I used to be controlled by the seasons, but now I feel less held back by them than ever.
It all came down to the commitment to get outside everyday, regardless of whether it was “too cold” or “too wet.”
We just did it.
We learned how to dress for the weather.
We also acclimated by adjusting our thermostat at home (thus saving money in the process!)
And you know what? We enjoyed it!
Meeting other like-minded mothers in my Wild and Free nature group helped a lot.
Some people might call it “bad parenting” to let our kids go outside in all types of weather. But not these women. We plan activities and field trips and hikes regardless of the weather forecast.
And I have yet to ever regret an outing due to weather.
It’s actually healthier to go outside during cold and flu season than it is to stay inside and be exposed to all those indoor viruses. Plus, fresh air and exercise are always healthy – no matter the season.
Together, us kindred spirit mothers view harsh weather as a challenge more than anything else.
McGurk is Scandinavian and comes from a culture where people let their babies nap in their prams outside – in the middle of winter. (Don’t worry – sheepskins and snow pants and wool layers go a long way.)
She also writes about the Forest Schools of the Netherlands, where children in reflective vests can be seen outside, no matter the weather, exploring the great outdoors with their teachers. These kids spend the greater part of the day outside (5-8 hours or more!) all year round.
This kind of thinking was truly inspiring to me. I couldn’t hardly sit and read this book indoors. I had to put on my coat and get outside no matter what.
It was a timely reminder that a lot of what counts as “good” or “bad” weather is largely in our minds.
If we can only get dressed and get outside, there is almost always a way to have fun – especially for children.
Mud pies can only be made after the rain.
Puddles can only be splashed in on dreary days.
Most kids already own a pair of rain boots and gloves – but they go mostly unworn because the parents would prefer not to go outside.
Yes, if we’re completely honest, us adults are the reason our kids don’t get out more.
We’re the ones who discourage them from getting messy hands, dirty knees, and rosy cheeks.
Children belong outside. They are born with it, I believe. But if we don’t foster a love of nature and the outdoors, that desire will run dry.
If we could just let go of our need for cleanliness and control, (and of course the human tendency to do whatever is easiest) we would have many, many more “outdoorsy” kids.
I think this is especially important in an age where more and more things are insulated and simulated. I dream of children who enjoy a hike in the rugged outdoors more than an afternoon of video gaming.
But if I don’t lead them in that, how will they ever discover it?
I can start now by taking them out in all kinds of weather. Teaching that sticks and leaves are acceptable playthings.
And never, never complaining.
Kids will tend to do what they see their parents and the adults around them doing. If I model an attitude of “What fun! Rain! We can watch it from the porch for a while and then go splash in puddles!” they will get excited.
Likewise, if I complain the whole time that it’s too cold and my legs are sore, they will view the outdoors more and more as a burden – hardly worth a little discomfort.
My family took me camping a lot as a child, and I’m grateful for it. We learned on those adventures how to have “miserable fun.”
I learned around age 10 or so that the best memories weren’t always comfortable in the moment.
That the best stories often involved moments of hardship.
It was a worthwhile lesson, and I carry it into adulthood.
Activity keeps you warmer than just clothing alone.
Acclimation cannot be underestimated.
A couple good quality items will reap huge benefits. But be careful that you don’t drop hundreds of dollars on a top-quality winter wardrobe and then only spend one day outside.
Commit to the lifestyle first.
Start getting out with what you have already, and then you can better assess your actual clothing needs (not what the salespeople think you need.)
I say this because it would be all too easy to let a desire to get outside this winter turn into simple, wasteful consumerism.
This isn’t an ad to buy all the latest technical gear and thermal clothing. (I admit I can fall into this trap too!)
But I do know that a couple pairs of tech fleece leggings and wool socks go a long way on a cold day. And you probably already have a coat…so no need to splurge on one that says it’s 1,000 times better.
Use what you have for now…then make gradual updates as you see fit. Always think functionality over fashion – it will save you a lot of money on designer gear.
I’ve had the same black down coat for about 10 years and it still does the job! I can adjust my inner layers to suit the weather and activity level I expect with ease.
Linda McGurk says that Scandinavian parents are given this list of “school supplies” when they sign their kids up for Forest School:
- Two pairs thick mittens
- Woolen socks
- Winter coveralls
- Thick sweater / fleece
- Warm hat
- Rain gear
- Rain boots
- Complete change of clothes for indoors
I was inspired just reading that list. With the right clothes and the right attitude, anything is possible! Just think of all the adventures and stories those kids will get to tell!
Suggested Reading from Linda McGurk:
- Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy
- Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World by Dr. B. Brett Finlay OC PhD and Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta PhD
- Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature Rich Life by Richard Louv
- Unplugged: 15 Steps to Disconnect from Technology and Reconnect with Nature, Yourself, Friends, and Family by Jason Runkel Sperling
- Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel
- Under Pressure: Rescuing our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting by Carl Honore
- Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela J. Hanscom
How have you taken steps to embrace the outdoors in all types of weather? What are your personal rules for braving the elements? Have you ever traveled somewhere that the culture viewed weather differently? I’d love to hear your stories!
Photography by Annie Spratt