per day.
For some, this number may seem small- even in the winter months. You likely live in an environment where there is plenty of space and opportunity for outdoor play. You could have grown up with parents who prioritized and valued spending time in nature and therefore it comes naturally to you. There are various factors that come into play when we compare those who prioritize time outdoors and those who don't. (Or can't)
There are certainly many people who see one hour a day with children outdoors as unrealistic. Geographically speaking - there are certain places, cities for example, where space to play is scarce or limited. Maybe there is simply too much to be done-- school, extracurriculars, meal time, and keeping up with the house leads to less available time to spent on recreational experiences.
Others may have the myth engrained in them that spending too much time outdoors in the winter is detrimental to a child's health. This is a valid sentiment-- a parents primary instinct is to keep their child safe and many assume children will catch colds if they spend too much time in cold weather. Believe it or not, children are actually more likely to become ill in the winter months because they spend more time indoors, sharing germs and bacteria in close proximity. The more open air between kids-- the less likely they will get sick.
Another reason we often hear parents don't want their children outside is because of comfort. Maybe you've seen your child outside in the cold constantly complaining about how uncomfortable they are-- maybe you're uncomfortable too! This is where we highlight that Scandinavian phrase, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." We need to embrace the elements of our surroundings and to do so we need to dress ourselves and our children appropriately.
Tips on how to dress for success in cold weather:
Whenever snow, rain, or ice is involved- make sure the child's clothes are weatherproof. (Few kids want to play when sitting in cold, wet clothing)
Layers are your best friend. If the child get warm, you can always start taking off layers. Better to be warm and adjust than be cold and unprepared.
Mittens are difficult for children to maneuver in, but are most certainly warmer. Choose accordingly depending on the temperature.
Always wear a hat. The ears and head let out a considerable amount of heat.
All in all, spending time outside in cold temperatures is not only beneficial to a child's development but also to their overall happiness and mood. As parents and teachers, we are the gatekeepers to a child's learning opportunities. We have a duty to provide them with daily outdoor experiences, whether that be a walk around the block or a hike in the woods.
Please enjoy a downloadable PDF of the poster above as well as other resources to help provide more visual learning opportunities about dressing for success in cold weather.